European StarlingSturnus vulgaris Linnaeus
Status Introduced, common resident. Breeds. Abundant, except remote from human settlement in the wooded interior, where it is still rare in summer and absent in winter. Its first recorded appearance in Nova Scotia was on 1 December 1915 when a bird was picked up at Dartmouth. Two days later, another was shot in Dartmouth. Others were collected on 18 December 1919 at Liverpool and on 8 February 1921 at Comeau's Hill, Yarmouth County, but nothing more was heard of them until 1925, after which they became much less a novelty. The first nest was found in Halifax in 1928. In May 1930, four nests were found in Yarmouth and another at Port Maitland, Yarmouth County. On 20 June 1933 a flock of 40-50 birds at Avonport, Kings County, were all birds of that year (R.W. Tufts). Nowadays thousands of these birds are counted at their roosts during Christmas Bird Counts; their phenomenal increase in just short of 70 years is shown in these 1983 figures: Amherst, 1,425; Halifax East, 3,935; Halifax West, 6,514; Wolfville,5,255; and Yarmouth,2,275.
Description Length: 19-21.5 cm. Adults in summer: Plumage iridescent, showing green, blue and purple reflections, except wings and tail, where the feathers are duller, with brown margins; belly black; back and flanks marked with buff spots; bill yellow. Adults in winter: Similar but buff spots more numerous above; underparts spotted with white.
Breeding Nest: Usually in holes in trees, in apertures under eaves of houses or outbuildings, or in nest boxes; composed of dry grass and other vegetable debris. Three male starlings were shot between late April and early May 1958 while carrying beakfuls of nesting material to a nest site reserved for a pair of Northern Flickers. Eggs: 5-6; pale blue. The first recorded nesting for Nova Scotia was at Gorsebrook Golf Club in Halifax on 26 June 1928, when I collected a set of five heavily incubated eggs from a nest about 6 m up in a large chestnut tree; a hole excavated by flickers had been taken over and heavily lined with grass. Nesting starts about mid-April and young fledge by late May. If a pair loses its first nest, determined efforts to build anew are made until late June, when the urge to breed ends rather abruptly.
Range Successfully introduced from the Old World to North America at New York City in 1890, it has now spread to Newfoundland, southern Labrador, northern Quebec, northern Manitoba, the southern Yukon, Alaska and northern British Columbia, south to northern Florida and Mexico. Winters north to southern Canada.
Remarks The earliest recorded effort to introduce the European Starling into North America was made in 1872, when a number were brought over from Europe and released in Ohio. This effort failed, as did a number of subsequent tries there. The next attempt took place on 6 March 1890, when 80 birds were imported and liberated at Central Park, New York City, by Eugene Scheiffer. To help these birds establish themselves, 20 additional pairs were released at the same place on 25 April 1891. For about six years they and their progeny did not stray far from New York City, but gradually the spread began. The hordes of Starlings that now swarm over much of North America unquestionably sprang from these Central Park releases.
Because it is generally disliked for a number of reasons, governments have vied with one another to devise ways to control its numbers or break up the immense roosts that deface public buildings and park groves in many of the larger cities. Innumerable devices, ranging from chemical sprays to two-faced artificial owls and one-eyed cats, have been invented and tried, but to date no one has come up with the right answer. The natural enemies of the starling are limited to the bird-eating hawks; in Nova Scotia we have only two, the Sharp-shinned Hawk and the Merlin, and they are far too uncommon to be effective. Our only hope is that the time may come—and it may have arrived already—when the population will reach a level beyond which natural forces will not permit it to increase. Studies of this bird's behaviour indicate that it is endowed with a high order of intelligence which it applies to all phases of its family life. There appears to be an intimate understanding and spirit of co-operation between the two parents which has made them highly adaptive and successful wherever conditions are favourable to their survival.
Questions? Comments? E-mail us at: Museumemail@example.com
Credits and copyright information. Last updated February 20, 1998
Best viewed with Netscape 3.0 or Internet Explorer 3.0 or later.
For further information contact Webmaster, Nova Scotia Museum.