European Starling

Sturnus vulgaris

Copyright, Tom Gray

The European Starling is a bird everyone has seen, even if they didn't know what it was. Even though it was introduced to the United States, it has quickly become one of our most common birds.

Starlings are medium-sized birds, growing to about 8 inches long. They have short tails and are somewhat chunky. Their color is mostly black, with a bill that is yellow in summer and black in winter. Starling feathers are often irridescent, meaning they have a greenish-purple shiny-ness to them when light hits them just right.

In Winter, starlings have white spots.

Copyright, Mike Danzenbaker

Copyright, Dan Sudia

Copyright, Arthur Grosset

Today, starlings live just about everywhere. They are very comfortable living around people and have no problem nesting on, or inside, buildings. Starlings nest in cavities (holes) and are very aggressive when looking for a good spot. If a starling gets to a good spot first, they easily defend it from other bird species. If the starling finds the cavity already occupied, it will often destroy eggs or kill nestlings of the other birds. This causes great problems for many of our native birds that nest in natural tree cavities or bird houses, such as Eastern Bluebirds, Tree Swallows, Great Crested Flycatchers, House Wrens, and woodpeckers.

Once a nesting spot is found, starlings build their nest from twigs, grass, dried leaves, rootlets, flowers, weed stems, feathers, and trash. Eggs hatch in about 10 or 11 days.. One reason starlings spread so quickly is because one pair of starlings can have three clutches (batches of eggs) each year.

Copyright, Dan Sudia

European Starlings eat many different foods, including seeds and fruits, as well as insects and other small animals. Some fruits include: cherries, mulberries, elderberries, Poison Ivy, Virginia Creeper, wild grapes, Eastern Redcedar, Pokeweed, blueberries, dogwoods, and oaks (acorns). Animal foods include caterpillars, beetles, and other insects, as well as snails, slugs, millipedes, centipedes, earthworms, and spiders. They will also eat animal feed and some trash.

Just as they are competitive with nesting spots, European Starlings are also competitive when it comes to food. They are not afraid to take over a good feeding spot from other birds.

Copyright, Arthur Grosset

In Winter, starlings form huge flocks, sometimes in the thousands. Males usually outnumber females in these flocks. Starlings will also travel in mixed flocks with other species, including Red-winged Blackbirds, Common Grackles, Brown-headed Cowbirds, or American Robins. Flocking helps protect birds from predators; they are more likely to see a predator coming if there are more birds.

Predators of starlings include hawks, falcons, owls, snakes, cats, and other bird predators.

European Starlings are good voice mimics. They can learn other birds' songs.

Starlings are known to live 15 years. They often return to the same nest every year.

Relationships in Nature:

PREY/FOOD
PREDATORS
SHELTER
OTHER

Smooth Sumac

Red-tailed Hawk

Smooth Crabgrass

Eastern BluebirEC

Black Cherry

Barred Owl

Kentucky Bluegrass

Downy WoodpeckeEC

Common Elderberry

Black Rat Snake

Bushy Aster

Carolina Chickadee EC

Poison Ivy

Sharp-shinned Hawk

Common Dandelion

Great Crested Flycatcher EC

Virginia Creeper

Virginia Creeper

Red-winged Blackbird Mu

Earthworm

Black-eyed Susan

Brown-headed Cowbird Mu

Rabid Wolf Spider

American Sycamore

Common Grackle Mu

Disc Cannibal Snail

Red Maple

American Robin Mu

North American Millipede

Ring-billed Gull EC

Garden Centipede

Differential Grasshopper

Field Cricket

Common Black Ground Beetle

Flowering Dogwood

Pokeweed

Wild Grape

Eastern Redcedar

Leopard Slug

Chinese Mantid

Relationship to Humans:

European Starlings do good and bad for people. They eat lots of insects which helps control pests. Also, many people think they are pretty birds to look at, and they don't mind being around humans. Starlings can be pests themselves, though, eating crops. They also can make a mess when they nest inside, or on top of, a building. Large groups of starlings also make a lot of noise. What causes the most concern is their aggressive nature. Many of our wonderful native birds have trouble competing with European Starlings.

SCIENTIFIC CLASSIFICATION

KINGDOM
Animal
PHYLUM
Chordate
CLASS
Bird
ORDER
Passeriformes
FAMILY
Sturnidae
GENUS
Sturnus
SPECIES
Sturnus vulgaris

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