What do starlings eat? How do you differentiate between males and females or even the young? We answer these and other questions about the star in our large species portrait .
The common starling is one of the most common birds in the world
The common starling ( Sturnus vulgaris ) is a common bird in the truest sense of the word. Because it is not only a frequent visitor to our parks and gardens, but is also one of the most widespread and most common bird species in the world. Its shimmering plumage, the large song repertoire and the elegant swarm formations make it a real “star” among songbirds. However, all of that could soon change. Because the stocks of the star have been falling sharply for several decades. As a result of the increasing intensification of agricultural areas and the use of pesticides, the star is gradually losing its habitat and its food base. In the meantime, the species has even been classified as “endangered” on the red list in Germany. To draw attention to this dramatic development, the star was voted “Bird of the Year 2018”.
Profile of the star
|size||About 21-22 cm|
|Weight||About 70 – 90 g|
|Breeding season||March – June|
|lifespan||About 3 years|
|habitat||Grasslands or lawns with adjacent tall trees|
|Feed preference||Worms, spiders, insects|
|Threats||Agricultural intensification and use of pesticides|
This is how you recognize the star
The appearance of the star can vary greatly depending on the incidence of light. From a distance and in shady places, the star appears at first glance like a simple, black bird with a yellow beak and can therefore be easily mistaken for a blackbird. But if you invest a second look, you will quickly recognize the difference: The plumage of the star is covered with white speckles and shimmers in the sun in metallic green, blue and purple tones. The shape of the star is also rather short-tailed and the blackbird’s typical hopping locomotion is missing. In flight, the star can also be easily recognized by its pointed wings.
In fact, the star owns two different feather dresses, which he shows off depending on the season. In spring he shows himself in a noble, black dress with colored shimmer, pale, light points and a bright yellow beak tip. In winter, on the other hand, it wears the so-called plain dress, which has a rather gray-brown note, a dark beak and strongly pronounced, light points.
The term “plain dress” is rather out of place at this sight [Photo: xpixel / Shutterstock.com]
How does the singing of the star sound?
The star is an extremely creative singer. His varied singing consists of loud, drawn-out whistling tones, chattering elements and a number of fabulous imitations – voices from other birds, such as magpies or birds of prey, surrounding noises and even the ringing of cell phones. In addition, the star has numerous other bird voices, such as the hoarse warning call made at the nest: “Stääh”.
Here you can listen to the star singing:
What does a young star look like?
Young starlings are nowhere near as gorgeous as their parents. Free-flying young birds are already characterized by the finished size and shape of the starlings and the long, pointed beak. This is dark in color and therefore matches the monotonous gray-brown plumage. However, the young starlings change quickly into the adult plain dress and show themselves in fully colored plumage in the first winter.
Young starlings are still a bit inconspicuous
How do you recognize the star’s eggs?
The female lays four to eight light green to light blue, monochrome eggs about 3 centimeters in size. These are embedded in a loose nest made of dry stalks, leaves and roots, which is padded with fresh green, feathers and animal hair. Woven herbs, whose essential oils serve as a natural defense against mites and bacteria and thus promote successful rearing of the young, are also particularly popular.
How do females and males differ in the star?
The difference between males and females is only visible in starlings in their splendid plumage. While the males show a dark, shiny metallic breast, that of the females has a few, bright spots. In addition, the females have a monochrome yellow beak with a base that is only slightly lighter, while the males have a distinct gray-blue beak base.
The female’s beak is uniformly yellow [Photo: Anatoliy Lukich / Shutterstock.com]
Where do the birds live?
The distribution area of the star extends over large parts of Europe and Asia to northwestern Mongolia. The species was also introduced in North America, where it colonized almost the entire continent, in small parts of South Africa and South Australia and in New Zealand. Starlings use a wide range of semi-open habitats, such as light forests, cultivated landscapes, settlements and even city centers. Short-grass areas for foraging and trees with caves or other nesting options are important to them.
Where and how does the star build its nest?
As a cave breeder, the starlet prefers to build its nest in natural tree hollows. In adaptation to human habitats, however, it now also uses a number of other cave-like structures, such as building niches or nesting boxes. With the construction of the nest, the male begins first in order to attract a female. When a couple has finally found each other, they finish the nest together.
When do starlings have breeding season?
The females lay their eggs between mid and late April. This is followed by an incubation period of 11 to 13 days. After hatching, the young birds develop in their nests for three weeks and are fed by their parents around the clock during this time. Then they leave the nest and are provided with food by the adult animals for a while. Although the females usually only raise one clutch per season, the males often look for a second partner in order to start another brood with this one.
Starlings are pronounced cave breeders [Photo: Martin Mecnarowski / Shutterstock.com]
What do starlings do in winter?
Our domestic starlings spend the winter in the warm Mediterranean region, but they are one of the first species to return to their breeding grounds in February. Nevertheless, starlings can also be observed in Germany in winter. These are then mainly winter guests from more northerly regions. Although starlings breed in pairs, they travel in large groups of up to several thousand individuals for the rest of the year. They are particularly known for their synchronized flight maneuvers, which create fascinating swarm formations.
Swarms of starlings are known for their impressive formations [Photo: Albert Beukhof / Shutterstock.com]
This is how you can support the common star in the garden
The progressive loss of habitat, food and nesting opportunities means that starlings are increasingly dependent on our support. By promoting structurally rich cultural landscapes and less intensively used agricultural areas, one automatically advocates the protection of starlings. If you want to help a little more specifically and want to offer the local songbirds a home in your own garden, you will find concrete options here.
What do starlings eat?
Starlings feed primarily on worms, spiders, insects, and snails, which they look for in the short grass. However, they also use berries, fruits and seeds and are therefore real “omnivores”. If you want to feed something in winter, you don’t need to get any special food. The songbirds use normal soft feed mixes, nuts and fruit. Our Plantura year-round bird food, for example, contains lots of rich seeds, berries and even mealworms and is therefore ideally suited for starling feeding. Due to its extra load of proteins, an addition of feed lime and the beak-friendly components, it is also suitable for year-round feeding.
If possible, the food should be placed in such a way that it is protected from rain and the birds cannot sit in it and contaminate it with their droppings. You can find further practical tips on building, placing and cleaning a feeding station in our special article on the subject of “Building a bird feeder yourself”.
Insects are at the top of the starlings’ menu
Which nest box is suitable for the star?
As cave breeders, starlings prefer full-cave nesting boxes with a small, round entrance hole with a diameter of 45 mm. These artificial nesting aids are surprisingly well received by the iridescent birds and it is therefore really worth building a starling box. Everything about the right wood, the right positioning and simple assembly instructions can be found in our special article on the subject of “Building your own nest box”.
Nest boxes for starlings should have an entrance hole of 45 mm diameter [Photo: Tobyphotos / Shutterstock.com]
How can you give him additional support?
If you want to provide enough food in summer as well as winter feeding, you can encourage the natural supply of insects and small animals in your garden. This can be done through a number of bird-friendly plants as well as a healthy soil climate. Since starlings like to look for worms and other small animals in the ground, an active bottom fauna is important for the brilliant singers. With the help of our Plantura organic soil activator, you can breathe a healthy soil life into your garden and thus not only do something good for your plants in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way, but also provide a living space for a lot of small garden visitors.
On hot days, starlings also look forward to refreshment in the form of a bird bath or a bird bath. Both can be easily constructed from a trivet or a flat bowl, because there is no real difference between the two objects. You are doing something good for all other garden birds, such as the blackcap or the chiffchaff.