European Starlings by J. Murray Speirs

European starling

European starling

This Old World species was introduced at New York in 1890 and spread rapidly, reaching Ontario at Niagara Falls in 1914 and Brockville in 1919. I saw my first at Toronto on March 24, 1925. Saunders estimated 10,000 at a Brantford roost on March 21, 1929 and Synder and Baillie estimated 5,000 at a Lawrence Park roost in Toronto by Sept. 3, 1929. Since that time, they have occupied most of Ontario though rare in the far north, especially in winter. They are most common about cities and towns, but frequently nest in old fence posts in farmland and in cavities in old trees in forests. Some of our hole-nesting native birds have suffered from competition from starlings: such species as the Eastern Bluebird, Red-headed Woodpecker and Northern Flicker have been reduced in  numbers.

European starling

European starling

In an all day watch at a nest with young at our home they fed the young every few minutes all day, totalling several hundred feedings: most of the identified items proved to be cutworm larvae. In some European countries they are encouraged to nest about fields to reduced the cutworm damage. On the other hand, they are also fond of cherries and other soft fruits, compete with native species and when they gather in great roosts their droppings and noise can create a nuisance. Banding recoveries have shown that many of our birds winter in the Mississippi Valley, from Ohio south to Alabama, but large numbers remain near cities, gathering at refuse dumps during the day and congregating at heating plants for the night (to protect their tender feet from the frost).

European Starling (photo: Ken Sproule)

European Starling (photo: Ken Sproule)

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