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European Starling: Field Guide, Pictures, Habitat & Info

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european starling perching

Although the European Starling is considered a pest in most locations, this bird is beloved for its adaptability and toughness. Though the species was only brought to North America in 1890, it can now be found across the continent.

No matter where you live in the United States, you will be able to see this boisterous bird. You will even be able to see it in parts of Canada. Because of how common this bird is, it’s one species you will want to learn how to identify.

The good news is that identifying these unique birds is pretty easy. Read on to learn how to identify a European Starling and attract more to your yard.

Quick Facts about the European Starling

Habitat Most locations like farm country, suburbs, and cities
Diet Insects, berries, and seeds
Behavior Highly sociable; mostly seen in large flocks; known for mimicry
Nesting Male establishes territory and attracts mate through song; females nest in small cavities
Conservation Least concern; negatively impacts some native species
Scientific name Sturnus vulgaris
Lifespan: 2–3 years

European Starling General Description

European Starlings are considered the same size as a blackbird, but they have short tails and long, thin beaks. When in flight, their wings are pointed yet short, which makes them appear almost like a four-pointed star, after which the species is named.

European Starlings look black from a distance, but their color changes slightly throughout the season. In the summer, they will have a purplish-green iridescent color and yellow beaks up close. In the winter, they have brown plumage that is covered in white spots instead.

European Starling

Image Credit: GAIMARD, Pixabaay

European Starling Range, Habitat, Behavior, Diet & Nesting

European Starlings can be seen all over. Whenever you see one, you will likely see a flock of other starlings and similar species. They also have pretty boisterous and sociable personalities, making them difficult to miss.

Range

Although European Starlings are native to Europe, they can be found nearly all throughout North America. They are found all throughout the continental United States and most of Canada. They can be found in rural countryside and farms, but they can also be found in towns, suburbs, and even cities.

Habitat

Because European Starlings are so adaptive, their habitat is practically everywhere. They prefer to feed on the ground, forging through fields, lawns, and sidewalks. They perch up high and roost on trees, wires, and buildings.

Behavior

European Starlings are incredibly sociable, boisterous birds. They love to travel in large groups, and they can often be seen amongst grackles and blackbirds. Often, they will race across fields to get to food, but they are almost always grouped with other birds.

Interestingly, European Starlings are known to mimic other birds and creatures. For this reason, European Starlings are considered to be intelligent species.

European starling

Image Credit: arjma, Shutterstock

Diet   

These birds are not picky eaters. They eat a diet of mostly insects, berries, and seeds, but their diet is varied. If insects are available, that is what they will prefer. They eat a lot of beetles, grasshoppers, caterpillars, flies, earthworms, snails, and spiders. When fall and winter roll around, they eat more fruits, seeds, and berries.

Nesting

The male will establish his territory and choose a nesting site. He will also begin attracting a mate through song. Whenever the female arrives, the male will perch next to the nest and begin singing while waving his wings. Males often mate with more than one female per season.

European Starling nests are normally in cavities, but they prefer to be in naturally hollow trees, such as a hole made from a woodpecker. They will sometimes nest in buildings, birdhouses, and other odd spots. Although males begin building the nest, females finish it and sometimes get rid of the male materials. The nest is made from twigs, leaves, grasses, trash, and other items that the birds find.

How to Find the European Starling: Birdwatching Tips

Once you know what to look for when bird watching for European Starlings, the task gets pretty easy. Because these birds are so common and boisterous, they are hard to miss. Here are some tips for spotting European Starlings:

european starling birds perching on tree branch

Image Credit: Piqsels

What to Listen For

Listening for a European Starling can be confusing. Because these birds mimic other creatures, they can make many sounds. They are known to make chattering, whistling, wobbling, trilling, and rattling sounds to sound like other birds.

What to Look For

If you want to find European Starlings, the best thing to do is look at the ground. You will often see these birds zigzagging across the ground while stabbing their bills into the soil beneath. You will see a big group of birds doing the same.

When to Look

In most locations, you can look for European Starlings year around. They are generally nonmigratory unless you live far north where the winters get incredibly cold. In most of the United States, these birds are not migratory and stay put all year.

Attracting European Starlings to Your Backyard: Tips & Tricks

The best way to attract European Starlings to your backyard is to provide an abundance of food and water. Set up a birdbath for water, but put suet, seeds, and berries directly on the ground. You might also want to consider hanging up bird feeders that allow the seeds to fall to the ground.

Consider clearing away space for their nests as well. European Starlings are more likely to stay in areas where they can nest year-round since males tend to stay in one area for their entire lives.

european starling bird eating

Image Credit: JCLeroi, Pixabay

European Starling Conservation: Is this Bird Threatened?

No. European Starlings are not threatened. On the contrary, they have some damaging effects on native species, such as certain bluebirds.

Conclusion

If you are looking for a European Starling, you don’t have to look too hard. Look for medium-sized black birds with unique patterns that fly in groups and forage on the ground. No matter where you live in the United States, you probably won’t have to go too far to look for one of these birds.


Featured Image Credit: Naturelady, Pixabay

About the Author Robert Sparks

Robert’s obsession with all things optical started early in life, when his optician father would bring home prototypes for Robert to play with. Nowadays, Robert is dedicated to helping others find the right optics for their needs. His hobbies include astronomy, astrophysics, and model building. Originally from Newark, NJ, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the nighttime skies are filled with glittering stars.

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