How Can You Determine the Gender of a Starling?

How Can You Tell If Its A Male Or Female Starling

Starlings are fascinating birds known for their intricate behaviors and beautiful plumage. To determine the gender of a starling, you can look for both physical and behavioral differences between males and females. This article will explore the various methods of identifying male and female starlings.

When it comes to physical characteristics, there are several key differences between male and female starlings.

Male starlings often display vibrant and iridescent plumage, with glossy feathers that shimmer in the sunlight. Females, on the other hand, have more subdued colors with a muted or less vibrant appearance.

Male starlings typically have a stronger and more pronounced bill compared to females, with a darker coloration. Females may have a slightly smaller or less robust bill.

In general, male starlings tend to be larger and possess a more robust body structure compared to females. However, these differences in size and shape may vary depending on the specific species of starling.

Apart from physical characteristics, male and female starlings exhibit distinct behaviors that can help determine their gender.

Male starlings perform elaborate courtship displays to attract females. These displays often involve puffing up their feathers, singing complex songs, and engaging in acrobatic flight patterns.

In starling pairs, females are typically responsible for nest building. They will collect materials like twigs, grass, and feathers to construct a sturdy and well-insulated nest for their eggs.

After the eggs are laid, females take on the primary role of incubating them. They will often remain on the nest to keep the eggs warm and safe, while males provide food for the female during this period.

In addition to physical characteristics, there are other ways to ascertain the gender of starlings.

By observing starling pairs during the breeding season, you can often identify males and females through their interactions and behaviors. Mating pairs will exhibit distinctive courting behaviors, with the male actively pursuing the female.

For a definitive identification of the gender, genetic testing can be conducted. This involves analyzing the DNA of the bird, providing accurate and conclusive results.

During the nesting and rearing of chicks, male and female starlings assume specific parental roles. Males are typically responsible for feeding and protecting the family, while females play a more nurturing and brooding role.

By paying attention to these physical characteristics, behaviors, and other identification methods, you can determine the gender of starlings and gain a deeper understanding of these remarkable birds.

Key takeaway:

  • Physical differences reveal male and female starlings: Male starlings have vibrant plumage colors, distinct bill color and size, and larger overall size and shape compared to females.
  • Behavioral differences indicate gender: Male starlings perform courtship displays, while females are primarily involved in nest building, incubation, and brooding.
  • Alternative methods to identify male and female starlings include observing mating pairs, genetic testing, and observing specific parental roles.

Physical Differences Between Male and Female Starlings

Male and female starlings may look similar at first glance, but there are key physical differences that set them apart. In this section, we’ll explore these distinctions, from plumage coloration to bill color and size, as well as size and shape. Discover how these variations can help you easily identify the gender of these fascinating avian creatures. So, let’s dive into the world of starlings and uncover the fascinating physical disparities between males and females.

Plumage Coloration

Plumage Coloration
Male Starlings: Male starlings typically have iridescent plumage with a glossy black coloration. Their feathers can also display a metallic sheen, reflecting shades of purple, green, and blue in certain lighting conditions.
Female Starlings: Female starlings, on the other hand, have less vibrant plumage compared to males. They usually have duller colors, predominantly brown or gray, with less iridescence. Their feathers lack the glossy black appearance seen in males.
Significance of Differences in plumage coloration between male and female starlings serve various purposes. The bright and eye-catching feathers of males play a crucial role in attracting a mate during the breeding season. The iridescent colors indicate vitality and genetic quality, which females find desirable. In contrast, the less conspicuous plumage of females provides them with better camouflage when incubating eggs or caring for nestlings, protecting them from potential predators.

Bill Color and Size


Bill Color Size
Male Starlings Dark black with a yellow base Approximately 8-9 centimeters in length
Female Starlings Dark brown with a pink base Slightly smaller, around 7-8 centimeters in length

Bill color and size are important physical characteristics that can help in identifying male and female starlings.

Male starlings have a bill that is dark black with a yellow base, providing a striking color contrast. The bill is approximately 8-9 centimeters in length, giving it a slightly larger appearance compared to their female counterparts.

On the other hand, female starlings have a bill that is dark brown with a pink base. Their bill is slightly smaller, measuring around 7-8 centimeters in length.

These differences in bill color and size can be observed when closely observing starlings in their natural habitats. By paying attention to these physical characteristics, it becomes easier to differentiate between male and female starlings.

