Notice: This page is a accumulation of a life time of experiences (both mine and others) and is not for those that do not
understand the significance of dealing with vineyard pests.
The European Starling was introduced into North America in 1880, by an acclimatization society, headed by Eugene Schieffelin and sadly, the European Starling is here to stay.
Sadder still is the devastation that's been left in the wake of European Starlings as they continue to cut a swatch of destruction on crops, diseases passed onto livestock, on cavity nesting birds, and on commercial jet airliners that are struck by thousands of flocking European Starling (in the late summer and fall months) that get sucked into jet engines during takeoffs and landings threatening the lives of both passengers and people on the ground.
Yes, they are in overwhelming numbers, and we only have ourselves to blame. People simply see European Starlings nesting in crevices or cavities in city builds, shopping malls or lamp poles and say to their sons and daughters, "Look at the cute birds nesting there" not knowing that they are looking at highly intelligent killers in the making. The vast majority of people are simple unaware, or can not even comprehend how destructive these introduced exotics are to our prosperity and to nature in general.
I know this sounds alarmist and harsh, but make no mistake about it, this is a war! Using falconry or sound generating machines (that imitate Starlings in distress) to scare the birds away and or expensive netting to keep them away from crops or building, is akin to applying a bandage to a gangrenous arm. These measures do nothing to remove the problem, they only move the problem to another location, so the infection continues to spread. Like weeds in a garden, European Starlings will continue to multiple until they either chock out the garden or are controlled by being pulled out by the roots!
As European Starlings continue to grow their unabated hordes, the costs incurred around the world by farming operations big or small will be nothing short of catastrophic. Moreover, their killing off of other cavity nesting birds with their aggressive nesting habits, will ultimately make the European Starling the dominate bird species.
Until a genetic approach can be developed and no matter how daunting the challenge, there is still hope. So lets take a closer look at the European Starling, and we will make an effort to expose their "Achilles heal", so we can bring there numbers down to manageable levels.
First we need to help make the public aware that European Starlings are found all over the planet, hence managing their numbers locally will not endanger the species in the least.
That European Starlings have plagued mankind from the beginning of man's earliest agricultural endeavors to the present.
That during the nesting season, the European Starlings aggressive, deadly cavity nesting tactics, poses a genuine threat to the preservation of other cavity nesting birds here in the USA and abroad.
Next we need to rethink our strategy for dealing with one of the most intelligent, prolific and successful birds on the planet. Buying expense netting for vineyards is by far the wrong way to deal with this pests, when there is a more effective and economical solution to this challenge.
Winter Time: European Starling at their weakest level
We must fight this avian menace, by looking up stream where European Starlings populations are at their weakest level. European Starlings are not known to migrate to any significant degree, so if they can not find cover, many will simply die due to winter exposure and the survivors can be easily baited to Bait Stations (see Bait Station) or Traps (see products page) to be dispatched in turn.
Denying winter cover or roosting sites (i.e. crevices or cavities found in the eves of building, lamp posts and trees) will expose more European Starlings to winter weather killing them off to exposer, and the subsequent elimination of European Starlings with traps, pellet rifles, wrist rockets, and firearms will help reduce the European Starling breeding adults further, thus quelling the flood waters of breeding adults and fledgelings (babies that left nests that year) that will attack crops during the fall harvest time. The other benefit to the above actions is the reduced pressure that European Starling breeders pose to our native cavity nesting birds in the Spring nesting season.
Like using a hand pump to drawing water from a well, you have to pump hard and fast to get the water up and out of the well, but once you have the water you no longer have to work as hard. Same thing applies to liquidating European Starlings, you will have to be very aggressive until you bring the populations down in your area, but once they are under control it's just a matter of maintenance.
Conclusion: Deny European Starlings places to roost or breed inside cities, towns, and farms (i.e. crevices or cavities found in the eves of building, lamp posts and trees) and continue to kill European Starlings in the winter and nesting seasons with traps and firearms. Doing so will in a few years reduce European Starling numbers to more manageable levels.
