European Starling: Ugly, but a diverse Singer

By Dave Hanks

The Starling was introduced to the USA in 1890 – 60 birds were released in New York’s Central Park. Like most introduced species, they have become a PEST and a giant mistake at introduction. There is always someone thinking up something worse!

This UGLY, short-tailed, black, 6 inch long bird has a yellow beak, and white spots on its head and body during fall and winter. The only good thing that I can think about this species is its ability to SING. It has a very diverse repertoire of attractive songs. It can mimic up to 20 different bird species, and even car alarms. Once we heard a Red-Tailed Hawk in our yard, except it wasn’t a hawk. It turned out to be a starling – perhaps using the call to minimize competition from the other birds.

The starling is very prolific, and unfortunately it nests around homes and barnyards. They are responsible for the decline of other birds, especially woodpeckers. Sometimes, they will lay an egg in another starling’s nest if unsuccessful at their own site. Not only do their nests contain a half dozen blue/green eggs, but also, fleas, ticks, bed bugs, and beetles.

This bird damages vegetable and fruit crops, contaminates cattle feedlots, and is a carrier of disease. Some of the diseases they transmit are: salmonellosis, fungal diseases, protozoan diseases, fowl pox, gastroenteritis, and other livestock diseases.

In spite of the starling’s beautiful voice, I (and many others) wish they had been left in Europe!

(An unfortunate introduction)