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Common “European” Starling

European Starling

The Common Starling, also known as the “European Starling” or just the “Starling” is an invasive species which was deliberately introduced to North America. Their arrival can be traced back to the late 1890s when The American Acclimatization Society imported and released dozens of starlings in New York City’s Central Park. The goal was to bring all the species of birds mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays into North America. By 1950, starlings had spread across the continent and reached the Pacific coast. Today they are one of the most common and widespread birds in North America with a population exceeding 200 million.

Starlings are roughly the same size as robins, generally “chunky” and hump-backed in appearance, with a shape similar to a meadowlark. They have been more than a nuisance for a long time and past efforts to reduce populations on a large scale have proved to be too costly and ineffective in the long run.

Problems/Damage

Why should I be concerned?

These birds travel in flocks of up to 20,000 in the winter. The combined weight of the birds can break small branches and disfigure trees. The droppings are phytotoxic and, in large quantities, can kill mature trees. Livestock owners find starlings especially bothersome because they eat large quantities of feed and contaminate even more with their droppings. Starlings also love to eat wild and cultivated fruits such as berries and cherries.

Starlings are noisy songbirds and known for their ability to mimic noises from other birds as well as mechanical sounds in its natural environment. The males are known to sing constantly as the breeding period approaches in an effort to attract and entice females.

Starlings are able to transmit ectoparasites such as mites, fleas, and bedbugs as well as diseases which are potentially fatal to humans, pets, and livestock. These diseases include Histoplasmosis, Salmonellosis, Toxoplasmosis, and Chlamydiosis.

Habitat and Behaviour

A day in the life of a starling

Starlings have a native range throughout Europe, the northern coast of Africa, and as far east as India and Mongolia. They migrate towards the equator and can be found along the coast of the Mediterranean and the Middle East during the winter months of the Northern Hemisphere. In the summer months, starlings will migrate towards Finland, Russia, and Kazakhstan. Starlings in North America breed throughout the continental United States, the southern regions of all Canadian provinces, and along the Pacific coast of British Columbia. During the summer, they will migrate as far north as the territories.

Starlings form communal roosts which can be home to 10,000 or more birds. As they migrate during the winter, flock populations can grow into the hundreds of thousands in southern Ontario and other provinces.

Their preferred nesting sites are tall trees or buildings with cavities where they can readily build nests using dead grasses and fresh vegetation rich in chemicals that act as fumigants. Starlings will maintain the insulating properties of the nest until their chicks are feathered, at which point the nests begin to resemble pest-ridden compost. Females will lay as many as seven eggs in one brood. The eggs hatch after less than two weeks of incubation and young starlings leave the nest within three weeks of birth.

Identification

  • Approximately 19-23 cm in length, with a wingspan of 31-44 cm in length
  • Weight ranges from 58 to 101 grams
  • Glossy black plumage with a metallic/iridescent sheen
  • Feathers become duller, spotted with white in autumn
  • A long yellow bill during breeding season, black during the rest of the year

Tips for prevention and control

These tips may help you get rid of starlings around your home:

  • Eliminate sources of food, including bird feeders intended for other species
  • Repair and seal any damage to the exterior of buildings where they can build nests
  • Cover vents and other openings which cannot be sealed with wire mesh

Orkin Canada provides safe and humane ways to discourage starlings and other birds from nesting on and around your property

Request a FREE bird control quote!