The European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris), also known as the Common Starling, or in the British Isles just the Starling, is a medium-sized passerine bird in the starling family, Sturnidae. It is about 20 cm (8 in) long and has glossy black plumage with a metallic sheen, which is speckled with white at some times of the year. The legs are pink, and the bill is black in winter and yellow in summer; young birds have browner plumage than the adults. It is a noisy bird, especially in communal roosts and other gregarious situations, with an unmusical but varied song. Its gift for mimicry has been noted in literature including the Mabinogion and the works of Pliny the Elder and William Shakespeare.
Large flocks typical of this species can be beneficial to agriculture by controlling invertebrate pests; however, starlings can also be pests themselves when they feed on fruit and sprouting crops. European Starlings may also be a nuisance through the noise and mess caused by their large urban roosts. Introduced populations, in particular, have been subjected to a range of controls, including culling, but these have had limited success except in preventing the colonization of Western Australia. The species has declined in numbers in parts of northern and western Europe since the 1980s due to fewer grassland invertebrates being available as food for growing chicks. Despite this, its huge global population is not thought to be declining significantly, so the common starling is classified as being of least concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. [Wikipedia]
First brought to North America by Shakespeare enthusiasts in the nineteenth century, European Starlings are now among the continent’s most numerous songbirds. They are stocky black birds with short tails, triangular wings, and long, pointed bills. Though they’re sometimes resented for their abundance and aggressiveness, they’re still dazzling birds when you get a good look. Covered in white spots during winter, they turn dark and glossy in summer. For much of the year, they wheel through the sky and mob lawns in big, noisy flocks. [All About Birds]
European Starling Facts [All About Birds]
- All the European Starlings in North America descended from 100 birds set loose in New York’s Central Park in the early 1890s. The birds were intentionally released by a group who wanted America to have all the birds that Shakespeare ever mentioned. It took several tries, but eventually, the population took off. Today, more than 200 million European Starlings range from Alaska to Mexico, and many people consider them pests.
- Starlings turn from spotted and white to glossy and dark each year without shedding their feathers. The new feathers they grow in fall have bold white tips – that’s what gives them their spots. By spring, these tips have worn away, and the rest of the feather is dark and iridescent brown. It’s an unusual changing act that scientists term “wear molt.”
- A female European Starling may try to lay an egg in the nest of another female. A female that tries this parasitic tactic often is one that could not get a mate early in the breeding season. The best females find mates and start laying early. The longer it takes to get started, the lower the probability of a nest’s success. Those parasitic females may be trying to enhance their own breeding efforts during the time that they cannot breed on their own.
- The oldest recorded wild European Starling in North America was a male and was at least 15 years, 3 months old when he died in Tennessee in 1972. He had been banded in the same state in 1958.