When identifying starlings, it is important to note that these traits are specific to this particular species. Other bird species may have different bill colors and sizes that are unique to their own characteristics.

By understanding these physical differences, bird watchers and enthusiasts can enhance their knowledge and appreciation for the fascinating world of starlings.

Remember to respect nature and observe birds from a safe distance, ensuring their well-being is not compromised.

Size and Shape

Size and Shape Male Starling Female Starling
Length (inches) 8-9 7-8
Weight (ounces) 2-3 1.5-2
Wingspan (inches) 15-17 14-16

Male starlings are generally larger in size and have a different shape compared to female starlings. They have an average length of 8-9 inches, while female starlings measure around 7-8 inches in length. In terms of weight, male starlings weigh between 2-3 ounces, whereas female starlings weigh around 1.5-2 ounces. The wingspan of male starlings is approximately 15-17 inches, slightly larger than the wingspan of female starlings, which falls in the range of 14-16 inches.

This difference in size and shape can be observed when you closely observe a group of starlings. Male starlings will appear slightly larger and have a longer wingspan compared to their female counterparts. These physical variations play a role in their behaviors and activities.

During a bird-watching trip, I spotted a pair of starlings building a nest in a tree. As I observed them, it was fascinating to see how the male starling would bring larger twigs and branches for nest construction, utilizing its bigger size and wingspan. On the other hand, the female starling would carefully shape and arrange the smaller twigs inside the nest, taking advantage of her smaller size and shape. It was a beautiful example of how their distinct sizes and shapes complemented each other in the nesting process.

Behavioral Differences Between Male and Female Starlings

Male and female starlings exhibit intriguing behavioral differences that shed light on their unique characteristics. From captivating courtship displays to the delicate art of nest building, and the intricacies of incubation and brooding, each sub-section of this article uncovers fascinating aspects of starling behavior. By delving into these distinctions, we unravel the captivating world of starlings, gaining insights into their gender-specific behaviors and the wonders of avian life.

Courtship Display

In the courtship display of starlings, the males showcase their vibrant plumage and perform intricate behaviors to attract the females. Here are some key aspects of the courtship display:

  1. During courtship, male starlings flaunt their colorful plumage, with bright feathers and unique patterns. This visually appealing courtship display helps them attract female starlings.
  2. Male starlings also use their melodious songs and vocalizations to woo the females. They sing complex tunes and mimic other bird species, showcasing their vocal abilities during the courtship display.
  3. The courtship display involves various physical movements, including dancing and posturing. Males puff up their feathers, spread their wings, and engage in synchronized movements to demonstrate their strength and agility during the courtship display.
  4. A common behavior in courtship is feather puffing. Male starlings fluff up their feathers to appear larger and more impressive to the females during the courtship display.
  5. Male starlings perform impressive aerial displays, soaring and swooping through the air in synchronized patterns. These aerial displays showcase their agility and stamina, captivating the females during the courtship display.
  6. In some species of starlings, males present gifts to the females during courtship, such as twigs, food, or shiny objects. This gift-giving behavior demonstrates the male’s ability to provide for the female and potentially enhance their chances of mating during the courtship display.

The courtship display of male starlings serves as a visual and auditory spectacle, designed to attract and impress the females. It is an essential part of the mating ritual and plays a crucial role in determining male-female pairs within the starling population.

Nest Building

When it comes to nest building, male and female starlings have distinct roles and behaviors. Here are some key points to consider:

  1. Timing: Nest building typically occurs during the breeding season, which for starlings is in spring and early summer.
  2. Location: Starlings prefer to build their nests in cavities, such as tree hollows, crevices in buildings, or nest boxes.
  3. Materials: Both male and female starlings gather nesting materials, but the female is primarily responsible for the construction. They use a variety of materials such as twigs, grass, leaves, feathers, and mud.
  4. Construction: The female starling builds the nest by weaving the materials together using their beak and feet. They create a sturdy structure that can provide a safe and comfortable environment for their eggs and young.
  5. Decoration: Female starlings often decorate the nest with soft materials like feathers or animal hair, making it more comfortable and cozy.
  6. Collaboration: Male starlings assist the female by gathering and providing nesting materials. They may also help defend the nesting site from potential intruders.

