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Impacts of European Starlings on Native Species: Looking Beyond Competition for Nest Sites

Photo of European Starlings are one of the world’s most successful invasive species. Known to compete with native bird species for nest sites, they may also compete with ground-foraging insectivores and other grassland species.European Starlings are one of the world’s most successful invasive species. Known to compete with native bird species for nest sites, they may also compete with ground-foraging insectivores and other grassland species.Snapshot : European starlings are a remarkably successful invasive species known to compete with native bird species for nest cavities. Starlings avoid ungrazed pastures, presumably due to grass height, litter, or both. A single year of exclusion from grazing or mowing appears sufficient to deter foraging by starlings. Rotational grazing, which creates a mosaic of pastures of varying grass height, may offer opportunities to reduce starling density by increasing the distances starlings must fly to forage.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Purcell, Kathryn L. 
Research Location : San Joaquin Experimental Range
Research Station : Pacific Southwest Research Station (PSW)
Year : 2015
Highlight ID : 796

Summary

European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) are one of the world's most successful bird species. Released in New York in 1890, they rapidly spread throughout North America and first appeared in California in 1942. They are now among the most abundant species in North America. The goal of this research was to understand why starlings avoid ungrazed pastures and to make recommendations for grazing and mowing practices for ranchers and rural homeowners interested in reducing starling density on their land. Starlings preferred to forage in short grass without litter, suggesting that both tall grass and litter impede the birds’ movement. A single year without grazing is apparently sufficient to deter starlings from foraging. Because starling breeding density is limited where foraging habitat is limited, rotational grazing might help reduce starling densities by creating a mosaic of pastures of varying grass heights.

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