European Starling: Small, chunky, iridescent purple and green blackbird with long, pointed yellow bill, pink legs, and short tail. The feathers on back and undertail show buff edges. Feeds in open areas, normally on the ground. Strong, direct and swift flight on rapidly beating wings.
Range and Habitat
European Starling: Native to Eurasia, but widely introduced and established worldwide. Occurs from southern Alaska across central Canada to Newfoundland, and south throughout the continental U.S. to the Gulf Coast and northern Mexico. Preferred habitats include cities, suburban areas, farmlands, and ranches.
The PASSERIFORMES (pronounced pas-ser-i-FOR-meez) is a large taxonomic order composed of one hundred eighteen families of birds that includes the swallows, the sparrows, and the starlings.
Distributed for the most part in Eurasia and Africa, one hundred and eighteen species of starlings in thirty genera are found in the Sturnidae (pronounced STUR-nuh-dee) family.
There are three species of starlings in three genera that occur in North America (including Hawaii). These three species are the European Starling, the Common Myna, and the Hill Myna.
Some members of the starling family are known for their ability to mimic other birds and even human voices. While the European Starling can mimic the vocalizations of many bird species, the Hill Myna does not mimic other birds in the wild but is an amazing mimic of human speech in captivity.
The starlings are medium sized birds with most species having short tails and long wings. Most members of this family also have fairly large heads with long, pointed, slightly downcurved bills, and all have fairly long legs and strong feet.
Iridescent black is a common color among plumages of starling species. The plumage of the adult male European Starling shows small white spots that are retained in winter. Some other species of starlings have gray or white markings, and many species have bright yellow on the head, face, and bill. The most colorful starlings though, are several African species that shine with golden, deep blue, and purple feathers.
In the United States and Canada, The European Starling is only absent from the far northern tundra. Far more common in North America than in its native European range, this introduced species has been extremely successful and occurs in most urban, open, and forest edge habitats.
The other two species, the Common and Hill Mynas, are tropical species that have established populations in Florida, California, and Hawaii.
The European Starling is mostly a permanent resident, some northern populations migrating short distances south in winter.
Starlings are social birds that do not nest in colonies but almost always occur in flocks outside of the breeding season. Although the Hill Myna stays up in the trees, the European Starling and the Common Myna walk on the ground while foraging for small creatures and grain in farm fields, lawns, and other open habitats.
In North America, none of the starling species that occur are threatened. Two Asian species, the Bali Starling and the Black-winged Starling, though, are very close to extinction in the wild; too many of these beautiful birds having been taken from their limited ranges for the captive bird trade.
All of the one-hundred to two-hundred million European Starlings that presently occur in North America are descended from just one hundred birds released in Central Park, New York, in the 1890s. The people responsible for introducing this invasive species that competes with and displaces native birds for nesting cavities did so out of a motivation to have all the birds mentioned in Shakespeare’s works present in the United States. Of all the bird species they released, only the European Starling established itself as a breeding species.