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Are European Starlings Invasive? (Problems, Control + FAQs)

The European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) is a widespread songbird from the Sturnidae family. These intelligent birds are native to the UK and Europe, large parts of Asia, and North Africa.

Misguided bird lovers introduced Starlings to the United States in the late 19th century, and since then, they have spread rapidly. So are European Starlings an invasive species?

European Starlings are invasive in the United States and other parts of the world where they were introduced outside of their natural range. They have spread throughout the United States, and are considered a pest for the damage they inflict on food crops, homes, and native bird species.

European Starlings receive a lot of bad press in the United States. However, they are a natural part of the United Kingdom’s ecosystem and the rest of their native range.

There they are both a welcome sight to birdwatchers and nature lovers, and often a nuisance in urban areas where they nest in buildings.

Read along to learn why Starlings have gotten such a bad rap and what you can do to discourage them if they are invasive where you live.

Close up of a calling Starling

Close up of a calling Starling

Why are Starlings invasive?

Starlings are invasive in the United States because the country offers them rich feeding and nesting opportunities with minimal competition from similar species.

They had not been able to reach the new world under their own steam, but once introduced, they rapidly capitalized on the increasing amount of farmland and the development of suburban areas.

Starlings live in association with humans, feeding on crops and livestock food, and nesting in cavities in houses and other buildings. They have found great opportunities in the New World and many other parts of the globe where they were introduced.

Starlings are thriving outside their native range, but is that really a bad thing? Continue reading to learn how European Starlings cause damage.

Starlings are able to feed and nest with minimal competition from similar species

Starlings are able to feed and nest with minimal competition from similar species

Why are Starlings considered a problem?

Starlings are problem animals in the United States because they outcompete native bird species and damage food crops. Their nesting habits can also be a nuisance to homeowners and building managers.

The damage they cause can be more than just a nuisance. The mess left below roost sites can be dangerous to human health, and nests in buildings can pose fire and ventilation hazards.

Are Starlings pests?

Starlings are considered pests outside of their native range. They cause economic damage, threaten native bird species and cause a nuisance for homeowners.

Nesting European Starling gathering materials

Nesting European Starling gathering materials

Are Starlings a threat to other birds?

Starlings threaten native bird species that nest in cavities in the United States. They are aggressive when nesting and destroy eggs, kill chicks, and even kill adult birds while forcefully taking over a nest site.

The following bird species are common victims:

Starlings are also aggressive around food sources and can prevent native bird species from getting a meal at backyard bird feeding stations.

Starlings threaten native bird species that nest in cavities in the United States

Starlings threaten native bird species that nest in cavities in the United States

What problems do Starlings cause?

Starlings cause a host of problems for both people and wildlife. Read on to learn more about the damage they cause:

Problems for people

  • Starlings can be a major pest for fruit farmers. These birds will eat grapes, peaches, tomatoes, strawberries, and many other fruit crops. They will also eat the sprouts and seedlings of other crops.
  • Starlings often build their nests in buildings, which can be unsightly and even dangerous. Nests in chimneys, for example, can be a fire hazard and block the escape of dangerous carbon monoxide gas.
  • Starlings roost in huge numbers, and the droppings they leave behind can potentially spread diseases like Histoplasmosis and salmonella. Their droppings are also corrosive to motor vehicles and infrastructure.

Problems for wildlife

  • Starlings aggressively outcompete native bird species like Bluebirds and Woodpeckers for nest boxes and cavities.
  • They will destroy eggs and chicks and even kill adult birds.
  • European Starlings also exclude native birds from food sources.
Starlings cause problems for both people and widlife

Starlings cause problems for both people and widlife

Are Starlings good to have around?

Starlings are lovely birds to have around in the countryside of their home range. These beautiful and intelligent birds are fascinating to watch, and their murmurations are one of nature's great spectacles. However, Starlings are usually unwelcome in the United States and other parts of the world.

How can you get rid of Starlings?

Starlings can be discouraged in several ways. These birds are cavity nesters, so close up any suitable nest sites in your yard or around your house. They will use nest boxes with an entrance cavity of 1½ inches (38 mm) or larger, so avoid setting those out or be prepared to intervene if a family of Starlings moves in.

You may legally remove Starling nests, eggs, and young from nest boxes or elsewhere on your property in the United States. However, you must make absolutely certain that it is indeed a Starlings nest because all native species are protected.

Starlings are regular visitors to backyard bird feeders, but they can be discouraged by using ‘Starling-proof’ feeders. A cage surrounds these feeders that will only allow access to smaller species.

Bird watchers can also discourage Starlings by offering foods they don’t like, such as nyjer seed, whole peanuts, and nectar.

A pair of Common Starlings perched on a tree branch

A pair of Common Starlings perched on a tree branch

Methods of controlling Starlings

There are many methods for controlling European Starlings. These range from gentle discouragement to all-out war, and their application varies depending on the situation.

In the United States, authorized individuals use the following methods to control Starlings:


Starlings can be disturbed and discouraged while roosting at night. Workers shine lasers at the roosting birds, which prevents them from returning. Pyrotechnics have also been used with success.

Roost removal

Starlings often roost in vast numbers in reedbeds, trees, and other sheltered areas. Destroying roost sites can be an effective way of controlling Starlings in a specific area. Starlings can also be discouraged from roosting on buildings and ledges by installing spike strips.


Many different types of traps are effective for catching Starlings. As always, care is vital to avoid harming native species.

Lethal methods

Affected parties also shoot and poison Starlings with pesticides. However, shooting is not particularly effective unless the birds occur in small numbers.

Common, or European Starling taking off for flight

Common, or European Starling taking off for flight

Are Starlings protected?

Starlings are not protected in the United States and do not enjoy federal protection. However, local regulations that govern their control vary from state to state.

Starlings have declined significantly in the United Kingdom since the 1970s. Sadly, they are listed as a red-category species of conservation concern today. Starlings are protected in the UK by the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981.

Why were Starlings introduced to America?

We don’t know exactly why Starlings were introduced to the United States, although many believe they were brought from England in a romantic attempt to introduce all of the birds mentioned in the works of William Shakespeare.

The place was Central Park, New York, and the years were 1890 and 1891. Many previous attempts had failed until about one hundred birds were imported and released under the watch of Eugene Schieffelin, chairman of the American Acclimatization Society.

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