Birds – The Common Starling

Birds – The Common Starling

The Common Starling

The Common Starling male

In this article we will see: “The Common Starling”, birds, diverse and captivating, grace our skies with their melodies. From vibrant plumage to impressive flights, they captivate with endless wonders.

Birds – The Common Starling

Brief Background of: The Common Starling

Description: Length: 18 cm; wingspan: 120-136 mm; approximate length: 37 cm; tail: 66 mm; beak: 26 mm. Weight: 78 g.

Appearance and Behaviour

Adults in summer: entirely blackish with shining green reflections on the head, throat, and upper back; purple to violet reflections on the chest. In autumn and winter, the feathers on the cheeks and underparts become speckled with white tips, forming vertical stripes; upper feathers have reddish-brown tips; the beak is yellow, turning brownish-gray in autumn; black eyes; brown legs.

In both urban and rural areas, the common starling doesn’t care about going unnoticed. At first glance, it may be confused with the blackbird due to its black plumage and yellow lemon beak. However, the starling has a much shorter tail, a slightly bristled throat, and, at close range, its plumage shines with multiple oily reflections, with small white spots, especially in autumn.

But more than its silhouette or appearance, it is the behavior and demeanor that distinguish the common starling. Quick, resourceful, always busy with some important matter, it moves on the ground by walking, takes off unexpectedly, and above all, never knows solitude.

The Common Starling

The Common Starling female

Always in groups, sometimes immense, the starling enjoys company, whether it’s for feeding during annual movements or even for nesting when suitable locations are available. This highly gregarious instinct is further reinforced at night when certain “roosts” gather countless individuals.

The Common Starling's voice sample

Furthermore, the starling is a robust bird that adapts to all situations and diverse environments, making the most of everything. It is familiar and realistic enough to accommodate urbanization.

During spring, it becomes even more talkative, expressing itself with grating and sometimes prolonged “chrrr-chrrr-chrrr” sounds. Its actual song is a mixture of disparate stanzas, with a medley of whistles, interjections, and long tirades, not to mention numerous imitations that are more or less successful. When desiring females, the starling perches conspicuously and, while delivering its message, ostentatiously shakes its wings in rhythm.

Food of: The Common Starling

Flexible and not particularly choosy when it comes to the environment, the starling is equally undemanding when it comes to food, with quantity rather than quality being the determining factor. Insects, their larvae, small mollusks, and worms constitute a significant portion of its spring and summer diet. In autumn, it consumes berries, fruits, and seeds on a large scale, often causing considerable damage to vineyards and olive groves when thousands or even millions of migrants arrive.

Reproduction of: The Common Starling

In February, the first territorial songs are already heard, and in early April, the formation of couples begins. The male, more vocal than ever, then shows the passing females the cavities he has previously cleaned. If a nest is chosen by a female, the union between the two mates is sealed, and they both proceed to prepare their home, lining it with straw, rootlets, dry grass, and eventually feathers.

The Common Starling's eggs

The Common Starling’s eggs

The common starling hides its offspring in various cavities. It often uses old woodpecker nests, readily adopts artificial nest boxes, rock crevices, old stone walls, and can even establish ground nests on certain islands. The nest cavity must be spacious, with difficult access and entry for predators, and the height and diameter of the hole are determining factors.

The laying period usually occurs in the second week of April. It typically consists of 5 to 6 eggs with a pale blue-green background. The average size is 21 x 29 mm, and they weigh about 7 g each. The two adults take turns incubating the eggs, and the hatching occurs 12 to 14 days later. After hatching, both parents work together to feed the chicks. Initially, the mother broods the chicks for the first three days of their existence.

The chicks become increasingly voracious and insatiable, leading to a rapid succession of parental visits to meet their insatiable appetites. The chicks express their hunger through a constant and not very discreet murmur, which erupts at full volume when the parents arrive with beaks loaded with worms and large insects. Soon, eager to receive their meal, the chicks promptly present themselves “at the window” to enjoy their long-awaited lunch.

About three weeks after hatching, the chicks leave the nest, which has become nothing more than a cesspool, and venture to places rich in food. They acquire their independence after a few final days of family life. Sporting a dull brown plumage that is very different from that of the adults, the young starlings gather in compact and noisy flocks that rarely separate. They spend the night in the same roost, feed and fly together.

As for the adults, they resume their activities and prepare for the second clutch, which is observed during the second half of May and in June. The fledging of this second wave of young birds usually occurs in July.


While the adults only leave their regions out of necessity due to harsh winter conditions and food shortages, the young starlings, especially those from northern regions, show greater initiative.

France, in particular, receives a large number of birds from Northern Europe that are heading towards Spain and North Africa.

As is customary for this species, starlings migrate in large flocks, sometimes forming massive swarms. The greatest concentrations are observed between mid-September and late November. They move along traditional migration routes, and each population may have specific wintering areas.

The return migration takes place in February and March.


Except for torrid or frozen regions, high mountains, or dense forests, there is no region that has not been conquered by this species. Inhabiting northern moors and bogs, the bird is also found in parks of major cities, orchards, and coastal areas. While fields, lawns, or meadows provide its sustenance, it is not afraid to venture into unknown territories. The conquest of the United States in less than 60 years by a population of around a hundred individuals released in New York in 1890 is the best example in this regard.

The common starling’s range covers all of Europe, from Iceland to the Urals and from the Pyrenees to Cape Nord. The species is absent from the Iberian Peninsula and Greece but nests in Turkey, India, and as far as Siberia. Furthermore, the common starling has been introduced to the United States, Australia, and New Zealand, where it has rapidly proliferated.

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A final word

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