Like the house sparrow, the starling was introduced from Europe in the
19th century. It did not spread as fast and only reached the western
coast within the last few decades. Starlings are well adapted to urban
life which offer it an abundance of food and nesting sites. It is a
muscular bird about eight inches long with long wings and a short
squared tail. Starlings are very aggressive and will drive native birds
out of its territory, much to the dismay of local bird watchers.
Starlings are well noted for their flocking habits. They often gather in
the tens of thousands, creating a huge nuisance when roosting in
The starling is a dark, chunky, muscular bird. It is distinguished from
other blackbirds by its short tail and its longer, slender bill.
Starling plumage varies depending on the season. In winter, the bird
displays a highly speckled iridescent coat and a dark bill. In summer,
the birds coat dulls and has far fewer speckles.
The Starling is a nesting bird. Their nests are in enclosed areas with
at least a 1 1/2 inch opening. Look for their nests in old trees, church
steeples and other holes and crevices. Due to their bullying nature they
will take any suitable site, evicting any previous owner. They sometimes
watch other birds build a complete nest before forcing them to leave.
Starlings have two broods a year with four to five eggs a brood. They
average eight offspring a year. The eggs are white, pale blue or
green-white. Incubation of the eggs takes twelve days. The fledglings
leave the nest after 25 days. The young leave to join other juveniles
and form huge flocks that move on to other territories.
Not a true migrating bird, starlings may move from rural trees to warm
city buildings in winter. The daily cycle is one of leaving the nest at
sunrise to travel up to sixty miles to feeding areas before returning
for the evening. They disperse to mate in the spring. After mating
season, they will often coalesce into huge flocks with defined feeding
and roosting areas.
Starlings rank just behind pigeons as an urban bird pest. Starlings are
a major nuisance in urban areas due to their nestling, eating and living
habits. When the bird is in its flocking phase, thousands of starlings
often overwhelm urban buildings. Large scale buildup of feces from these
flocks will lead to structural damage. The uric acid in the feces will
corrode stone, metal and masonry. Gutters and drainage pipes clogged
with starling nests often backup, causing extensive water damage. The
bacteria, fungal agents and parasites in the feces also pose a serious
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Starlings are extremely difficult to remove. Large flocks can be moved
using a well timed, organized scare campaign with noisemakers and
distress calls. For long-term permanent protection, cover the site with
1 1/4" netting. Ledge products are often ineffective against large scale
flocking. Avicides can be used, but bait acceptance can be problematic
due to separate roosting and feeding sites.