Starling

Identification

Like the house sparrow, the starling was introduced from Europe in the 19th century. It did not spread as fast and only reached the western coast within the last few decades. Starlings are well adapted to urban life which offer it an abundance of food and nesting sites. It is a muscular bird about eight inches long with long wings and a short squared tail. Starlings are very aggressive and will drive native birds out of their territory, much to the dismay of local bird watchers. Starlings are well noted for their flocking habits. They often gather in the tens of thousands, creating a nuisance when roosting in populated areas.

The starling is a dark chunky, muscular bird. It is distinguished from other blackbirds by its short tail and its longer, slender bill. Starling plumage varies depending on the season. In winter, the bird displays a highly speckled iridescent coat and a dark bill. In summer, the bird's coat dulls and has far fewer speckles.

Damage

Starlings rank just behind pigeons and sparrows as an urban bird pest. Starlings can be a nuisance in both urban and rural areas due to their nesting, eating and living habits. When the bird is in its flocking phase, thousands of starlings often overwhelm buildings and trees. Large scale buildup of feces from these flocks can lead to structural damage. The uric acid in the feces can corrode stone, metal and masonry. Gutters and drainage pipes clogged with starling nests often backup, causing extensive water damage. The bacteria, fungal agents and parasites in the feces also pose a health risk.

Control

Starlings roosting habits can be modified permanently using 1-1/8" mesh StealthNet and/or electrical systems like Bird-Shock. For large flocks or agricultural applications, these birds can be moved with a well-timed, organized scare campaign using strategically placed sophisticated audio systems like the Bird Wailer, Squawker, or the Bird-Gard units depending on the size of the area. These products combine natural and electronic sounds like species specific distress calls, predator hunting/attack sequences and canon or shotgun sounds. Other noisemakers such as Zon Guns and Bird Bombs & Screamers often have success in relocating these bird when combined with lights and visual frightening devices that flash such as Flash Tape, Scare Eye Balloons or Octopus. A new technique that has found some success for moving populations from trees is to fog problem areas with ReJeX-iT.

Nesting

The Starling is a nesting bird. Their nests are in enclosed areas with at least a 1-1/2 inch opening. Look for their nests in old trees, church steeples and other holes and crevices. Due to their bullying nature they will take any suitable site, evicting any previous owner. They sometimes watch other birds build a complete nest before forcing them to leave.

Breeding

Starlings have two broods a year with four to five eggs a brood. They average eight offspring a year. The eggs are white, pale blue or green-white. Incubation of the eggs takes twelve days. The fledglings leave the nest after 25 days. The young leave to join other juveniles and form huge flocks that move on to other territories.

Cycles

Not a true migrating bird, starlings may move from rural trees to warm city buildings in winter. The daily cycle is one of leaving the nest at sunrise to travel up to sixty miles to feeding areas before returning for the evening. They disperse to mate in the spring. After mating season, they will often coalesce into huge flocks with defined feeding and roosting areas.

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