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European Starling

European Starling
Lee Karney, US Fish and Wildlife Service,
European Starling

European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) were released in Central Park, New York, in 1890. From there they spread rapidly, and their range now extends from coast to coast and from Alaska to the tropics in Mexico.

Starlings are now among the most abundant species of birds in North America. Although their glossy, iridescent feathers are attractive, starlings are aggressive competitors for nest sites during the nesting season, displacing native avian cavity nesters such as chickadees and woodpeckers.

Forest Service researchers in California studied starlings at the San Joaquin Experimental Range (SJER), where starlings have been present since the late 1960s. Behavioral experiments have shown that native bird species recognize starlings at their nest sites as a threat. The successful invasion of starlings into foothill oak-pine woodlands is likely to negatively impact cavity nesters.

Research done at SJER has shown that starlings avoid tall grass and areas with deep litter. Currently, recommendations to reduce the impact of starlings on cavity-nesting birds for rangelands include leaving high or moderate levels of residual dry matter, especially in the moist swale areas where starling prefer to forage.

Where starlings are present in suburban and exurban areas, avoid mowing of extensive lawns, at least in spring when soils are still moist, and leave lawns unraked if possible.

See Factors Affecting the Abundance and Distribution of European Starlings at the San Joaquin Experimental Range.