The common starling, or just plain-old starling as we like to call it in the UK, is a very beautiful bird. Granted, African starlings have a beautiful iridescent plumage that may rank them higher in a beauty contest than the European Starling. But they are still very cute nonetheless. Our starlings do have a plumage to be proud of, which still has a slightly iridescent glow about it. If you thought their plumage was cool, wait until you hear about their nesting habits.
Starlings like to nest in cavities and holes in trees. They don’t mind finding holes in buildings either, though. In fact, many starlings have found homes in holes in occupied houses.
As you’ll see throughout this starling nesting article, their nesting habits are interesting. Still, they can pose a few issues for animals and humans alike. Thankfully, if you have a starling problem, there are ways to solve it humanly.
|Key European Starling Nesting Facts|
|Nesting season||March to July|
|Nesting material||Grass and twig|
|Nest type||Cavity nester, with cup to protect eggs|
|Nest location||Holes and cavities in trees and buildings|
|Number of broods||Usually one, two sometimes attempted|
|Clutch size||4 to 6 eggs|
|Egg colour||Pale blue, something whitish|
|Egg size||30 x 21 mm|
|Egg weight||7 g|
|Incubation period||12 days, by male and female|
|Fledgling period||21 days after hatching|
|Reuse nests||Not usually|
|Use nest boxes||Yes|
Starling nest with two chicks begging for food
When nesting, starlings really enjoy an enclosed space as it keeps their young chicks safe and secure. Natural holes and cavities in trees are excellent for this. However, starlings have learnt to build nests in walls and things like that, even in occupied buildings. The birds will often be quite quiet during the early stages of the nesting period, so you may not know they are there. In fact, it is usually a neighbour that spots them returning to the nest that informs the owner of the new starling extension.
Strictly speaking, starlings don’t build nests. As they like to nest in holes and cavities in trees and buildings. The male bird does fashion a cup out of grass and twigs to protect the eggs, but the nest itself is a pre-fabricated structure.
Like the mobile classrooms we had at school, only more hole-in-the-wall-shaped.
European Starling gathering nesting material
Starlings start nesting in April as they lay about 4-6 eggs in mid-April.
Starlings live in colonies, so where you find one starling, you’ll find loads of them. And all of the females in the colony will begin laying within a few days of each other. Talking about syncing up! Once the eggs have landed, it only takes about 12 days for the chicks to hatch.
Generally speaking, starlings only nest for about 5-6 weeks.
The eggs arrive in mid-April and hatch after around 12 days. Three weeks after that, the young starlings have already had enough of the dad jokes, and they pack their bags and get going.
Common Starling foraging for worms on the grass
During the nesting period of starlings, most of their food and energy is going towards keeping the baby chicks strong and healthy. After three weeks, the baby starlings are ready to leave the nest.
During those three weeks, you can imagine how hard the parents have to work to provide enough food to the young. Also, as starlings nest in holes and cavities, their young are very protected from predators. So, around 70% of the young survive. This means more work for the parents.
So, when the kids leave, the parents go off to find food elsewhere. The entire colony will up and leave within a few days of each other, seeking lots of food, a movie, and a few moments of silence, I imagine.
Starlings nesting in the roof of a house
Starlings travel in a colony and nest within this colony too. The colonies do return to breeding grounds they know are safe. However, each starling couple may not return to the same nesting site.
Of course, if you have a nesting box or a hole in your wall, the chances of a new courting couple using said hole in the wall are high. It just might not be the same starling couple from the year before.
Starlings love nesting boxes because they are very similar to their natural nesting habitat.
Starlings like finding a hole or cavity that keeps their young nice and safe, so a nesting box is ideal. Starling nesting boxes are also one of the easiest to make. So, if you want a project for your kids, with some supervision, of course, make a starling nesting box.
With any nesting box, you should place it facing north or east, as this stops it getting too hot in the sun. For starlings, though, they love nesting spots high up out of the way. So, the eaves of your house is a really good idea. You can even place two or three spread out on the same side of your house. Starlings nest in colonies, so you’ll likely have plenty of visitors.
Starling inside a nest box, with a worm to feed the chicks
Young starlings are about ready to leave in three weeks after hatching.
They are sick of mum’s cooking, and if dad tells another dad joke, well, they won’t be back for Christmas! The parents feed them for a couple of weeks after hatching, and then they are independent. They go off and either join the same colony as their parents or go out and find their own.
There isn’t any mystery about what starlings do at night. They do what we do, sleep. However, just like us, they like peace and quiet while they nod off. So, they choose to roost in sheltered places. This could be an abandoned building, cliffs, reedbeds, or woodlands.
Starlings flock together in colonies, which they nest in too
Starlings do return to the same breeding ground year after year. They may not use the same nest as the year before, but if the nesting area is still available, another courting couple may use it instead.
If you’ve had a starling problem in the past, chances are you will again. So, once the starlings have finished their fun times in your wall, remove any nesting material and patch up the hole. That will stop them from returning to your home next year.
Don’t worry; the starling colony will still return, so you can enjoy them, but they won’t be nesting in the wall of your home.
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