Starlings have glossy black feathers which have a green and blue-purple sheen in the sunlight. They have whitish spots in their plumage, a short tail and red-brown legs.
Males have a blue base to their yellow, pointed bills, where females have a pink-based bill. The female retains her whitish spots year-round, unlike the males whose breast is unspotted during the springtime. In winter both sexes sport a dark coloured bill.
Juveniles have a much plainer dull brown plumage, with the same dark bill as adults in the winter.
Average Length: 21-22 cm
Average Lifespan: 5 Years
Average Wingspan: 37-42 cm
Starlings are generalists and eat a wide range of foods, including insects, fruits, and seeds. As their bills are pointed, they are skilled at probing the ground for earthworms and leatherjackets.
How to feed: Bird tables and feeders
What to feed: Fruit, seed, berries, and suet
Breeding season for starlings takes place often between March and April, a little earlier than many other songbird species. They will use a wide range of areas for building nests, including under tiles on the roof of a house, in natural cavities and inside nest boxes if they are provided. Males use leaves and dry grass to make up their nests and they use this semi-completed nest to attract a mate. Once they have attracted a female, this female will finish off the nest by adding cushioning materials like feathers. Starlings have 1-2 broods annually, each clutch containing 4-5 eggs that both sexes will incubate for around 12-15 days.
Unpaired females do occasionally participate in brood parasitism, where they lay an egg in the nest of other females so that their offspring do better by being laid early, when prey is plentiful. These females will often have a second brood later in the season when they find a mate, but the first fledglings they laid in other nests will have more of the summer to gain independence.
It is hypothesised that reductions in insect availability may be proving challenging for starlings and reducing their first year, and adult survival. Insect declines are thought to be caused by pesticide use, land-use change and other agricultural practices along with climate change. More research is needed to ascertain the full picture for the reasons of the decline in starling populations.
Supplementary feeding on bird tables
Provide a nest box for starlings to nest in
Leave old leaves in your garden so that they can use them to build their nests
As starlings gather in the evenings to roost, often they will participate in what is called a murmuration — a huge flock that shape-shifts in the sky as if it were one swirling liquid mass. The most spectacular roosts now attract crowds of human spectators: Britain’s most famous roosts include Brighton Pier, Sussex; Ham Wall in Somerset, Aberystwyth Pier; Leighton Moss, Lancashire; Fen Drayton, Cambridgeshire. One of the biggest roosts in Europe is in the centre of Rome.
BirdLife International (2022) Species factsheet: Sturnus Vulgaris. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 19/06/2022.
Freeman, S.N., Robinson, R.A., Clark, J.A., Griffin, B.M., Adams, S.Y. (2007) Changing demography and population decline in the Common Starling Sturnus vulgaris: a multisite approach to Integrated Population Monitoring. Ibis. 149(3):587-596.
Robinson, R.A. (2005) BirdFacts: profiles of birds occurring in Britain & Ireland. BTO, Thetford (http://www.bto.org/birdfacts, accessed on 28 March 2022)
Stanbury, A.J., Eaton, M.A., Aebischer, N.J., Balmer, D., Brown, A.F., Douse, A., Lindley, P., McCulloch, N., Noble, D.G., Win, I. (2021) The status of our bird populations: the fifth Birds of Conservation Concern in the United Kingdom, Channel Islands and Isle of Man and second IUCN Red List assessment of extinction risk for Great Britain. British Birds. 114
Woodward, I., Aebischer, N., Burnell,D., Eaton, M., Frost, T., Hall, C., Stroud, D. & Noble, D. (2020) Population estimates of birds in Great Britain and the United Kingdom. British Birds. 113: 69–104.