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Bird Biology

European Starlings weigh approximately 3.2 ounces; an average starling is about the size of a robin. The adult starling has dark feathers with speckles. Starling bills (both male and female) are yellow during reproductive season (January to June), the rest of the year starling bills are dark. Juvenile starlings have pale brown to gray bills. "Starlings are chunky and hump-backed in appearance, with a shape similar to that of a meadowlark. The tail is short, and the wings have a triangular shape when outstretched in flight." Starling flight paths tend to be direct and swift.

Starlings can be found in various types of habitats "including cities, towns, farms, ranches, open woodlands, fields, and lawns. Perfect nesting habitats would include areas with trees or other structures that have openings that are "suitable for nesting and short grass areas or grazed pastures for foraging. During the winter, starlings live in areas where nesting, roosting, and foraging for food and water is possible.

General Biology:
"European starlings were brought into the United States from Europe. The were released in New York City in 1890 and 1891 by an individual who wanted to introduce to the United States all of the birds mentioned in Shakespeare's works. Since that time, they have increased in numbers and spread across the country. The starling population is estimated at 140 million." Starlings will nest in any cavity of a structure, trees, birdhouses, or cliff faces. The female lays about 4 to 7 eggs which hatch 11 to 13 days after incubation. Young starlings will leave the nest at about 21 days old. "Both parents help build the nest, incubate the eggs, and feed the young." Starlings are not necessarily migratory, but some will migrate up to several hundred miles, while others will remain in the same general area. "Hatching-year starlings are more likely to migrate than adults, and they tend to migrate farther." With the exception of breeding season, starlings generally feed and roost together in flocks. Research has shown that starlings can and will feed miles away from their nests. "Starling and blackbird flocks often roost together in urban landscape trees or in small dense woodlots or overcrowded tree groves. These birds will choose trees that have plenty of perches so that the whole flock can roost together. During the winter seasons, starlings will move into dense vegetation or structures such as barns, urban structures, and homes. Starlings always look for protection from the climate.

Starlings are considered pests due to all the problems they cause, especially around livestock facilities and near urban roosts. Starlings are responsible for "transferring disease from one livestock facility to another. Tests have shown that the transmissible gastroenteritis virus (TGE) can pass through the digestive tract of a starling and be infectious in the starling feces. TGE can be transmitted on boots, vehicles, stray animals, or already infected livestock. Starlings cause other types of damage such as consuming cultivated fruits and seeds from a recently planted field. "Large roosts that occur in buildings, industrial structures, or, along with blackbird species in trees near homes are a problem in both rural and urban sites because of health concerns, filth, noise, and odor. In addition, slippery accumulations of droppings pose safety hazards at industrial structures, and the acidity of droppings is corrosive." Starlings that roost near airports create a safety problem, with the possibility of the bird getting sucked into the aircraft engines. One of the more serious health concerns that starlings have is the "fungal respiratory disease histoplasmosis. The fungus Histoplasma capsulatum can grow in soils under bird roosts, and spores become airborne in dry weather, especially when the site is disturbed. Histoplasmosis, in its most extreme state can cause blindness and/or death. Another problem starlings have created is that they are in competition with "native cavity-nesting birds such as bluebirds, flickers, woodpeckers, purple martins.

Legal Status:
European Starlings are not protected by federal law and in most cases state law does not offer them protection. Local Fish and Wildlife should be consulted before any methods of treatment are applied.

Damage Prevention:
Openings larger than 1 inch must be closed off on buildings and other structures. Netting and hardware-cloth are two ways of closing off cavities in buildings. Eliminate food and water sources.

Courtesy of The Wildlife Damage Handbook

Methods of Treatment: