European starling -
The 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 now.

The European starling has been reported to cause millions of drops in crop damages.

The European 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.

European starling

Blackbirds and grackles -
There are 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 starlings.

- 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 them.

- 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.


Close - P.O. Box 181 - McKinney, TX 75070
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