Breeding adult. Photo: Sidra Monreal/Audubon Photography Awards

European Starling

Sturnus vulgaris

Often regarded as a pest, the Starling wins our grudging admiration for its adaptability, toughness, and seeming intelligence. Brought to North America in 1890, it has spread to occupy most of the continent, and is now abundant in many areas. Sociable at most seasons, Starlings may gather in immense flocks in fall and winter. When the flocks break up for the breeding season, males reveal a skill for mimicry, interrupting their wheezing and sputtering songs with perfect imitations of other birds.
Conservation status Undoubtedly has had a negative impact on some native hole-nesting birds, such as bluebirds and Red-headed Woodpeckers, competing with them for nesting sites.
Family Starlings and Mynas
Habitat Cities, parks, farms, open groves, fields. Most numerous in farm country and in suburbs and cities, but inhabits almost any kind of disturbed habitat. Usually scarce or absent in extensive wild areas of forest, scrub, or desert, but will breed around buildings or settlements in the midst of such habitats.
Often regarded as a pest, the Starling wins our grudging admiration for its adaptability, toughness, and seeming intelligence. Brought to North America in 1890, it has spread to occupy most of the continent, and is now abundant in many areas. Sociable at most seasons, Starlings may gather in immense flocks in fall and winter. When the flocks break up for the breeding season, males reveal a skill for mimicry, interrupting their wheezing and sputtering songs with perfect imitations of other birds.
Photo Gallery
Feeding Behavior

Forages mostly on the ground in open areas, often probing in soil with bill. Sometimes feeds on fruit up in trees, and sometimes catches flying insects in the air. Usually forages in flocks.


Eggs

4-6, rarely 7. Greenish white to bluish white, unmarked. Incubation is by both parents (female does more), about 12 days. Starlings sometimes lay eggs in each other's nests. Young: Both parents feed nestlings. Young leave nest about 21 days after hatching. 2 broods per year.


Young

Both parents feed nestlings. Young leave nest about 21 days after hatching. 2 broods per year.

Diet

Mostly insects, berries, and seeds. Diet is quite varied. Eats mostly insects when available, especially beetles, grasshoppers, flies, and caterpillars, also spiders, snails, earthworms, and other invertebrates. Especially in fall and winter, eats a wide variety of berries, fruits, and seeds. Sometimes visits flowers for nectar. Will come to bird feeders for a variety of items.


Nesting

Male establishes territory and chooses nest site, singing to attract a mate. When a female arrives, male perches next to nest site and sings, often waving his wings. Male sometimes has more than one mate. Nest site is in any kind of cavity; usually in natural hollow or woodpecker hole in tree, in birdhouse, or (in southwest) in hole in giant cactus. Sometimes in holes or crevices in buildings or other odd spots. Nest construction begun by male, often completed by female (who may throw out some of male's nest material). Nest is a loose mass of twigs, weeds, grass, leaves, trash, feathers, with slight depression for eggs.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
Learn more about these drawings.

Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Migration

Southern birds may be permanent residents, while many (but not all) northern birds move south in fall. Migrates mostly by day.

Download Our Bird Guide App

Migration

Southern birds may be permanent residents, while many (but not all) northern birds move south in fall. Migrates mostly by day.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
A series of discordant, musical, squeaky, and rasping notes; often imitates other birds. Call a descending whee-ee.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
Learn more about this sound collection.

Birds Tell Us: It's Time to Act.

Nearly two-thirds of bird species face extinction. Show your support and your gift is matched 2x through Giving Tuesday.

How Climate Change Will Reshape the Range of the European Starling

Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect this bird’s range in the future.

Zoom in to see how this species’s current range will shift, expand, and contract under increased global temperatures.

Climate threats facing the European Starling

Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.

Explore Similar Birds