Description - European Starling
These birds measure 15 to 20 centimetres long and have a stocky build and short square-tipped tail. In summer the long pointed bill is yellow. In winter their plumage is speckled with white and its bill is blackish, with the younger birds having a uniform brown with dark bills.
Not indigenous to this area the starlings were imported from England In 1890 by Eugene Scheifflin who turned 60 of these birds loose in New York City’s Central Park with forty more being released the next year. This effort was made to transplant all the birds mentioned in Shakespeare’s New World. The program was so successful that to date millions of these birds inhabit the North American continent from seaboard to seaboard, with an estimated population of 200 million.
Mating Habits European Starling:
The mating habits of these birds begin in late February and can continue through June, with the males choosing a nesting site and the females choosing the male, generally they are a monogamous bird however on occasion the male may change mates between broods.
Courtship behaviour consists of the male perching near his nesting site crowing and waving his wings when a female flies close by. If a female is near the males nest site, he may pick up leaves in his beak and go in and out of the nest cavity. You can tell when the two have paired when they begin to go through their activities together. Before pairing, these birds feed and fly as individuals.
Nesting Habits European Starling:
The nesting habits may begin as early as fall, selecting a cavity in a building, birdhouse, or an old woodpecker hole, approximately one to 5 meters above the ground. Starlings are aggressive at claiming their nesting sites, often displacing more desirable native cavity nester’s such as bluebirds and purple martins. The male first cleans out any previous nesting materials and begins placing dried leaves, bark, moss or lichens in the cavity. When the female pairs with the male she cleans out the nest and rebuilds it primarily with grasses.
The female lays 4 to 5 white, pale-blue, or greenish eggs which are incubated by both the male and female during the day and only the female at night. Incubation usually consists of a 12 day period with both parents responsible for feeding the young; then the young leave the nest 21 to 23 days after hatching. A second brood is usually started about mid-summer.
Feeding Habits European Starling:
The starlings feeding habits are a bit unique in that they posses’ special strong muscles that enable them to open their beak while probing the ground, a performance called gaping which is also found in blackbirds. This behaviour allows them to catch prey unavailable to other birds.
The Starlings diet consists of insects, spiders, worms, fruit, and seeds. Because of the aggressive nature of the Starling it is unusual to see other birds around when they are in residence. So much so that they are considered to be a pest by farmers and city managers because of their negative impact on other native bird species.