Our Wild Neighbors

Common Starling

Sturnus vulgaris

An opportunist widely present throughout Canada

Image of a European Starling, seen from an angle with its head turned to the left, mounted upright on a base of gravel.

Description of the animal

  • Size: about 20 cm.
  • Weight: about 75 gr.
  • Short and straight tail.
  • Long, strong, and pointy yellow beak.
  • During mating season, the male’s black plumage is spotted with white on the back and lower belly. Its blue, green, and violet metallic sheen glistens in the sun.
  • The female’s colouring is duller than the male’s, but has more spots on the breast.
  • The young are also spotted, but their plumage is brown, especially on the head. The top part of their bodies is grey-brown, their bellies are a lighter colour.

Habitat and needs

  • Moves about and feeds in groups. The Common Starling prefers rural and urban environments where it can find warm shelter.
  • Is omnivorous. During summer, the Common Starling eats mostly insects, but opts for seeds, grains, and small fruit near the end of the season. It eats while walking and pecking the ground with its beak.
  • Adapts well to new environments.
  • Has a high reproductive capacity.
  • Makes its nest inside existing holes, such as tree trunks, birdhouses, and cracks in buildings and rocky cliffs. It sometimes takes over the nest of other species, and even those of its own species.
  • Can mimic the song of other birds. The most talented Common Starling can imitate about 20 bird sounds. Some can even reproduce strange noises, such as that of a mechanical saw or a car alarm.
  • Has a well-developed palate. The Common Starling can tell the difference between salt, citric acid, and tannins. It can even tell the difference between sucrose (table sugar) and other types of sugars.

Relationship

  • The Common Starling is native to Europe. It was introduced in New York’s Central Park in 1890. In less than seven years, its population grew from 100 birds to 200 million birds. The Common Starling has extended its territory from Mexico to Alaska. Since it drives away native species that nest in holes, several eradication programs have been launched but to no avail.
  • It loves to eat small fruit crops, and also devours harmful insects, such as seedpod weevils, cutworms, beetles, grasshoppers, and even diptera (flies) that torment livestock.
  • Very loud when grouped in flocks.
  • Its droppings can damage the city monuments on which it sleeps.

Living with them

  • To prevent the Common Starling from settling on your property:
  • Limit grassy areas and plant trees.
  • Make sure they cannot enter nesting boxes by using models with small holes.
  • Use birdfeeders with perches too small for these birds to use.
  • Use birdfeeder models with mesh providing access to small birds only.

Participating cities where this animal has been seen