what species did the european starling replace?

The European starling, also known as the common starling, is a species of bird that has taken up residence in many parts of North America. This has had an effect on the local wildlife. However, before it arrived, something else lived there.

We can see that European starlings were brought to North America in the late 19th century. Someone wanted to bring all the birds mentioned by Shakespeare to Central Park in New York City. But, this ended up having unexpected results.

Sadly, native bird species were pushed out of their homes by the starlings. For example, bluebirds and woodpeckers, which nest in holes in trees, had to battle for nesting sites against the starlings’ aggressive behavior. The starlings’ diet of insects and fruit made things even harder for other birds.

The eastern bluebird was especially affected. At one point, these beautiful birds with rusty chests were common. But, due to habitat loss and the starlings, their population declined. People put up nest boxes for the bluebirds, which saved them from disappearing.

Background on the European Starling

The European Starling, scientifically known as Sturnus vulgaris, is native to Europe. But it has spread to other parts of the world too. People introduced this bird on purpose. It is both fascinating and controversial. Its history and impact are connected with the displacement of native bird species, especially in North America.

One interesting fact: In 1890, Eugene Schieffelin released sixty European Starlings into Central Park in New York City. His eccentric plan was to introduce all the birds mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays to the USA. These birds adapted quickly and multiplied rapidly.

The rapid growth of European Starlings had big consequences. They were aggressive and ate a lot. This made it hard for native birds to get food and nesting spots. Conservationists worried about losing valuable biodiversity.

But we can’t paint a black and white picture. Some say these birds fill empty spots due to human changes to the environment. They are good at living in cities and help control insects.

In conclusion, the introduction of the European Starling to North America prompts a difficult debate. It caused decline in certain populations but also shows how humans can change natural landscapes around the world.

The Impact of the European Starling’s Introduction

The European Starling has caused a major stir in the ecosystems it invaded. It outcompeted native birds, upsetting the balance of nature. This led to a drop in the population of many species. Native birds had a hard time finding food and nests, which also had a knock-on effect on small mammals and insects.

These starlings also threaten other cavity-nesting birds, as they take over their nests. This forces the native birds to find other habitats or risk decreased breeding success.

In addition, these starlings are known for their mimicry skills. They can imitate various sounds, from car alarms to doorbells. This is possible because of their vocal muscles, which give them more flexibility in sound production than other birds. Research conducted by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology backs this up.

The Species Replaced by the European Starling

The European Starling’s arrival created a huge change to the environment. It displaced many native bird species, such as the Eastern Bluebird, Purple Martin, and Woodpeckers. The Starling’s aggressiveness caused the Eastern Bluebird’s numbers to drop. Purple Martins’ nesting sites were taken away due to the Starling. Woodpeckers, such as Northern Flickers and Downy Woodpeckers, lost their nesting cavities. Moreover, other cavity-nesting birds like Tree Swallows and Barn Owls were affected by the habitat competition. European Starlings multiplied quickly and soon outnumbered the native birds.

It is astonishing that this invasive species’ introduction was not intentional. Eugene Schieffelin released around 100 starlings into New York’s Central Park in 1890. His goal was to introduce all birds mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays to North America. He did not expect the consequences of his act.

Efforts to Control and Manage the European Starling Population

Efforts to control and manage the European Starling population have been extensive. Such efforts include:

  • Netting
  • Physical barriers
  • Loud noise devices
  • Visual deterrents
  • Predator decoys
  • Chemical repellents
  • Bird spikes
  • Trapping and relocation
  • Species-specific contraceptives

Exploiting the starlings’ social behavior is another strategy. Harassment techniques disrupt their flock cohesion, feedings, and communication, reducing their impact on crops and native birds.

Long-term solutions include research into alternate, sustainable methods. Bioacoustic technology and habitat modification are two examples of such approaches.

John, a vineyard owner, had a great success story. His crops were being devoured by starlings, so he installed a sound system with distress calls. Neighboring vineyards noticed a decrease in starling presence too. This inspired other farmers to implement similar methods – leading to a reduction in starling populations across the region.

These remarkable efforts demonstrate a commitment to preserving biodiversity and reducing the negative consequences of invasive starlings. Creative and sustainable solutions are essential for addressing ecological challenges.


The European starling, an invasive species, was a success in North America. Its adaptability and its aggressive behavior enabled it to outcompete native birds, like the bluebird and the purple martin. It replaced multiple native species.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What species did the European Starling replace?

A: The European Starling replaced several native bird species in North America, including the Eastern Bluebird, Purple Martin, and the Woodpecker.

Q: Why did the European Starling replace these species?

A: The European Starling was introduced to North America in the late 1800s by a group dedicated to introducing all birds mentioned in the works of Shakespeare. With its aggressive behavior and adaptability, the starling outcompeted many native species for nesting sites and food sources.

Q: Did the European Starling have any positive impact?

A: While its introduction and population growth had negative effects on some native bird species, the European Starling has also provided benefits such as controlling insect populations, dispersing seeds, and adding diversity to the avian fauna.

Q: Are there any efforts to control the European Starling population?

A: Yes, there are ongoing efforts to manage European Starling populations through the installation of specific bird boxes and nest sites for native bird species. Additionally, people can discourage starlings by ensuring proper waste management and limiting food sources.

Q: Can the European Starling still be found in Europe?

A: Yes, the European Starling is native to Europe and can still be found there. Its large population and adaptability have allowed it to thrive in various environments across the continent.

Q: Should European Starlings be eradicated?

A: Eradicating the European Starling completely would be challenging and have unintended ecological consequences. Instead, conservation efforts focus on managing their population, protecting native bird species, and promoting balance within ecosystems.

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.