European Starling

Common Name: European Starling

Class:  Aves

Order: Passeriformes

Family: Sturnidae

Genus: Sturnus

Species: Sturnus vulgaris

photo M. Noonan

Taxonomy/Description

The European Starling is an invasive species. As the name suggests, they are originally from Europe, and were introduced in the early 1890s beginning with 100 individuals in Central Park, New York. From those 100, they have completely taken over North America, ranging from Alaska down to mid-Mexico. They are a stocky, black bird with a short square-tipped tail. They have a long pointed bill, which is yellow during mating season. They are speckled, and in mating season shimmer green and purple. The European Starling is not dichromatic, meaning the male and female show no physical differences. Size: 20-23 cm (8-9 in) Wingspan: 31-40 cm (12-16 in) Weight: 60-96 g (2.12-3.39 ounces)

Habitat/Diet

The European Starling tends to flock in large numbers. Their success is at the expense of many native birds, such as Eastern Bluebirds and Woodpeckers, as they compete with the starling for nests. Because of their huge numbers, Starlings are found almost everywhere, especially near people in agricultural and urban areas. Starlings are often found in the front yards of suburban homes. The European Starling has a very broad diet of many kinds of invertebrates, fruits, grains, seeds, and will even eat garbage. They walk with a waddling gait, their head bobbing. They use their bill to pry open grass and look for grub.

Behavior/Reproduction

Starlings are generally monogamous, but polygyny is common in many populations. This pair bonds generally last for only one nesting attempt. Male starlings guard their mates closely. A male stays close to his mate for a period beginning a few day before egg laying, and continuing until the clutch is complete and incubation begins Starlings usually make their nests inside a cavity. The nest is composed of grass or pine needles and other things, such as feathers, paper, plastic, string, and rootlets. The Starling's eggs are bluish or greenish white and unmarked. The eggs incubation period is an average of 12 days. A clutch size is between 3-6 eggs, and the chicks fledge in 21-23 days after hatching.


photo M. Noonan

Where to see them in WNY

The European Starling is most likely to be found in a suburban area. In fact, one is less likely to see them if on a nature trail or at a National Wildlife Refuge. Starlings like plain, open short grasses, as it is more suitable for their method of foraging.

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