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Starlings

Known as Common Starling or European Starling

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Sturnidae
Genus: Sturnus
Species: Sturnus vulgaris

Starling History in North America    Starling Description    Feeding, Nesting Habits of Starlings  

Diseases Carried and Transmitted by Starlings    Picture of European Starling 

Sources of Household Pests, Insects    When Beneficial Birds Become a Pest

Starling History in North America  

The European Starling, also known as the Common Starling, is a small bird native to Eurasia, but introduced in South Africa, North America, Australia and New Zealand.  Prior to 1850 there were two attempts to introduce the starling in North America, in the northeast and on the West Coast.  Both of these initial attempts failed.  However, in 1890, sixty birds were released in Central Park and began to flourish.

Starling DescriptionEuropean Starling

The European Starling is six inches long, has a pointed bill that is yellow most of the year and dark during the fall.  Covered in black feathers, it has white spots on its head and body in the fall and shimmering green and purple feathers in the spring.  It also has dark pointed wings and a short tail.
The juvenile starling has gray-brown feathers with faint streaking.  Adults are similar to black birds, cowbirds, and grackles but have a short tail and a chunkier body.
Found in open fields and trees, especially near people in agricultural and urban areas, the starling lives from eastern Alaska to Newfoundland, throughout the United States and into Northern Mexico during the summer and in central Mexico and the Caribbean during the winter.

Feeding, Nesting Habits of Starlings

Starlings eat fruits, grains, seeds, insects, locusts, ground beetles, grasshoppers, crickets, moths and butterflies. They also eat invertebrates, berries and garbage. These small birds feed in large flocks often with blackbirds and return to the same area to eat each day.  Starlings forge with other bird species including red-winged blackbirds, brown-headed cowbirds, American robins, house sparrows, crows and rock doves.  They walk along the ground probing the soil with their bills.

One of the most numerous birds in North America, the starling is a fierce competitor for nesting sites.  They are responsible for the decline in native cavity nesting birds such as sapsuckers and they often compete for nesting sites with woodpeckers.  Nests are filled with grass or pine needles and other things such as feathers, paper, plastic, string and roots.  They are formed 2-60 feet above the ground.
Starlings commonly nest in man made structures between rafters in barns and open warehouses as well as behind signs and in the attics of houses.  Buildings that hold nests may contain tens of thousands of roosting birds.
Females lay three to six blue green eggs.  Young are helpless when born and are covered in a sparse grayish down. Adult females sometimes lay an egg in the nest of another female if she was unable to get a mate early in breeding season.  Adult males are very protective of their mates.  They try to out-compete for the nests of eastern bluebirds, tree swallows, great crested flycatchers and woodpeckers.
The nests of starlings are a source of household pests such as  fleas, ticks, bed bugs and carpet beetles, all of which have been known to invade buildings.

The European Starling has a diverse vocalization pattern and have been known to imbed sounds from their surroundings into their own call.  Some of these sounds include car alarms.  They can mimic up to 20 species of birds including the Eastern Wood Pewee, Killdeer, and Meadowlark.
Starlings have been seen mobbing predators in mid flights by gathering into tight flocks and dive bombing a hawk or other predators.
Creating a lot of noise, starlings damage vegetable and fruit crops and cause damage to feedlots by consuming and fouling the feed of domestic cattle.  They are a pest of grain producing regions of the country because of their fondness for corn, wheat, Milo and other grains.  They can be destructive to strawberries, blueberries, grapes, tomatoes, peaches, figs, apples, and cherries by pulling up newly planted seeds.  The droppings from pokeberries, elderberries and wild cherries causes stains and the uric acid in their droppings can damage the finish on automobiles.

Diseases Carried and Transmitted

The European Starling transmits five bacterial diseases including Salmonellosis, fungal diseases, blastonycosis, and histoplasmosis.  They also carry the protozoan disease toxoplasmosis and chlamydiosis. Starlings spread fowl pox to poultry, swing gastroenteritis tapeworms and other livestock diseases.

Sources of Household Pests, Insects 

The nests of starlings often interact with humans due to their locations in or on buildings, homes and other structures.  Due to their close proximity to humans, Starlings are not only pests (noise, nesting materials and droppings) but their nests are a common source of fleas, ticks, bed bugs and carpet beetles.  These pests can and do easily invade buildings, causing a secondary pest problem for humans, pets and domestic animals.

When Beneficial Birds Become a Pest or Danger to Humans or Property

Birds such as Starlings consume a great deal of bugs and insects (among other things) which makes them beneficial in many instances.  Due to their habits of feeding, resting and nest building too close to humans, in many cases, often make them a pest to certain buildings, industries and residential homes.
If and when these small birds become more destructive or nuisance than their beneficial qualities, humane bird control methods are sometimes implemented.  Many caretakers of large industrial or government buildings will use audible and visual scare tactics to drive away or at least control unwanted populations of Starlings.
The best scare device: Super Bird ExPeller Pro.  Implementing a combination of distress cries and predator bird sounds, this unit makes starlings, grackles and black birds feel uncomfortable living in the area, driving them to a more friendly location.

In bird control for starlings, there are two basic types or areas that often need protection: Outdoor open areas and enclosed or semi-enclosed.

Open Areas

Suggested products to use for controlling starlings in open areas; use products in combinations for best results:

Enclosed or Semi-enclosed Areas

In an enclosed or semi-enclosed area, the Super Bird ExPeller Pro is too loud.  In these cases the following combination of bird control products should be used:

If all nesting materials are not first removed from an area, sight and sound scare devices will not work very well.
Pay close attention to the time of year you implement any bird control program, as un-hatched eggs and young, flightless birds could fall victim to bird control measures.  This is important for both removal of birds' nests and using professional devices such as the Super Bird ExPeller Pro.
There are two models of the Super Bird ExPeller Pro; use the one designed specifically for blackbirds, crows, grackles and starlings.

Credits: Thanks to Lani Powell for this European Starling information page!

Diseases Carried and Transmitted by Starlings    Animals and Pests Index   Starling Picture

Sources of Household Pests, Insects    When Beneficial Birds Become a Pest

Starling History in North America    Starling Description    Feeding, Nesting Habits of Starlings