European Starling

Sturnus vulgaris

Last updated: August 1, 2022
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
Image Credit Somni4uk/Shutterstock.com

European starlings are accomplished mimics, often copying songs or sounds of other birds and animals (frog calls, goats, cats), or even mechanical sounds and human speech!

European Starling Scientific Classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Aves
Order
Passeriformes
Family
Tyrannidae
Genus
Sturnus
Scientific Name
Sturnus vulgaris

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

European Starling Conservation Status

European Starling Locations

European Starling Locations

European Starling Facts

Prey
ants, spiders, moths, grasshoppers, flies, beetles, wasps, earthworms, lizards, snails, fruit nectar, grains, seeds.
Name Of Young
Chicks, Fledglings
Group Behavior
  • Group
  • Flock
Fun Fact
European starlings are accomplished mimics, often copying songs or sounds of other birds and animals (frog calls, goats, cats), or even mechanical sounds and human speech!
Estimated Population Size
200 million
Biggest Threat
agriculture farming
Wingspan
15.8 inches
Incubation Period
12 days
Age Of Independence
15 days
Litter Size
4-6 eggs
Habitat
fields, parks, lawns
Diet
Omnivore
Lifestyle
  • Social
  • Group
Location
worldwide
Nesting Location
holes, crevices
Migratory
1

European Starling Physical Characteristics

Color
  • Blue
  • Black
  • White
  • Green
  • Multi-colored
Skin Type
Feathers
Lifespan
2-3 years
Weight
2.1 to 3.4 ounces
Length
7.9 to 9.1 inches
Age of Sexual Maturity
1 year

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View all of the European Starling images!



The European Starling is one beautifully dazzling bird.

During the winter season, there are little white spots covering its body but when the summertime comes, they flash their dark and glossy shades. They are sometimes considered aggressive and are very noisy when traveling in flocks. They are known to mimic other species and sing songs. 

4 Amazing European Starling Facts

  1. The European Starling was brought to the US in the 1890s because the country wanted to have the birds that Shakespeare mentioned in his plays. Around 100 birds were released in Central Park in New York City. 
  2. They are called Starlings because when they fly, their small body resembles a star that is pointed at four ends. 
  3. They have the ability to mimic other species’ songs and calls and can even imitate human speech! One European Starling can learn up to 20 calls. The males sing more than the females.
  4. The European Starling has a sense of taste. They cannot digest sucrose which is why they have the ability to distinguish between sucrose and other sugars. 

Where to Find the European Starling

It is very easy to find the European Starling. They were introduced to America and have a strong population in each of the continental states. These birds can also be found all around the world including in Central Asia, Western Europe, India, and have even been introduced to New Zealand, Fiji, Australia, and South Africa!

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They are spread out across the whole country and are quite common in towns. All you need to do is go to parks, lawns, fields, and such open areas to see the European Starling. You can also spot them perched on top of the trees if you live in the countryside. If they are not in the trees, they will be seen moving quite fast in zig-zag lines on the ground. 

They are usually in places where there are crevices, holes for their nests, or amongst fields during their breeding season. But apart from that, you can find them almost anywhere. The best time to see them is during the summer when they are flashing with their dazzling beauty and singing songs of other birds. Keep your ears and eyes open for that magic to unveil.  

European Starling Nests

They have a distinct nesting spot within holes of different places. They may be inside buildings, woodpecker holes, birdhouses, and other hollow places. The nest itself is started by the male but is completed by the female. It is a hollow-shaped cup that is made up of twigs, weeds, leaves, and feathers. The European Starling may sometimes even lay eggs in other birds’ nests and they will fight bigger birds if they have to, in order to get the nest. 



After 12 days of incubation, the hatchlings emerge and are fed by both parents. There are usually 4 – 6 eggs, but sometimes there are as many as 7. They are either greenish-white or bluish-white in color. 

Scientific Name

The European Starling is also known as Common Starling and even Starling in some countries. It goes by the name Sturnus vulgaris in the scientific world which is Latin in origin. It belongs to the family Sturnidae and the class Aves.

The European Starling belongs to a group of Starlings that are polyphyletic in nature. There are other starlings in the world but none of them are quite related to the European Starling. They may resemble in characteristics but only the Spotless Starling comes close to being a relative to the European Starling. But even this fact is still in debate.  

There are a lot of European Starling subspecies. They include:

  • European starling
  • Faroe starling
  • Shetland starling
  • Azores starling
  • Siberian starling
  • Black Sea starling
  • Eastern Turkey starling
  • Caucasian starling
  • Central Asian starling
  • Hume’s starling or Afghan starling
  • Himalayan starling
  • Sindh starling

Size, Appearance, and Behavior

The European Starling is a small-sized bird that has a small and rounded body along with a short tail. They do, however, have long and slender beaks. In measurement, they are around 7.9 to 9.1 inches in length and weigh 2.1 to 3.4 ounces. Their wingspan spreads up to 15.8 inches at most.

The male and female European Starlings are different with distinctive features. If you look into their irises, the male will have a rich brown color while the females have a mouse brown shade. Similarly, the underparts of a male have fewer spots than the female during a specific time of the year. 

