European Starling

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.

 

Cool facts

  • 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.

  • Because of their recent arrival in North America, all of our starlings are closely related. Genetically, individuals from Virginia are nearly indistinguishable from starlings sampled in California, 3,000 miles away. Such little genetic variation often spells trouble for rare species, but seems to offer no ill effects to starlings so far.

  • Starlings are great vocal mimics: individuals can learn the calls of up to 20 different species. Birds whose songs starlings often copy include the Eastern Wood-Pewee, Killdeer, meadowlarks, Northern Bobwhite, Wood Thrush, Red-tailed Hawk, American Robin, Northern Flicker, and many others.

  • 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.”

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

  • In studies of starlings’ sense of taste, scientists have discovered that they can taste salt, sugars, citric acid, and tannins (bitter compounds that occur in many fruits, including acorns and grapes). They can tell the difference between sucrose (table sugar) and other kinds of sugars – helpful since starlings lack the ability to digest sucrose.

  • 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. Source

    Starling bird

 

 

 

Animal removal can be tricky at times. Being able to pinpoint the location, identify the source of the noise and remove the animal is one of the harder aspects of wildlife control. Our wildlife experts use the latest in technology to help them.

In this case, our wildlife technician first used thermal imaging to locate the heat signature of the animal. Thermal imaging cameras are highly sensitive pieces of equipment that can differentiate between fractions of a degree in temperature. Using this, our wildlife tech can determine the animal’s location by its very own body heat – even behind a wall! Accurate location of the animal is crucial because just a few inches to the right or left, and we’ve cut into the wrong wall void. The next step is to drill a small hole and insert an endoscope, which is a tiny camera on the end of a wire. Once the animal is identified, our wildlife team comes up with a plan to remove it.

Recently, our wildlife team responded to a mysterious noise in a bedroom wall. Using thermal imaging, the team found the heat signature of the animal and preceded to cut a small hole in the wall. Before they could fit their endoscope into the hole, a beak popped out! Their endoscope identified the bird as a European Starling. Our wildlife team was able to cut a small hole in the wall, and the bird jumped out, right into our net! Consistent with our mission statement of safe, sustainable solutions, before we released the starling, our wildlife team made sure to seal up both the hole they made in the wall, as well as the exterior entry point. When you hear mysterious noises in the wall, don’t wait for them to disappear. This can cause unnecessary suffering to the animal within, damage to your home if the animal tries to escape, or foul smells when the animal doesn’t succeed. Instead, call On The Fly to find and remove these pesky critters!