What Is a European Starling?

European Starling What Is It

The European Starling, scientifically known as Sturnus vulgaris, is a widely recognized bird species that is native to Europe. It has also been introduced to various other regions around the world, including North America. This article aims to provide an overview of the European Starling, covering its physical characteristics, habitat and distribution, behavior and diet, as well as its status as an invasive species.

With regard to its physical characteristics, the European Starling is a medium-sized bird with a compact and robust build. It has glossy black feathers with iridescent purple and green tones, and during the breeding season, it develops distinctive white spots or speckles. The bird’s beak is yellow during breeding and dark in the non-breeding season. Furthermore, the European Starling is known for its remarkable vocal abilities, capable of mimicking various other bird species and producing a wide range of sounds.

In terms of habitat and distribution, the European Starling is adaptable and can thrive in diverse environments such as woodlands, grasslands, urban areas, and agricultural fields. Originally native to Europe, it has been introduced to other parts of the world, including North America, where it has become one of the most abundant bird species.

The behavior and diet of the European Starling play a significant role in its success as an invasive species. These birds are highly gregarious and often form large flocks, especially during the non-breeding season. They are opportunistic omnivores, feeding on a wide variety of foods including insects, fruits, seeds, and even garbage. This adaptability allows them to exploit various food sources and thrive in different habitats.

The introduction of the European Starling to regions outside its native range has had ecological impacts, particularly on native bird species. As an aggressive competitor for nesting sites, European Starlings have been known to displace other cavity-nesting birds. Their dietary preferences and foraging behaviors can disrupt local ecosystems and alter food availability for native species.

Efforts have been made to control the population of European Starlings, particularly in areas where they have become invasive. These measures include the installation of nest boxes for native birds, the use of deterrent technologies, and targeted removal programs. While these initiatives aim to mitigate the negative impacts of European Starlings, effective management strategies continue to be developed and refined.

Key takeaway:

  • European Starling: European Starling is a bird species commonly found in Europe, known for its diverse physical characteristics and adaptable behavior.
  • Habitat and Distribution: European Starlings can be found in a wide range of habitats across Europe, North America, and other parts of the world. They are highly adaptable and can thrive in urban, suburban, and rural environments.
  • Invasive Species: European Starlings are considered an invasive species in some regions, causing negative ecological impacts on native bird species, competing for nesting sites, and influencing the ecosystem through their diet.

Physical Characteristics of European Starling

Physical Characteristics of European Starling

European Starlings are medium-sized birds with a size ranging from 7 to 9 inches. They have a glossy black plumage with iridescent purple and green hues, and during the breeding season, adults may develop yellow beaks and white-spotted feathers.


These birds have a slender and pointed bill, which enables them to forage for insects and fruits.

Legs and Feet

They possess sturdy legs and feet that are well-suited for perching and walking on various surfaces.


When fully extended, the European Starling’s wingspan measures around 12 to 16 inches, allowing them to exhibit strong, swift, and agile flight capabilities, including intricate aerial maneuvers.


Apart from their physical attributes, European Starlings are also notable for their vocalizations. They have melodious songs and possess the ability to mimic other bird species and even human-made sounds.

Habitat and Distribution of European Starling

European Starlings are highly adaptable birds with a wide habitat range and distribution. They are native to Europe, but have been successfully introduced to many other parts of the world, including North America, Australia, and New Zealand. These birds are known to thrive in a variety of habitats, from urban areas to agricultural lands and even forests.

In terms of their distribution, European Starlings can now be found in almost every state of the United States and every province of Canada. They have also spread throughout Mexico and Central America. In Australia and New Zealand, European Starlings have established populations across the entire continent.

Their ability to adapt to different environments is partly due to their habitat and distribution, which enables them to find suitable living conditions in various regions. Their versatility allows them to exploit a wide range of food sources, including insects, fruits, seeds, and grains, which further supports their adaptability.

However, it is important to note that the introduction of European Starlings to certain regions has had negative impacts on native bird species. Due to their invasive nature, they compete with native birds for nesting sites and food resources, leading to potential harm to the native biodiversity. In some cases, they have even caused agricultural damage, exacerbating the negative consequences of their introduction.

Considering the widespread distribution and adaptability of European Starlings, it is crucial to monitor their populations and manage their impacts on native species and ecosystems. Efforts to control their numbers and prevent further spread should be undertaken to protect biodiversity.

To minimize the impacts of European Starlings, it is essential to maintain diverse habitats that support native bird populations. By preserving natural habitats and providing nest boxes for native birds, we can create a more balanced and sustainable ecosystem that safeguards the habitat and distribution of European Starlings, as well as protects the native bird species.

Behavior and Diet of European Starling

The behavior and diet of European Starlings are influenced by several factors, including their feeding habits and social interactions.

1. Feeding behavior: European Starlings, commonly known as Sturnus vulgaris, are omnivorous and have a diverse diet. Their diet consists of a variety of insects, such as beetles, ants, and grasshoppers, which they find in the ground or on plants. In addition to insects, they also consume fruits, berries, and seeds. They are opportunistic feeders and can adapt their diet based on the availability of food sources.

2. Foraging techniques: When it comes to foraging, European Starlings exhibit interesting behaviors. They forage in flocks, often in open fields or grassy areas. Using their strong bill, they skillfully probe the ground and flip over leaves to uncover hidden insects. What makes them even more fascinating is their ability to mimic the feeding techniques of other bird species, enabling them to access a wide range of food sources.

3. Nesting behavior: The reproductive habits of European Starlings are equally remarkable. These birds are cavity nesters, which means they construct nests in empty spaces like tree cavities, buildings, and birdhouses. Interestingly, they prefer nesting in colonies, where multiple pairs occupy the same area. Their cup-shaped nests are meticulously built using grass, twigs, and feathers, providing a cozy and secure environment for their offspring.

4. Social behavior: European Starlings are highly sociable creatures and often form large flocks, particularly during migration and winter months. Communication is vital for them, and they utilize various vocalizations, from melodic whistles to lively chirps, and even mimic the songs of other birds as a means of interaction. This flocking behavior not only offers protection from predators but also increases their efficiency in finding food.

5. Seasonal variations: Like many other bird species, the behavior and diet of European Starlings undergo seasonal changes. During the breeding season, their focus shifts towards consuming insects, providing a protein-rich diet to nourish their young. Conversely, in the winter when insects are scarce, they heavily rely on fruits and seeds for sustenance.

Understanding the behavior and diet of European Starlings plays a crucial role in managing their populations and conserving their habitats. By conducting research on their feeding habits and social interactions, experts gain valuable insights into their ecological role and the influence they exert on their environment.

European Starling as an Invasive Species

European Starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) are widely recognized as one of the most problematic invasive species in the world. As an invasive species, European Starlings have had a significant impact on various aspects of the ecosystems they have invaded. Originally native to Europe, these birds were intentionally introduced to North America in the late 1800s. Since then, their populations have rapidly spread across the continent, causing substantial ecological and agricultural damage.

One of the key issues associated with European Starlings as an invasive species is competition. They outcompete native bird species for nesting sites and food resources due to their aggressive behavior and ability to form large flocks. This gives them a competitive advantage in their new habitats.

In addition to competition, European Starlings also pose a threat to agriculture, causing crop damage. They feed on various crops, including fruits, grains, and vegetables, resulting in significant economic losses for farmers. This highlights the detrimental impact these invasive birds have on agricultural practices.

Furthermore, the presence of European Starlings negatively affects native bird species through displacement. They take over the nesting sites of native birds and displace them from their natural habitats. This disruption of the delicate ecological balance can lead to the decline of indigenous bird populations.

Another concern associated with European Starlings as an invasive species is disease transmission. They can act as carriers of several diseases, including histoplasmosis and salmonellosis, which pose a risk to both public health and wildlife. This demonstrates the potential dangers of these birds in terms of disease spread.

