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Key Information

Scientific Name: Sturnus vulgaris

Bird Family: Starling

UK Breeding Birds: 1.8 million

UK Conservation Status: Red

In the vast tapestry of British wildlife, few creatures captivate the imagination quite like the starling bird. Sturnus vulgaris, commonly known as the European Starling, graces the skies of the United Kingdom with its mesmerising murmuration and lively demeanour. 

What do starlings look like?

The European Starling is a medium-sized bird, measuring approximately 19 to 22cm in length, with a wingspan of around 31 to 44cm. Starlings has a distinctive glossy plumage, which appears black from a distance but reveals a greenish and purplish iridescence when seen up close. During the breeding season, the plumage is particularly striking, with white speckles on the body and a purple-green sheen. They possess a short, pointed bill, ideally suited for probing the ground and foraging for insects.

What do starling birds eat?

Starlings, as omnivores, have a wide-ranging diet consisting of seeds, nuts, berries, and grains, alongside invertebrates like spiders, larvae, worms, and caterpillars. This adaptable dietary behaviour allows starlings to thrive in their typically varied grassland or woodland environments. Despite their modest size, starlings possess high energy requirements, necessitating a consistent intake of substantial amounts of food.

Are UK starlings rare?

Starlings are not considered rare in the UK. They are, in fact, one of the most common and widespread bird species in the country. However, it's worth noting that starling populations have been experiencing declines in recent years, so much so that they’ve ended up on the Red List for UK Birds of Conservation Concern. Between 1969 and 2014, there has been a substantial decrease in the breeding population of starlings. In the last 25-years, there was a marked decline of 70%.

Do starlings leave the UK in winter?

Starlings are primarily year-round residents in the UK, with most of the population staying throughout the seasons. However, during winter, their numbers increase significantly as thousands of additional starlings from Eastern Europe make their way here. Harsh weather conditions in their native regions compel them to migrate westward in pursuit of more abundant food sources.

When do starlings nest?

Starlings participate in the nesting season during the months of March to April. Starlings are highly adaptable when it comes to nesting sites. While they prefer natural hollows in trees, they readily utilize man-made structures. This can include buildings, ledges, eaves, and even utility boxes. The male starlings will construct nests using dried grass and leaves, often within tree hollows, nest boxes, or beneath roof tiles. 

Starlings are known for their colonial nesting habits. This means they often nest near one another, forming large colonies. These colonies can range from a few pairs to several thousand birds.

How many eggs do starlings lay?

Around mid-April, starlings lay a clutch of 4 to 6 pale blue-green eggs. The eggs are laid over the course of several days, with one egg added to the nest each day. The female is primarily responsible for incubating the eggs, although the male may occasionally take a turn.

When do starling eggs hatch?

Starling eggs take around 12 to 14 days for them to hatch. Once they've hatched, both parents play a role in feeding and caring for the chicks. The young starlings are initially fed regurgitated insects, and later, as they grow, they are provided with a more varied diet.

When do starling eggs fledge?

The starling chicks fledge, or leave the nest, approximately 21 to 23 days after hatching. They are initially clumsy flyers and still depend on their parents for feeding and care until they become self-sufficient.

Starling Murmuration

The UK starling murmuration is one of nature's most awe-inspiring phenomena, captivating spectators with its mesmerizing display of synchronized aerial acrobatics. Click here and dive into the enchanting world of starling murmuration, and explore the science, spectacle, and significance behind this natural phenomenon.