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Birds and Wildlife

Another Unloved Bird - The European Starling
Polly Adcock
February 3, 2020

I have had many discussions as to what is a starling and some think any blackbird is a starling. When I moved here I had Brewers Blackbirds (with the yellow eye) and Red-winged Blackbirds devouring birdseed by the bag! They don't look anything like the starling. It is listed as 7-8.5 inches long and that is considering a stubby tail. It is a chunky bird with feathers that are iridescent before breeding. After a molting the feathers have cream tips, which fade over winter. The bill is long, strong and bright yellow in summer but dulls in winter. A notation was made that NO native species of blackbird have a yellow bill.

I did not make living as a farmer and I liked to see starlings show up in my yard and march four abreast searching for whatever because I dislike slugs and snails. In Oregon slugs were a terrible nuisance. I COULD NOT grow chrysanthemums because of those “mum munchers”!! However, one day in 2000 (as recorded in my bird book) I was in my husband's office when a starling flew into the pachysandra next to the sidewalk, grabbed a slug, slapped it on the concrete and flew away! Yes, that's my kind of bird! I looked it up and indeed they eat lots of pesky insects. . . . . In fact one article said they devour insects with veracity unmatched by any native species BUT after researching for this I find they eat lots of other things like the farmers' grains and fruits.

The starling is considered a non-native invasive species. Most books and articles said in 1890 a New Yorker Eugene Scheifflin imported 60 starlings and loosed them in NYC near Central Park BECAUSE he wanted to transplant to the U.S. all of the birds Shakespeare mentioned in his writings. The following year 40 more were loosed. They multiplied rapidly, consumed farmers' fruits and grains and made UNWANTED TEXTURING on building and cars in the city. By 1942 they were found in California.

In 1960 an airplane engine inhaled a flock, which caused the death of 62 people.

My older books say they are cavity nesters and usurp homes for native cavity nesters such as bluebirds, woodpeckers and martins??? Perhaps this happens in the wild because THE BIRDBOX BUILDERS ASSOCIATION requires 1 ½ inch hole for their houses (just joking). Those starlings have large chests and I can't figure them getting into the box. It would be like putting on pantyhose!

These birds are related to the myna bird and they don't have a set melody. Instead they make noisy chatter even in flight, clear whistles, imitate other birds and mechanical sounds. So that is probably the reason they did not make the BIRD CLOCK list.

Some more recently written articles told of how to discourage their foraging. They prefer grazed lands as opposed to tall grasses and trees so crop rotation was mentioned. Crops growers were using propane exploders, hawk kites, pyrotechnics, and ultrasonic sounds to frighten or harass them to go away.

This Fall as we were moving our daughter and family into their home which is near many vineyards we heard pops thinking we were close to a gun range only to find that the vineyards were trying to scare away the birds.