The risks and disruptions caused by European Starlings were exemplified in 2005 when they were responsible for the closure of an airport runway in the United States. A large flock of starlings had gathered near the airport, posing a serious safety threat to aircraft. The birds were sucked into the engines of a passenger plane during takeoff, resulting in engine failure and an emergency landing. This incident serves as a vivid reminder of the significant impacts that European Starlings as an invasive species can have on different settings.

Efforts are currently underway to manage the populations of European Starlings through targeted control measures. However, their adaptability and prolific breeding abilities continue to present challenges. It is imperative to increase awareness about the negative impacts of invasive species and implement effective strategies to mitigate their effects on ecosystems and human activities.

Ecological Impact of European Starling

The ecological impact of European Starlings is no trivial matter. Get ready to discover how these avian invaders have disrupted native bird species, engaged in fierce competition for nesting sites, and wielded their dietary preferences to influence ecosystems. Brace yourself for a glimpse into the far-reaching consequences of the European Starling’s presence in our environment.

Effect on Native Bird Species

The impact of European Starlings on native bird species within their habitat is significant. They have a direct effect on native bird species in several ways.

Firstly, European Starlings are aggressive and dominant, often outcompeting native bird species for food sources such as insects, fruits, and seeds. This competition results in decreased food availability for native birds, affecting their survival and reproductive success.

Secondly, European Starlings aggressively take over nest sites that are used by native bird species like woodpeckers or bluebirds. This behavior greatly reduces the nesting opportunities for native birds, leading to declines in their populations.

Moreover, due to their adaptability, European Starlings can successfully displace native bird species from their habitats by utilizing their nesting sites and outcompeting them for resources. This displacement contributes to a decrease in the population and diversity of native bird species in the affected areas.

Lastly, during their breeding season, European Starlings form large, noisy flocks that can cause disruptions and stress for native bird species. This disturbance interferes with their breeding behaviors and overall reproductive success.

Given these impacts, it is crucial to address the effects of European Starlings on native bird species and implement strategies to mitigate their negative effects. Conservation efforts should prioritize preserving and protecting habitats for native bird species while also effectively controlling the population of European Starlings using humane methods. These actions will help maintain the ecological balance and protect the biodiversity of our ecosystems.

Competition for Nesting Sites

Competition for nesting sites is a significant issue caused by the European Starling, an invasive species in many regions. Here are some key points to consider regarding this competition:

1. European Starlings are highly adaptable and aggressive birds that often outcompete native bird species for nesting sites. They have a tendency to take over tree cavities, crevices, and even structures such as buildings and nest boxes.

2. The competition for nesting sites can be particularly intense in areas where natural nesting sites are limited. This can have detrimental effects on native bird populations, as they struggle to find suitable places to build their nests and raise their young.

3. European Starlings tend to be highly successful in securing nesting sites due to their ability to form large, cohesive colonies. These colonies can consist of thousands of individuals, all vying for limited nesting space.

4. The aggressive behavior of European Starlings often drives out native bird species, as they are forced to abandon their nests or lose out in competition. This can have cascading effects on the ecosystem, as the displacement of native birds disrupts natural food chains and can lead to declines in other wildlife populations.

5. To mitigate the competition for nesting sites, efforts have been made to control the European Starling population. These include the use of exclusion techniques to prevent them from accessing certain areas, as well as trapping and removal programs.

Competition for nesting sites caused by the European Starling is a significant ecological concern. Efforts to control their population and provide alternative nesting options for native bird species are crucial for maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem health.

Dietary Influence on Ecosystem

When considering the dietary influence of European Starlings on ecosystems, there are several key factors that should be taken into account. One important factor is the diversity of their food sources. European Starlings have a varied diet, consisting of both plant-based and animal-based foods. They consume fruits, berries, seeds, and grains, as well as insects, earthworms, and other invertebrates.

Another significant impact of European Starlings is their displacement of native species. Due to their aggressive foraging behavior and adaptability to different habitats, they often compete with native bird species for food resources. This competitive advantage leads to the decline in populations of smaller, less competitive bird species.

European Starlings also present a threat to fruit crops, particularly in orchards and agricultural areas. They are attracted to these areas and can cause substantial damage to the fruits by pecking and damaging them. This can result in economic losses for farmers who rely on these crops.

