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When Do Starlings Lay Eggs? Where Do They Nest?

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Greater blue-eared starling on a tree

Starlings are beautifully iridescent and gregarious birds that often visit neighborhood bird feeding stations, and perch in large groups on roofs and power lines. They migrate in flocks of tens of thousands, often performing awe-inspiring murmurations that never fail to draw a crowd of onlookers.

When it comes to breeding, the season usually starts in spring and ends in early summer. More precisely, starlings lay their eggs around mid-April.

If you’d like to learn other facts, such as how many eggs starlings lay per clutch, and where they build their nests, keep reading!

hummingbird divider When Do Starlings Lay Their Eggs?

Starlings usually lay a clutch of around 4-6 eggs in mid-April. All the females in the colony will lay their eggs within a few days. The eggs are relatively small, measuring between 1.1 and 1.3 inches, and are either bluish-white or greenish-white in color.

Starling eggs have an incubation period of around 12 days, and though both sexes can incubate the eggs, the female does the majority of the incubation. Starlings usually only lay one brood per year, but if the first clutch is laid early and is successful, they may go on to lay a second clutch.

Violet-backed Starling in its nest
Image Credit: Jukka Jantunen, Shutterstock

Where Do Starlings Nest?

Starlings are cavity nesters, which means they will almost always nest in cavities, including in buildings, gutters, old woodpecker holes, nest boxes, and cavities in other structures. Sometimes, starlings may opt to nest in burrows and cliffs.

Male starlings build the nest in early spring, usually within 1 to 3 days. They’ll use whatever material is easy to find locally, including leaves, pine needles, grass, feathers, and even bark. The female may opt to remove some of the material as she makes the final preparations before laying the eggs. Throughout the nesting period, including during laying and incubation, starlings will introduce fresh green plants to the nest.

If you’re hoping to attract starlings to your yard, one of the best things you can do is hang several appropriately sized bird boxes in early spring for them to nest in. Placing a standing bird feeding station in close proximity will give them even more incentive.

starling eggs
Image Credit: Swee Ming, Shutterstock

Do Starlings Return to the Same Nest?

Starlings are not likely to return to the exact same nest, however, these flocking birds do return to the same breeding ground year after year. It is possible that a breeding pair will use an existing nest that was used by a different couple the previous year.

Can Starlings Talk?

Starlings are very intelligent birds, and they excel at mimicry. These little birds can master all kinds of vocalizations, including human speech, external sounds, and even animal calls. As strange as it may be to watch a Starling mimicking a mechanical sound—or the call of a frog, a goat, or a cat—listening to them talk is delightful.

Outside of their natural environment, starlings form strong bonds with their caretakers, and love to communicate by mimicking human speech and learning new words.

What is the Average Lifespan of a Starling?

In the wild, starlings usually live between 2 to 5 years. That said, some starlings do live far longer. In fact, the oldest starling to have ever been recorded living in the wild was found dead in Denmark at a remarkable age of 22 years and 11 months.

The oldest individual Starling to have lived in the United States was just over 17 years old. But despite these incredible numbers, most starlings will not live to that age.

Starlings are susceptible to a wide variety of bacterial and viral diseases, including salmonella, yellow fever, and avian tuberculosis. Aside from natural ailments, starlings are often hunted by a host of predators, including falcons and other birds of prey.

In parts of the world where starlings are an invasive species, they are often seen as pests. A variety of pest control methods, including shooting and trapping, are used to reduce their numbers.

a spotless starling bird on a nearby lake
Image Credit: Jesus Cobaleda, Shutterstock

What Do Starlings Eat?

When it comes to diet, starlings are generalist eaters. While they prefer insects and berries, they are quite happy to turn to bird feeders for seeds and nuts. They also eat grains, and a wide variety of invertebrates, including spiders and worms.

Are Starlings Indigenous to the United States?

Common starlings are not indigenous to North America; they are classified as an invasive species. It has long been believed that in the late 19th century, a Shakespeare enthusiast named Eugene Schieffelin embarked on a quest to introduce every bird mentioned in Shakespeare’s work to the United States. The claim is that Eugene Schieffelin released a flock of 100 starlings in Central Park in New York, and that this led to the present 200 million population of starlings across the U.S.

However, according to a research article released in the journal of Environmental Humanities in 2021, this story is more fiction than fact. A man named Eugene Schieffelin did, in fact, release a flock of starlings into New York, but he was one of the last to do so. There had been a national effort to introduce starlings and other non-native birds to North America, and flocks of starlings had already been released in various locations from Ohio to Oregon. Also, there is no evidence to suggest that there was a link between Schieffelin and Shakespeare—in fact, this connection was first made 40 years after Schieffelin’s death!

european starling perched
Image By: Andrei Prodan, Pixabay

Why Do Starlings Form Murmurations?

One of the most impressive spectacles seen in the autumn across the evening sky is when tens of thousands of starlings join as a flock and swoop, dive, whirl, and rise in unison to create incredible patterns—which is called a murmuration, for the sound that their thousands of iridescent wingbeats produce.

Along their migration towards the south during winter, starlings will stop and go out to forage for food during the day. As the sun begins to set and they head back towards their roosting areas, they form murmurations that last up to 45 minutes. But why do they do it?

The real answer is that no one knows for sure, but scientists do have a few ideas. One theory is that the large patterns act as an invitation to other starlings to enlarge their number.

There are a few benefits to this. For a start, large groups offer starlings safety in numbers—predators, such as falcons, often take advantage of single stray starlings that they then hunt from above. At night, they can also share body heat, and exchange intelligence about good feeding grounds.

Image By: TheOtherKev, Pixabay

Can You Keep Starlings as Pets?

You probably won’t be able to find starlings on sale in a pet shop, but often, people do come by orphaned starling chicks that they then take care of. As they grow, starlings bond with their caretakers, and become devoted and loving pets that can learn to talk and do tricks.

Even if you don’t have a pet starling, you can encourage communication with those that visit your backyard. Try whistling and mimicking the sounds they make, and if you have bird treats, offer them some.hummingbird divider

Final Thoughts

Starlings are highly intelligent birds that are not shy. Their breeding period begins in early spring, starting as early as March, when the male starlings build and prepare their nests. Female starlings lay their eggs in mid-April, and if they are successful, they may go on to lay a second clutch.

In the wild, look out for starling nests in cavities in structures, buildings, trees, and nest boxes!

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Featured Image Credit: Pascal_p10, Shutterstock

About the Author Cheryl Regan

Cheryl is a freelance content and copywriter from the United Kingdom. Her interests include hiking and amateur astronomy but focuses her writing on gardening and photography. If she isn't writing she can be found curled up with a coffee and her pet cat.