Common Starling Click to enlarge image
Common Starling Image: Tony Morris
creative commons

Fast Facts

  • Classification
    Species
    vulgaris
    Genus
    Sturnus
    Family
    Sturnidae
    Order
    Passeriformes
    Class
    Aves
    Phylum
    Chordata
    Kingdom
    Animalia
  • Size Range
    20 cm to 22 cm

Flocks of Common Starlings are often seen at dusk wheeling in large circles as they search for a roosting site for the night.

Identification

The Common Starling has a wide variation in plumage. Both sexes are similar, although the female is less glossy than the male. In autumn, when the plumage is new, birds are glossed black, with a purple and green shine, and the tips of the body feathers have large white spots. At this time the bill is dark and the legs are brown. With wear, the white spots are lost, while the bill and legs turn yellow. During the breeding season adults become glossy-black without any spots. Young birds are dull grey-brown.

Habitat

Once a common bird of European deciduous woodlands (now in more rural and urban areas), the Common Starling was introduced into Australia in the late 1850s through to 1870. It has become well established and is expanding its range.

Distribution

In Australia, the Common Starling has become a familiar sight around human habitation throughout the east and south-east.



Feeding and diet

Common Starlings are most often seen searching for seeds and insects on lawns and in paddocks. Other food includes spiders, worms, human scraps and fruit crops. Birds feed mainly on the ground and often in vast flocks.

Communication

The song of the Common Starling is an unmusical collection of wheezy whistles, clicks, scratching notes and some mimicry of other bird calls.

Breeding behaviours

During breeding season, the large winter flocks of Common Starlings break up into pairs or small groups. The nest is an untidy cup of grasses, leaves, twigs and items of human rubbish. Nest sites are any type of hollow, such as tree hollows and house roof voids. The birds are aggressive when competing for nesting sites and readily drive out native species. The pale blue eggs are incubated by both sexes which also raise the young birds. Often two broods are raised in a season.

  • Breeding season: Mainly August to January; can be anytime
  • Clutch size: 4 to 8
  • Incubation: 12 days

Economic impacts

The Common Starling is a prominent bird in open cultivated areas, and is a well-known pest of orchards.

References

  • Pizzey, G. and Knight, F. 1997. Field Guide to the Birds of Australia. Angus and Robertson, Sydney.
  • Strahan, R. (ed) 1996. Finches, Bowerbirds and Other Passerines of Australia.Angus and Robertson and the National Photographic Index of Australian Wildlife, Sydney.