Be Your Own Birder

Discover the Common Starling

Though often reviled as an invasive species – and indeed it does have some less endearing traits, but who doesn’t? – the common starling is still a beautiful and amazing bird. The more you learn about these birds, the better you can appreciate what makes them so resilient and unique.

Common Starling - Photo by hedera.baltica
Common Starling – Photo by hedera.baltica

Common Starling Fun Facts

  • A member of the family Sturnidae, the common starling (Sturnus vulgaris) is one of more than 85 starling species found worldwide. The family also includes mynas and rahbdornises.
  • The common starling is known by several names, including just “starling” in its native range, as well as European starling, English starling, and Eurasian starling. The poor-man’s myna is a popular nickname for the common starling.
  • The common starling was first brought to North America and released in New York’s Central Park in the 1890s by literature enthusiasts who wanted to bring birds mentioned in Shakespeare’s works to the continent. All starlings in North America today are descendants of the roughly 100 birds that were initially released.
  • In addition to North America, common starlings have also been introduced to New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Argentina, and the Caribbean. Their native range extends from Iceland, Ireland, and the United Kingdom east to India, Mongolia, and Russia and south into northern Africa and the Middle East.
  • While starlings generally prefer insects, these birds are actually omnivorous and will eat a wide range of foods, including seeds, fruit, grains, lizards, amphibians, and trash. These birds will even occasionally sip from nectar feeders.
  • Like their close relatives the mynas, common starlings are great mimics and can learn hundreds of different sounds. Some starlings have been known to mimic music, car alarms, ringtones, tools, and other noises, including the sounds of other species such as cats, goats, frogs, and more. Clicks, buzzes, and whistles are also part of these birds’ vocal repertoire.
  • Common starlings are cavity-nesting birds and will chase other species away to take advantage of nesting sites. While this can cause concern for native bird populations, several studies have shown that introduced starlings do not have as profound an impact on native birds as once believed.
  • These birds can be very innovative, curious, and creative. For example, common starlings have used fresh herbs to decorate their nests and repel insects!
Common Starling, Nonbreeding - Photo by Imran Shah
Common Starling, Nonbreeding – Photo by Imran Shah

Adding the Common Starling to Your Life List

Common starlings are widespread and easy to see in open habitats such as fields and forest edges bordering farmland, prairies, or meadows. They are also common in urban and suburban areas, where they are frequently seen in parks, sports fields, parking lots, or perched on wires in large and noisy flocks. In some areas, flocks can include thousands of individuals, and the largest starling flocks – called murmurations – may have up to a million birds. These birds easily come to feeding stations, where they may quickly overwhelm more timid or solitary birds.

Learn More About the Common Starling

These birds are well-studied, but there is always more to learn. Expand your knowledge of the common starling with these great resources…

Starling Murmuration - Photo by Airwolfhound
Starling Murmuration – Photo by Airwolfhound

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