European Starling

Common Name: European Starling.

Scientific Name: Sturnus Vulgaris.

What to look for?  At a distance, European Starlings look black. They have a colorful plumage that is iridescent purplish-black on the head and on the chest. The wings have a green hue with brownish black on the wing ending. During winter, their plumage becomes brown and covered in brilliant white spots. They are chunky, medium-sized songbird, but with a short tail. In flight, their wings are short and pointed.

Where can they be found at Carillon Stonegate Pond? You can find European Starlings around here most of the year. You will see them perch in trees. They may show up at bird feeders – especially during the winter.

How big are they? The European Starling averages just over 8 ½ inches in length. And their wingspan is nearly 14 inches. They weigh in at around three ounces.

What are their flight patterns? In flight with their wings short and pointed, European Starlings look like small, four-pointed stars - and giving them their name! European Starlings are strong fliers that can get up to speeds of 48 mph. In the countryside you’re more likely to see starlings flying over fields or roads in tight, swirling flocks.

How else do they behave? Numerous as they are, European Starlings are actually identified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as a non-native “invasive” species. They are boisterous, loud, and tend to travel in large groups. As they forage on lawns and grassy areas, they walk quickly in hunched posture with head down. European Starlings can be aggressive and may drive other species from feeders and nest sites they want to use.

What’s for dinner? Almost anything! The European Starling's diet consists of a variety of insects and other invertebrates, fruits, grains, seeds, and garbage. Starlings forage on lawns and other areas of short grass, such as pastures, golf courses, turf farms, and similar places.

Where do they take up residence? European Starlings reside across the U.S. They tend to reside in the lawns, city parks and squares of cities and suburbs and in fields of farm country. They are scarce or absent in extensive wild areas of forest, scrub, or desert.

When and where do they breed and nest? European Starlings nest in holes in trees or birdhouses or other artificial structures with holes or crevices. They typically produce two broods a year.

Where do they migrate? European Starlings residing in the southern U.S. may be permanent residents. Many that reside in the northern U.S. migrate south in the fall, but not necessarily all. And they migrate mostly by day.

What is their conservation status? There is low concern. According to the North American Breeding Bird Survey, the European Starling has seen slight decreases in populations. Partners in Flight estimates the global breeding population at 250 million.

Do they make any interesting sounds? Their song is a rather quiet series of rattles and whistled notes, often containing mimicry of other bird species. Their flight call a purring "prurrp". Here is a link to the sounds of the European Starling.

Interesting Facts About the European Starling:

  • European Starlings were intentionally released in New York's Central Park in the early 1890s by a group who wanted America to have all the birds that Shakespeare ever mentioned.

  • U.S. Department of Agriculture identifies the European Starling as a non-native “invasive” species.

  • Starlings are great vocal mimics: individuals can learn the calls of up to 20 different species.

  • Starlings are strong fliers that can get up to speeds of 48 mph.

  • The oldest recorded wild European Starling in North America was approximately 15 years old.

For more information on the European Starling and sources of information used in this blog (these are the sources that I am using to learn as I blog), please visit All About Birds, Audubon Society and National Geographic.  And the Cornell Lab of Ornithology provides a wonderful source of information for anyone interested in learning more about birds.

The Carillon at Stonegate community is very fortunate to have a variety of wetland, forest and prairie environments conducive to a variety of birds and other wildlife, plants and insects. Our community and the Kane County Forest Preserve do an exceptional job in maintaining this natural environment – both for the benefit of the birds and wildlife and for our residents to enjoy.

 

Take a hike and see what you can find – and identify!