A European Starling is jet black in color with few green or blue markings. You will also find brown spots all over the body. However, during the winter season, they develop white spots. Their beaks change from yellow to black while a spot under the base of the beak identifies one as male. 

A European starling singing in the wild
European starlings are excellent mimics and can imitate other birds, machinery, and even human speech.

Soru Epotok/Shutterstock.com

Migration Pattern and Timing

The migration pattern is distinctive in the form of two groups. Some birds prefer staying where they are and often follow breeding rituals, while others migrate. 

Migration happens around the summer in August or September. The distances depend upon the birds. Some travel far while some don’t. It is still unclear why some of the groups stay behind while others migrate. But they tend to travel south. 

The European Starling is quite sociable in nature, whether it is with other Starlings or with humans. They are often found in flocks, breeding together, eating together, and even migrating together in the form of groups. After mating, the male is there by the side of the female, engaging in activities with her. Moreover, they are not afraid of humans, and can often be found in urban areas

Diet

The European Starling is mainly insectivorous but they sometimes feed on plant seeds, making them omnivorous too. Their prey includes different pests, arthropods, and fruit nectar. Some of them cannot eat sucrose and since they have a sense of taste, they can distinguish between different sugary items.

What Does the European Starling Eat?

The European Starling eats a bunch of different insects like ants, spiders, moths, grasshoppers, flies, beetles, wasps, and others. Similarly, they also munch on earthworms, lizards, snails, fruit nectar, grains, seeds, and even food waste.

What Is the European Starling’s Feeding Behavior?

The feeding behavior of a European Starling is carried often out in flocks. They move around hopping on the ground and with the help of their bills, pull out prey from underground. Moreover, they may fly around finding insects and eating leaves from trees. They tend to engage in groups and go back to rich areas where the feeding sites offer the best prey. 

The basic food etiquette found in European Starlings is that they probe the bills into the prey and widen it to eat the nutrients inside the prey. It is called the prying or bill probing technique.  

European Starling Predators, and Threats

Since they travel around in flocks, the European Starling is not that prone to predators. The birds in the flock often warn others about the predators. However, during the breeding season, they are alone which may allow them to be attacked.

What Eats European Starlings?

Some of the known predators of the European Starling are rats, raccoons, hawks, and falcons

What Is a Big Threat to the European Starling?

Their main threat is the agriculture farming that has reduced the population size of the European Starlings. Some of the crops that are grown are not desirable to the bird and the ones that are likable have seen a sharp decline in some areas. Similarly, because of their popularity among humans and in urban areas, they are being caged for biological or domestic purposes. 

Reproduction, Young, and Molting of European Starling

The length and the duration of the migration season depend upon the location and might change every year. 

The mating ritual depends heavily on how a male European Starling sings. The more complex the call or mimicry, the more the female is attracted to the male bird. The male European Starling sings on repeat to enchant the females. It even sits on the nests’ entrances to make a good impression by singing repeatedly. But the performance reduces during the breeding season.

The breeding season is usually either in the summers or in the spring season. The female lays eggs on a daily basis after the mating has happened. The eggs are blue or white but glossy in nature just like the adults European Starling. The clutch size is around 4 to 6 eggs but in rare cases, 7. The incubation lasts up to 12 days. 

After hatching, the young are underdeveloped with blindness in eyes and no feathers. For two weeks and more, both the parents feed the young until they are ready to leave the nest. The same nest is used in the future for further breeding. One or two broods are raised per year. 

The molting occurs once every year. After the breeding season, the molting happens and brings whitish new feathers into existence. 

What Is a European Starling Baby Called?

They are called chicks or fledglings. 

How Long Does a European Starling Live?

They may live up to 2 to 3 years. But the oldest European Starling has lived up to 15 years and 3 months. 

Population and Conservation Status

The population size of the European Starling is more than 200 million individuals. They are also considered in the Least Concern category of Endangered Species. However, there has been a sharp decline in their population trends which is concerning.

Up Next…

Take a look at a few of our other bird articles to learn more!

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About the Author

Alan is a freelance writer and an avid traveler. He specializes in travel content. When he visits home he enjoys spending time with his family Rottie, Opie.

European Starling FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Does European Starling migrate?

Yes, they do migrate in groups during the day. But some of the birds prefer staying back and breeding during that time.

How fast does the European Starling fly?

Around 4 to 6 eggs are laid by a female European Starling. In rare cases, the eggs may total up to 7. 

How fast does the European Starling fly?

They are strong when it comes to flying. They can travel at a speed of 48 mph.

When does European Starling leave the nest?

After 2 weeks of hatching, the young of the European Starling is ready to leave the nest but may come back to the nest for feeding.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.

Sources
  1. Wikipedia, Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_starling
  2. Animal Diversity, Available here: https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Sturnus_vulgaris/
  3. All About Birds, Available here: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/European_Starling/id
  4. Audubon, Available here: https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/european-starling
  5. IUCN Redlist, Available here: https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/22710886/137493608
  6. National Geographic, Available here: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/birds/facts/european-starling

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