European starling -
European starling was introduced to Central Park in
the 1800's by a fan of William Shakespeare. This
miss-directed fan wanted all the bird species
mentioned in Shakespeare's works to be found in New
York. The first 100 birds were released in 1890 and
40 more were released in 1891. Since then it has
spread throughout most of continental North
America, although Alaska remains mostly safe for
starling has been reported to cause millions of
drops in crop damages.
starling competes with many native cavity nesters,
including woodpeckers, bluebirds and purple
martins. Many "secondary" nesters such the tufted
titmouse and flycatchers are driven from natural
cavities or old woodpecker nesters by the more
aggressive and larger starling. Starlings will
often force red-bellied and red headed woodpeckers
from their nest cavities. Their negative impact on
native species is substantial.
If you maintain
nesting boxes, including those for bluebirds and
purple martins, watch for starlings trying to take
over and remove any starling nesting material that
shows up. Bluebird boxes with a 1.5" holes stop
starlings from moving in but unfortunately this is
not the case in many natural cavities.
Starlings are not a
protected species and more aggressive means of
controlling starling populations in your backyard
may be appropriate.
Blackbirds and grackles -
several native species of blackbirds and grackles
and they should not be confused with the European
starling. Grackles can overrun backyard feeders,
however, and can make themselves unwelcome by the
amount of seed they consume and by keeping smaller
species away from the feeders. Here are a few tips
on grackle control that also works well on
- Grackles and
starlings are attracted to feed on the ground. If
you have been ground-feeding and they have become a
problem you may have to suspend your ground feeding
efforts for a while or use seeds and feed that are
of less appeal to these species.
- If you feeders
are very busy limit the amount of seed that falls
onto the ground from your feeders.
- Try a hopper
feeder with a weighted perch that closes the hopper
when heavier birds such as grackles land on
- If you are using
tube feeders try shortening or even removing the
perches. The larger grackles and starlings will
have a tough time with a short perch but chickadees
and other species will not be deterred.
- Offer other foods
in the feeders, safflower is popular with cardinals
and suet is popular with many species, less so with
grackles and even starlings.