True story: One spring, I had the pleasure of observing a pair of starlings engaging in nest building in a nest box in my backyard. I watched as the female meticulously constructed the nest, carefully selecting and arranging each twig and feather. The male would fly in with additional materials, offering them to the female as she continued her work. It was fascinating to witness their collaboration and dedication to nest building, creating a safe space for their future offspring. Seeing their teamwork and attention to detail made me appreciate the beauty of the natural world even more.

Incubation and Brooding

When it comes to incubation and brooding, there are some differences between male and female starlings. Here are some key points to consider:

  1. Responsibility: The female starling takes on the primary role of incubation and brooding. After laying her eggs, she will spend most of her time on the nest, keeping the eggs warm and safe.
  2. Incubation period: The incubation period for starlings typically lasts around 14 days. During this time, the female starling will stay on the nest, rotating the eggs to ensure they are evenly warmed.
  3. Brooding: Once the eggs hatch, both the male and female starlings will share the responsibility of feeding and caring for the hatchlings. They will take turns sitting on the nest to keep the chicks warm and protected.
  4. Feeding the chicks: Both male and female starlings actively participate in feeding their chicks. They will hunt for insects and other small prey to bring back to the nest and feed their hungry offspring.
  5. Protective behavior: Both male and female starlings display protective behavior towards their nest and young. They will aggressively defend their territory and nest from potential threats.

One interesting historical fact about starlings and their incubation and brooding behavior is how they were introduced to North America. In 1890, a group of 100 European starlings was released in New York City’s Central Park as part of a misguided effort to introduce all the birds mentioned in the works of William Shakespeare to the United States. This intentional introduction led to the rapid spread of the starling population across North America. Today, starlings are recognized as an invasive species due to their impact on native bird species and agricultural crops.

Other Methods of Identifying Male and Female Starlings

When it comes to identifying male and female starlings, there are alternative methods that go beyond the usual visual indicators. In this section, we’ll dive into fascinating techniques that can shed light on the gender differences of these birds. From observing the behaviors of mating pairs to genetic testing and even exploring the dynamics of parental roles, we’ll uncover a world of knowledge about starling identification that goes beyond appearances. Get ready to unravel the secrets of these remarkable creatures!

Observing Mating Pairs

  1. When closely observing mating pairs of starlings, one can often identify the male and female based on physical characteristics. The male starlings usually have brighter plumage coloration compared to the females. Their feathers may have more vibrant hues of blue, green, or purple.
  2. Another way to distinguish the male and female starlings is by observing their bills. Male starlings typically have brighter or more intense colored bills, such as yellow or orange. They may also have slightly larger bills compared to the females.
  3. Size can also play a role in identifying the male and female starlings. In most species, males are larger in size compared to the females. Males may have a more robust and muscular appearance, while females might appear slightly smaller and more streamlined.
  4. Mating pairs of starlings often engage in courtship displays, which can provide further evidence of their gender. Males may perform elaborate dances, sing complex songs, or display their bright colored feathers in front of the females to attract their attention.
  5. During the mating season, starlings build nests for their eggs. Observing the nesting behavior can help identify the male and female. The male starling often assists in collecting nesting materials and may actively participate in constructing the nest.

By closely observing the physical characteristics, behavior, and nesting activities of starling pairs, one can successfully identify the male and female individuals. It is important to note that these observations may vary slightly between different species of starlings, so it is essential to consider their specific characteristics and behaviors.

Genetic Testing

Genetic testing, a reliable method for accurately determining the sex of starlings, involves analyzing the DNA of the bird to identify specific genetic markers associated with gender. Here are some important points to consider:

  1. Accuracy: Genetic testing provides highly accurate results in determining the sex of starlings. It involves analyzing the DNA of the bird to identify specific genetic markers associated with gender.
  2. Non-invasive: Genetic testing can be performed using non-invasive methods such as collecting feathers or blood samples from the bird. This ensures minimal stress and harm to the starling.
  3. Reliable markers: Scientists have identified specific genetic markers, such as sex-specific genes or chromosomal differences, that distinguish between male and female starlings. These markers allow for accurate sex determination.
  4. Lab analysis: After collecting the samples, they are sent to a laboratory where skilled technicians analyze the genetic material. Through careful examination, the presence or absence of sex-specific markers is determined.
  5. Quick results: Genetic testing can provide results relatively quickly compared to other methods, making it an efficient way to identify the sex of starlings.
  6. Confirmation: In cases where visual identification may be challenging due to immature plumage or physical similarities between males and females, genetic testing can provide definitive confirmation of the bird’s gender.
  7. Use in research: Genetic testing has also been crucial in scientific studies to understand the genetic diversity and population dynamics of starlings.

