European starlings are actually really cool birds, with loads of personality and clearly a lot of intelligence. The problem is that they’re not native outside of Europe and Asia and can be a bit of a pest, often taking over the feeder and bullying the other birds a little.
As much as we might wish they could all just learn to get along, sometimes our native birds need a bit of a helping hand to stay fed in our yards. To do this, I’m going to help you out with a few handy tips on how to get rid of starlings and how to keep starlings away from bird feeders.
To do this we first need to learn a little about the biology of these birds. So let’s go over a few facts and the basic life history of the European starling.
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6 Tips On How To Get Rid Of Starlings
Know your Foe
The European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) Is a newcomer to the US, having been introduced in the late 1800s. Since then they’ve spread themselves over almost the entire country from coast to coast, and north to south.
European starlings are most common in cities, towns, and farming communities, and have a close relationship with humans. Breeding birds with their bright yellow beaks and glossy starry sky plumage are really quite attractive.
Starlings roost in huge flocks in large trees, and trust me, the mess they leave below these roosts is not pretty. In the breeding season, these birds are often found in pairs.
These social birds aren’t too picky about their lunch, but they mostly feed on insects, fruits, seeds, nectar, and garbage scraps. They like to forage on lawns, in parks, and in other grassy places where they push their bills into the soil to catch insects.
Starlings nest in holes or cavities. These holes can be anywhere from in the roof of buildings, to woodpecker nests and nest boxes. These birds lay 3-6 greenish or blueish eggs and they have 2 broods per year.
Unfortunately, European starlings are highly aggressive little birds and have no problem chasing native species away from nesting sites and even evicting birds that are already nesting there.
Native birds as large as Wood ducks, Buffleheads, and Northern Flickers have all been pushed out of nesting sites by these bossy little birds.
Getting rid of Starlings
1. Close Up Nesting Sites
Now that we know where starlings nest, it’s time to take a look around the house and yard and close up any potential nesting sites before the birds move in. I wouldn’t advocate physically harming these birds although they’re not protected by law in the same way that native bird species are, and really the choice is yours to destroy nests or eggs at your will.
Just be sure that it is, in fact, a starling nest that you’re destroying. Remember, starlings lay 3-6 blueish or greenish eggs, but they aren’t the only birds that do this. In any case, starlings will most likely breed in the same cavity year after year so it’s really important to close them up when you find them.
You can close cavities in buildings by simply stuffing them with a hard substance like steel wool, or get hold of a handyman to do a more thorough job.
2. Use The Right Nest Boxes
Closing up all the potential nesting sites might leave you feeling a little down because having birds nest in the yard is a joy. Beat those blues by providing a few good quality birdhouses.
The trick is to select nest boxes with an entrance diameter of less than 1.5 inches because that’s the smallest size that starlings will use. This Natures Way birdhouse is a good bet as wrens and chickadees can happily nest inside it while starlings are too big to get through the entrance.
If you already have birdhouses that are large enough for starlings to nest in, there’s no need to throw them in the trash. If you’re handy, you can always modify your nest boxes to make the entrances a little smaller.
3. Use A Starling-proof Bird Feeder
Starling-proof bird feeders work in one of two ways. They can keep birds that are starling-sized or larger out, or they can be designed in a way that starlings can’t feed from them comfortably because of where the feed is accessed from.
‘Upside-down’ woodpecker feeders are great for agile birds like woodpeckers. These birds will happily hang upside down and eat their fill of suet. This is really fun to watch, and the best part is that starlings just arent comfortable feeding that way, so there’s no competition from these less welcome visitors.
Another effective way of keeping starlings from emptying out your bird feeders is to use a size restricting design like some of the specially designed bluebird feeders. Starling-proof bird feeders like the Erva Bluebird Feeder or the Kettle Moraine Cedar Bluebird Mealworm Feeder will let smaller birds like bluebirds access the food while keeping the larger starlings out.
A good quality bee-proof hummingbird feeder will also keep the starlings looking elsewhere, while you watch the hummers enjoy their sugar water.
By using the feeders described above, you can still feed birds like woodpeckers, hummingbirds, and bluebirds, without supporting the local starling population.
4. Keep The Ground Under Your Feeders Clean
Unfortunately, birds don’t care too much about messing foods out of your carefully designed starling-proof bird feeders.
The starlings, being intelligent birds will definitely come to feed on the scraps below, so keep the area clean to make your yard as unappealing to these pesky birds as possible.
5. Put Out Foods That Starlings Don’t Like
While starlings aren’t super choosy about what they eat, luckily there are a few things on the menu that these birds don’t like. Put out these four foods to keep native birds happy, and starlings out:
- Nyjer seeds
- Safflower seeds
- Whole peanuts
6. Send Them Packing
In my experience, starlings tend to be nervous and vigilant birds that are always on high alert for danger. We can use this to our advantage when trying to keep them out of the yard.
Being intelligent birds, starlings are able to pick up on where they’re not wanted and you can get pretty good results from physically chasing them away or clapping your hands and yelling at them.
I know you might get some funny looks from the neighbors when you go chasing after birds in the yard but we do what we have to for our feathered friends!
Well, I hate to break it to you folks but it looks like starlings are here to stay, for the foreseeable future anyway. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing we can do to keep them in check in the yard and prevent them from keeping our native birds away from the feeder.
While there’s a lot of bad things to say about starlings, let’s also try to appreciate their ability to keep problem insect populations in check, and the funny way these birds run around the lawn, looking for grubs!
Getting rid of starlings isn’t easy, but by following these 6 tips on how to get rid of starlings, you can still enjoy visits from your favorite backyard birds. Happy birdwatching!