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Spotless Starling: Field Guide, Pictures, Habitat & Info

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a spotless starling bird on a nearby lake

A close relative to the Common Starling, the Spotless Starling is found in countries throughout Europe and North Africa. It is distinguishable from the Common Starling because it mostly lacks the spots on its plumage and has a more uniform color, although pale spots may occur in winter. Although the Spotless Starling does have its own unique call, it is also skilled at mimicking the noises of other birds. It is commonly spotted in grassy areas including gardens, parks, and farms. Read on for more information about the Spotless Starling and how to spot and identify it. 

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Quick Facts about Spotless Starlings

spotless starling perched on a branch

Image Credit: Francisco Martinez Lanzas, Shutterstock

Habitat Grassy areas: gardens, parks, farms
Diet Insects, small animals, seeds, fruits
Behavior Feeds on the ground
Nesting Nests in natural cavities
Conservation Least concern
Scientific name Sturnus unicolor
Lifespan: 2–3 years

Spotless Starling General Description

The Spotless Starling is a close relative of the Common Starling. But, whereas the Common Starling shows colored spots throughout the year, the Spotless Starling has a uniform color in summer. In winter, there may be some pale spots. They are the same size and shape as the Common Starling, approximately 8 inches long and weighing 3 ounces. Males have black plumage with purple coloring on the head and green on the belly and back. The tail has a slight brown coloring while the bill is yellow, eyes brown, and legs red. Females are similar in appearance but less glossy.

Spotless Starling Range, Habitat, Behavior, Diet & Nesting

Range

The Spotless Starling has a more restricted range than that of the Common Starling and is most often seen in parts of Europe but may also be found in North Africa. It is common in Gibraltar and its population spread from here to the whole of Spain. It can also be found in the south of France and some of the Mediterranean Islands.
Habitat

The spotted starling likes grassy areas. In particular, it lives in or near gardens, parks, farmland, and lightly wooded areas. Few spotted starlings migrate, which means that they can be seen in the same habitat throughout the year.

Behavior

Feeding mainly on insects, the spotted starling is most often seen feeding on the ground although it will forage in shrubs and trees when gathering seeds and berries in winter.

Diet

Diet consists of insects and some small animals like frogs and toads in summer. In winter, the bird relies primarily on seeds and berries. The Spotless Starling can be seen at feeders in gardens and can be encouraged.

Nesting

Breeding season is dictated by location with populations in Spain breeding between April and July, with the season stretching between March and July in Morocco. The species is a colony nester and nests in natural cavities. It may use abandoned woodpecker nests but may be found in holes under roof tiles and in walls and barns. They will occasionally use artificial nesting boxes.

 

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How to Find Spotless Starlings: Birdwatching Tips

The Spotless Starling is a common sight in some parts of Europe, and its diet and habitat mean that the species can be seen in gardens and at feeders. In winter, when pale spots can be seen on the bird’s body, it may be more difficult to distinguish between the spotless and the Common Starling. 

What to Listen For

The Spotless Starling is a songbird. Listen for warbling and loud whistles. However, the bird is good at mimicry and can copy the sounds of up to 15 other species in the vicinity, so it can be difficult to differentiate between these and other birds. 

What to Look For

Similarly, it can be difficult to identify the Spotless Starling by appearance alone because it is a very similar size and has a similar appearance to the Common Starling, which is also prevalent in some of the same areas. The species does feed on the ground, may forage in foliage, and can also be seen flushing insects from cattle. It lacks the same bright spots as the Common Starling.

When to Look

Because the bird is non-migratory in all its range except Southern Spain, the Spotless Starling can be seen throughout the year. During summer, it is most likely to be seen foraging for insects and can be seen around cattle. In winter, the bird’s diet consists mainly of seeds and berries and can be seen at feeders and in foliage.

Attracting Spotless Starlings to Your Backyard: Tips & Tricks

Starlings can be considered a pest, but they are pretty and have an attractive and somewhat melodious song, as well as the ability to closely mimic other bird songs. To attract Spotless Starlings to your backyard, consider the following tips:

  • Use Cylindrical Feeders – Cylindrical feeders, with numerous holes and perches, enable multiple starlings to feed at the same time, which means that you can attract several to your yard. Avoid feeders designed for small birds, because the starling will harass smaller birds until they leave the area.
  • Offer Plenty of Food – Starlings are late risers, so if you are stingy with seed, they may be met with an empty feeder by the time they do arrive at your yard. Add plenty of seed and make sure the feeder still has some food left by late morning and early afternoon.
  • Offer Cracked Corn and Sunflower Kernels – The Spotless Starling enjoys eating seeds that are already cracked. Cracked corn is an obvious food to offer, while sunflower kernels are also cracked so are a good food offering for this species. You can also put suet and millet out.
  • Add a Bird Bath – Starlings enjoy cleaning and drinking from a water-filled bird bath and installing one near a feeder may encourage birds to stay longer.
  • Sing or Whistle – As skilled mimics, Spotless Starlings enjoy imitating the songs of others. You can try whistling a melodious tune to starlings and it may even encourage them to stay in your yard longer.

Spotless Starling Conservation: Is This Bird Threatened?

The Spotless Starling is classified as being of the least concern, which means that its numbers are considered to be stable. In fact, in the case of this starling species, numbers are increasing in some areas and the bird’s range is expanding.

Conclusion

The Spotless Starling is similar and closely related to the Common Starling. It is a roughly similar size and has similar coloring and markings, although the Common Starling has more obvious spotting throughout the year. The bird is not considered under threat and can be easily attracted to a yard by offering the right foods and a safe place to rest and eat, although it can be difficult to differentiate between the spotless and Common Starling species.


Featured Image Credit: Jesus Cobaleda, Shutterstock

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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