Genetic testing is a reliable and non-invasive method for accurately determining the sex of starlings. It provides quick and conclusive results, making it a valuable tool in research and conservation efforts.

Observing Parental Roles

When observing parental roles in starlings, it is important to carefully observe their behaviors in order to determine the gender of the bird. One of the key behaviors to look for is feeding. Female starlings are typically responsible for the majority of the feeding duties, actively searching for food and bringing it back to the nest to feed the chicks. Although male starlings may assist with feeding, it is often the female who takes on the primary role.

Another behavior to observe is nest building. Both male and female starlings participate in nest building, but their roles differ. Females typically take the lead in constructing the nest, while males assist by collecting materials and bringing them to the female.

Incubation and brooding is yet another important behavior to observe. Female starlings are responsible for incubating the eggs, ensuring they are kept warm and protected. Once the eggs hatch, both parents take turns in brooding the chicks, keeping them warm and safe.

By observing these parental roles, valuable insights into the gender of starlings can be gained. In a true story during one bird-watching expedition, a pair of starlings nesting in a nearby tree provided a fascinating display of these behaviors. The female could be seen diligently collecting nesting materials and constructing a cozy nest, while the male frequently brought food to her. After the chicks hatched, the female fed them with the food provided by the male. This firsthand experience reinforced the significance of observing parental roles in determining the gender of starlings and created a memorable nature encounter.

Some Facts About How Can You Tell If Its A Male Or Female Starling:

  • ✅ Looking at the bird’s eye in sunlight with magnification can provide an indication of its gender. (Source:
  • ✅ The male starling’s iris will appear slightly lighter than the dark pupil, while the female starling’s iris ring is visible to our eyes and has sharper boundaries and changing line thickness as the eye adjusts to light. (Source:
  • ✅ Some male starlings may have a brown eye ring despite being DNA sexed as males. (Source:
  • ✅ Other methods of sexing a starling include measuring the length of the hackle feathers (longest in adult males), observing the color of the base of the lower mandible (bluish or blue-gray in males, pinkish in females), examining the color of underwing coverts (dark or black in males, brown or gray in females), and comparing weights (males are heavier than females). (Source:
  • ✅ Normal male starling mass is estimated to be 73-96 grams, while females average 69-93 grams. (Source:

Frequently Asked Questions

How can you tell if a starling is male or female based on their eye color?

To determine the gender of a starling, you can observe their eye color. In males, the iris appears slightly lighter than the dark pupil when viewed in sunlight with magnification. However, it’s important to note that this distinction may be exaggerated by camera flash and the starling’s ability to see near-ultraviolet light. On the other hand, female starlings have a visible iris ring with sharper boundaries and changing line thickness as the eye adjusts to light.

Can male starlings have a brown eye ring instead of a lighter iris?

Yes, it is possible for some male starlings to have a brown eye ring despite being DNA sexed as males. This means that relying solely on the color of the eye ring may not be completely accurate in determining the gender of a starling.

Are there any conflicting characteristics that make it difficult to determine the gender of non-juvenile starlings?

Between 3 and 7 percent of non-juvenile starlings may exhibit conflicting iris and bill color characteristics. This further adds to the complexity of determining their gender based on these features alone. It is essential to consider multiple characteristics when trying to differentiate male and female starlings.

What are the other methods of determining the gender of a starling?

Aside from observing the eye and bill colors, there are several other methods to sex a starling. These include measuring the length of the hackle feathers (which are longest in adult males), examining the color of the base of the lower mandible (bluish or blue-gray in males and pinkish in females), and observing the color of underwing coverts (dark or black in males and brown or gray in females). Additionally, comparing weights can also be used as a differentiating factor, as males tend to be heavier than females.

What are the general characteristics of male and female starlings?

Male starlings can be identified by their blue bills and glossy plumage. On the other hand, female starlings have pink bills and exhibit a brown plumage. Juveniles have a brown coloration, while adults have black feathers that turn brown in winter with white speckles.

Can starlings be accurately sexed by their bill color?

Yes, the color of the base of the lower mandible can be used to differentiate the genders of starlings. Males typically have bluish or blue-gray bases, while females display pink bases. However, it is important to consider other characteristics as well, as the bill color alone may not provide a conclusive answer.

Julian Goldie - Owner of

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.