Why we should all love - and help - the humble starling

Why we should all love - and help - the humble starling

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Starlings have had something of a bad press across the decades, with many bird lovers choosing to favour other species and some even actively trying to shoo them away from feeding stations as pests.

Unfortunately, it has been their lively nature that has often caused this anti-Starling prejudice. These birds are gregarious and noisy, plus their propensity to visit gardens in groups means they can empty bird tables in minutes, making them appear greedy.

However, we think it's a great shame that Starlings are so under-rated - and we want to encourage you to take a closer look at the individuals that frequent your green space and see if you can't learn to love them.

Things to love about Starlings

If you do, you'll notice that Starlings are rakish, comical characters that run across the ground in a delightful manner as well as flying. They are excellent mimics too and will imitate everything from other species - including Pied Wagtails, Blackbirds and Magpies - to household objects like telephones, as well as singing their whistling melody very enthusiastically.

Another good point about Starlings is that they eat a variety of insect pests and so can be a valuable asset for keen gardeners who don't want their plants annihilated.

There's also the fact that Starlings are really very beautiful to look at when you get close enough; their oily black feathers shine purple and green like petrol on water in different lights. In the winter they get small spots on their plumage, while youngsters are a dark greyish-brown.

Starlings need your help

It once seemed as though our gardens were full of Starlings - which might have added to their being viewed as pests - but this is sadly no longer the case in many areas.

The number of breeding pairs has decreased significantly in Britain, especially in woodlands, resulting in their conservation listing being upgraded to a red status from amber.

It's thought that young Starlings are suffering from a low survival rate due to changes in agricultural management, loss of natural foods due to pesticides and a lack of suitable habitat in which to nest.

With Starlings from colder nations in Europe arriving each winter to add to our native populations, these fun little birds are facing a real crisis and a struggle for survival. If we've convinced you that Starlings deserve to be appreciated, here's what you can do to help.

How to feed Starlings in the garden

Fortunately, Starlings eat almost anything, so it's difficult to get it wrong if you buy a high-quality bird food mix. They particularly like worms, fruit and berries, with chicks fed an all-invertebrate diet by both parents before and after they fly the nest in around May.

A real treat for Starlings is our Peanut Cake Tube Hi-Protein Starling Bar, which is specially formulated for this species and can be fed either from a hanging or pole-mounted feeder, or chopped up and placed on a table.

If you feel Starlings are starting to dominate at the expense of other species, the easiest thing to do is put up another, separate feeder with smaller holes that birds like finches and tits can use - try our Adventurer Seed Pack. 

Helping Starlings to nest

With natural habitats on the decline, you can really help Starlings by putting up a nest box with a 45mm hole around two to three metres up on either a tree or a shady wall - our Gothenburg Starling Nest Box replicates their natural nesting preferences, while the WoodStone® Starling Nest Box has a 10-year guarantee and is insulated to help maintain a consistent internal temperature. 

The breeding season lasts from around April to June and if you're lucky, your birds might rear two broods during this time. The males seek out the nest site and then the female joins him to line it with feathers and moss - although the male sometimes also adds ornamental decoration such as flowers, which is lovely to see.

As you can tell, we have a soft spot for Starlings here at CJ Wildlife and think they're just as deserving of our love as any other garden birds. Why not do your bit to help them and see if we can reverse their decline together?