Sturnus vulgaris, European Starling

Invasive Species February 13, 2012 Print Friendly and PDF

Invasive Species: Sturnus vulgaris, European Starling

It is believed that about 100 European Starlings released in New York in the early 1890s had successfully established populations in widespread parts of the Eastern United States by about 10 years later. The population of this invasive bird species is now estimated at more than 200 million, and the species is found across the United States and Canada. This invasive bird has a significant negative impact on native bird species by competing directly for food and other resources. Cavity-nesting native birds, such as woodpeckers and bluebirds, are especially at risk. Available nesting sites are reduced not only by human activity but also by the cavity-nesting European starling population. Also, European starlings pose a direct danger to humans when large flocks impede or damage aircraft.

Adult European starlings are 8 to 9 in. (20 to 23 cm) long and have a wingspan of 12 to 16 in. (31 to 40 cm). They weigh about 2 to 3 oz. (60 to 96 g). European starlings are squat, stocky birds with tails that are short and squared at the end. Their wings are pointed and their bills are long and pointed. In the nonbreeding season, both males and females have grayish black bills and feathers that are glossy black with whitish spots on the tips. In the breeding season, their bills are yellow, and their legs are reddish. The glossy black feathers on their heads and chests take on an iridescent purple and green hue, and the feathers may not be white-tipped. Male European starlings may be slightly larger than the females but otherwise are similar in appearance. European starling juveniles resemble adults in shape, but they are usually gray-brown in color. European starlings are in the same family as mynah birds and have some of the same vocal abilities. Calls are varied and include trills, warbles, chirps, and screams. Like the mynah bird, they can be skilled mimics, copying the calls of other species. European starlings that have been kept as pets have even been known to mimic human speech.

What are invasive species, and why should we be concerned about them?


Taxonomy: Scientific and Common Names for This Species

Squamata > Sturnidae > Sturnus vulgaris Linnaeus, 1758

Synonyms: common starling, English starling

Distribution Maps

European starling - The reported distribution of this invasive species across the United States (Source: ebird.org)

Up-to-the-minute distribution maps and why they are important

http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/biogeog/COOK1928.htm - Historical distribution of European starlings after their introduction in North America

 Reporting This Invasive Species

What is the best way to report the occurrence of an invasive species?

How to report an invasive species sighting to EDDMapS - Early Detection & Distribution Mapping System (EDDMapS)

EDDMapS - Report an invasive species to EDDMapS.

County Extension Offices - Find your county Extension office on this map provided by USDA.

How to Identify

This invasive species can be identified by looking for the characteristics described in the paragraphs that follow.

Adult Birds

Adult European starlings are 8 to 9 in. (20 to 23 cm) long and have a wingspan of 12 to 16 in. (31 to 40 cm). They weigh about 2 to 3 oz. (60 to 96 g). European starlings are squat, stocky birds with tails that are short and squared at the end. Their wings are pointed and their bills are long and pointed. In the nonbreeding season, both males and females have grayish black bills and feathers that are glossy black with whitish spots on the tips. In the breeding season, their bills are yellow, and their legs are reddish. The glossy black feathers on their heads and chests take on an iridescent purple and green hue, and the feathers may not be white-tipped. Male European starlings may be slightly larger than the females but otherwise are similar in appearance.

Lee Karney, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, bugwood.org Lee Karney, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, bugwood.org

Juveniles

   
bugwood.org bugwood.org

Eggs

Females can lay about four to seven eggs two or three times a year.

Chris Evans, River to River CWMA, bugwood.org Chris Evans, River to River CWMA, bugwood.org

Nests

European starlings  are cavity nesters. They nest in tree snags, holes in siding, dense bamboo stands, or any space offering the minimum shelter they require. Cavity-nesting native birds, such as woodpeckers and bluebirds, are especially at risk from competition with this invasive species.

 
Chris Evans, River to River CWMA, bugwood.org bugwood.org

Native Bird Species That Resemble European Starlings

Molothrus ater, cowbird - Images at invasive.org

Karan A. Rawlins, University of Georgia, bugwood.org Karan A. Rawlins, University of Georgia, bugwood.org

Quiscalus spp., grackle species - Images at invasive.org

Alfred Viola, Northeastern University, bugwood.org Joy Viola, Northeastern University, bugwood.org

Additional Images for European Starling

European starling - Images at invasive.org

Learning Resources for European Starling

 

Additional Information, Biology, Control and Management Resources

Control and management recommendations vary according to individual circumstances. Location, habitat, weather, and a variety of other conditions are factors that help determine the best treatment choice. To find the safest and most effective treatment for your situation, consult your state's land-grant institution. If you will use chemicals as part of the control process, always refer to the product label.

United States Land Grant University System - Find your Land Grant University's College of Agriculture, University Cooperative Extension Service, or other related partner on this map provided by USDA.

Managing Vertebrate Invasive Species - USDA National Wildlife Research Center (NWRC) Symposia

Invasives Database - TexasInvaders.org

Stakeholder announcements - Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Wildlife Services

Wildlife Damage Management - USDA NWRC

Species Profiles - USDA National Invasive Species Information Center (NISIC)

Bird Guide - Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Cornell University

EDIS Publication - University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) Extension

The Birds of North America Online - Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Cornell University

Animal Diversity Web - University of Michigan Museum of Zoology

Global Invasive Species Database - Invasive Species Specialist Group (ISSG)

Nonnatives - Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission


 

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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.