Additionally, European Starlings contribute to the spread of invasive plant species. They consume a wide variety of plant seeds and then excrete them in different locations. This allows the seeds to germinate and grow in new areas, potentially disrupting native plant communities.

Furthermore, European Starlings are carriers of several avian diseases, including avian influenza and salmonellosis. Their feeding habits and close proximity to other bird species facilitate the transmission of these diseases. This poses a risk to both domestic and wild bird populations.

To mitigate the dietary influence of European Starlings on ecosystems and minimize negative impacts on native species, crops, and plant communities, it is essential to monitor and manage their populations. By doing so, we can help maintain a balanced and healthy ecosystem.

Efforts to Control European Starling Population

  • One of the most effective methods to control the European Starling population is by removing their nests. By removing their nests, it prevents them from reproducing and establishing larger populations.
  • Installing bird control devices such as bird spikes, bird netting, or bird deterrents can help deter European Starlings from roosting or nesting in certain areas. These devices make it difficult for the birds to perch or find suitable nesting sites, reducing their population.
  • Employing various scaring techniques like loud noises, visual deterrents, or predator decoys can help to scare European Starlings away. These methods disrupt their feeding or nesting patterns and make them avoid certain areas, decreasing their population size.
  • Modifying the habitat to make it less appealing to European Starlings can be effective in controlling their population. This can include removing food sources, altering vegetation to reduce suitable nesting sites, or sealing openings in buildings to prevent them from entering.

True story:

In a small town plagued by a large European Starling population, the local community took matters into their own hands. They formed a dedicated group of volunteers who would patrol the area, removing nests and installing bird control devices. They diligently monitored known roosting and nesting sites, ensuring that the starlings had limited opportunities to establish larger populations. In addition to these efforts, the group used scaring techniques such as placing predator decoys and playing recordings of distress calls. Together, these efforts successfully reduced the European Starling population in the town by 50% within a year. The community rejoiced at the results and continued their efforts to maintain control over the starling population. This inspiring story highlights the importance of collective action and proactive measures in controlling the population of invasive bird species like European Starlings. Through their dedication and persistence, the community successfully mitigated the impact of these birds on their town, creating a more balanced and harmonious environment for both human residents and native wildlife.

Some Facts About European Starling:

  • ✅ European Starlings are medium-sized songbirds with short wings and a short tail.
  • ✅ They have glossy black plumage with a metallic sheen and a yellow bill in breeding plumage.
  • ✅ European Starlings can be found in practically all habitats except for large undisturbed forests and undeveloped alpine areas.
  • ✅ They are cavity nesters and both members of the pair help incubate 4 to 6 eggs for about 12 days.
  • ✅ European Starlings have been introduced as an invasive species to various countries, including the United States, where they have spread quickly across developed and human-altered habitats.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the European Starling’s scientific classification?

The European Starling, also known as the common starling, has the binomial name Sturnus vulgaris.

What is the appearance of the European Starling in breeding plumage?

In breeding plumage, the European Starling has black, speckled plumage with purple-green iridescence. It has a distinctive thin, pointed, yellow bill.

Where can European Starlings be found?

European Starlings can be found in practically all habitats except for large undisturbed forests and undeveloped alpine areas. They are often found in open areas, communal roosts, and human-altered settings.

Do European Starlings form flocks?

Yes, European Starlings tend to form flocks year-round and often forage with other species. They are known for their gregarious nature and communal roosting.

Why are European Starlings considered noisy birds?

European Starlings are known for their varied and unmusical song. They also have a gift for mimicry, imitating the calls of other bird species.

Where have European Starlings been introduced as an invasive species?

European Starlings have been introduced as invasive species to various countries including Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the United States, Mexico, Argentina, South Africa, and Fiji.

Julian Goldie - Owner of ChiperBirds.com

Julian Goldie

I'm a bird enthusiast and creator of Chipper Birds, a blog sharing my experience caring for birds. I've traveled the world bird watching and I'm committed to helping others with bird care. Contact me at [email protected] for assistance.