Quick facts

Common name: starling

Scientific name: Sturnus vulgaris

Family: Sturnidae (starlings)

Habitat: parks and gardens, farmland

Diet: fruit, insects

Predators: birds of prey, domestic cats

Origin: native

What do starlings look like?

Starlings have glossy black feathers with iridescent markings that shine blue and green in the sunlight. During the cooler months they are also covered in small white spots. They are a similar size to thrushes and weigh just under 80g. Juvenile starlings are greyish brown in colour.

What do starlings eat?

Their diet is made up of invertebrates, including spiders, moths, leatherjackets and earthworms, as well as fruit. They often feed on lawns and pastures, probing the ground with their pointed beaks. They are also regular visitors to garden bird feeders.

Credit: WILDLIFE GMBH / Alamy Stock Photo

How do starlings breed?

The breeding season usually takes place from March to April. Males build nests from leaves and dry grass in tree cavities, nest boxes and beneath roof tiles. They perch near the nest and sing in order to attract a mate, which will then complete the nest, adding feathers and moss. Usually 4-5 eggs are laid in mid-April, hatching around two weeks later.

Do starlings migrate?

The majority of starlings in the UK are resident birds, however some are migratory. They travel from northern Europe to spend the winter here, arriving during September and October. They will return home during February and March.

Where do starlings live?

Starlings can often be found in gardens, parks and farmland. The species is widespread and abundant across the UK, except for the Highlands of Scotland.

Did you know?

Famous composer Mozart had a pet starling which could sing part of his Piano Concerto in G Major.

Credit: Juniors Bildarchiv GMBH / Alamy Stock Photo

Signs and spotting tips

Place a bird feeder in your garden over the winter and you are sure to attract a starling or three. Starlings are one of the most common garden birds and are very sociable, so you’re highly likely to see a group of them looking for food together.

It’s not uncommon to see a murmuration of starlings flocking together as they fly to their communal roosting sites. Look for these incredible displays in autumn at dusk, particularly over reedbeds.

Threats and conservation

Despite being common throughout the UK, the starling population has declined dramatically since the 1980s. They are therefore a Red List bird of high conservation concern.

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