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Breeding Birds: European Starling

November 17, 1989|Clipboard researched by Kathie Bozanich Susan Davis Greene and Janice L. Jones / Los Angeles Times; Graphics by Doris Shields / Los Angeles Times


(Sturnus vulgaris)

Description: Adult in breeding plumage is iridescent black with a yellow bill. In fresh fall plumage, feathers are tipped with white and buff, giving an overall speckled appearance; bill becomes brownish. Short, square tail, stocky body, and short, broad-based pointed wings that appear pale gray from below.

Habitat: Mostly open fields, woodland, suburbia and cities.

Diet: Other inverts and berries.

Displays: Courting male

adopts variety of postures while vocalizing; highest intensity includes flailing wings in hunched stance.

Nest: In any handy cavity; slovenly cup of grass, twigs, forbs, rootlets and straw.

Eggs: Pale bluish or greenish white, marked with browns.

Natural history notes: Starlings were introduced in New York City's Central Park one hundred years ago and quickly spread across the continent. Bold and aggressive, it often competes successfully with native species for nest holes. Varied call notes include squeaks, warbles, chirps and twittering; also imitates the songs of other species. Outside of nesting season, starlings are usually seen in large flocks, sometimes in company with grackles and blackbirds. Within one century, the 60 starlings introduced to North America have increased to over 200 million.

Breeding bird atlas: To report bird breeding activity in your neighborhood, or to get information on the breeding bird atlas (now in its fifth and final year), call Sea and Sage Audubon Society member Nancy Kenyon, (714) 786-3160.

Note: Map is divided into 5-kilometer squares so that Audubon Society volunteers can more easily survey areas on a regular basis.

Sources: Sea and Sage Audubon Society; "The Birder's Handbook," Ehrlich, Dobkin and Wheye, Fireside Books (1988); "Field Guide to the Birds of North America," National Geographic Society (1987); "Birds of Southern California: Status and Distribution," Garrett and Dunn, Los Angeles Audubon Society (1981).

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