European Starling Identification
Lets start with European Starling identification, and you will need a good pair of binoculars for the methods described on this page.
If you have a set of binoculars then you're ready to go, if not buy a good quality pair of 7 x 35 binoculars. You can buy higher powered binoculars, but anything high will strain your eyes over a day long shoot.
For the experienced birder you can skip this section and move to the next, but for those that want to bone up or for those that have no idea of what a European Starling even looks like or how to sex the birds, please read the following for proper identification.
The European Starling belongs to the family Sturnidae, order Passeriformes. Sturnidae, are perching birds that number more than 111 species, including the Mynah. The European Starling can be described as a stocky, medium-sized black bird with a short tail. The tip of the tail just barely extends beyond the tips of the closed wings. In flight, the Starling has a distinctly triangular shape. The European Starling is about the same size as a Robin. The total length of the European Starling is about 8.5 inches (21.6 cm).
Summer plumage is a glossy black with iridescencent purple and green feathers that are tipped in white. The legs are a reddish color. The bill is tapered and conical, and is yellow-colored in the summer. Except for possible escaped exotic Mynah birds (common, crested, and hill Mynahs), the Starling is the only black-colored bird with a yellow bill found in the United States.
Winter plumage is black with light colored tips on the feathers. Both summer and winter plumage give the Starling a distinctly speckled appearance. The bill is dark brown in winter. Young Starlings have brown-grey feathers and a whitish throat. Juveniles are brown with a dark bill, and might be confused with female and juvenile blackbirds, except for their characteristically short tails. The tip of the tail just barely extends beyond the tips of the closed wings. In flight, the Starling has a distinctly triangular shape. A spot at the base of the bill provides the only color difference between the sexes; bluish in males, reddish in females. Females usually have a slightly more spotted appearance.
HOW TO TELL THE SEX OF A STARLING
According to the book STARLINGS AND MYNAS (Chris Feare and Adrian Craig, Princeton University Press 1999),
female and male European Starlings can be distinguished by the following characteristics:
1. Eye color.
A male's eye color is uniformly dark, while a female has a lighter ring around the inner or outer margin of the iris. This ring may be cream, whitish, grayish, yellow, or light brown.
2. Color at the base of the beak.
Female and male starlings have a slightly different color at the base of the beak, a difference with is relatively easily visible in the yellow-beaked phase, visible only with close examination in the dark-beaked phase. Females have a pinkish tinge to the base of the beak, males a bluish tinge.
3. Feather color.
Spotting: Females have more spotting and larger spots on the breast. Although this is the easiest way to sex wild starlings, note that wild starlings of both sexes tend to lose their spotting through spring and summer, because of abrasion as they go in and out of nest holes, so this difference is relative.
Iridescence: Males have more iridescence on greater areas of the body. While both sexes have iridescence on the wings and back, males have more iridescence on the head, nape, throat, breast, rump, and under tail coverts.
Though any European Starling kill is acceptable and allowed by law (there are no Fish and Game laws that protect European
Starlings), so you can use any means at your disposal to eliminate them from your area. This page is primarily dedicated
to thumping European Starling breeders and you should thump them all year long.
European Starling Males: are worth 2 points.
For every European Starling female that you take out of breeding circulation, you have effectively removed 11 birds that year,
as European Starling females generally lay 2 clutches each year and each clutch generally consists of 5 eggs each. Taking
the female out removes 2 clutches so you have effectively scored 11 points.
To Start, it is absolutely illegal to discharge any firearm that uses
However, you can use air rifles (i.e. BB guns or pellet rifles) and wrist rockets are fantastic! If I had to pick any of
the above it would have to be a pellet rifle, as I've seen BB bounce off of birds and some European Starlings can be pretty
tough to knock down. However, I do like the wrist rocket because it makes no sound at all and it hits just as hard as any
pellet rifle, but it takes allot of practice time to learn how to hit anything with it.
Pick a location that allows you a convenient place to shoot safely (remember know your back stop) at the Bait Station and
service the Bait Station with fresh bait. Once you've determined the location, hang your bait station from a tree limb or
install a hanging post, so you can lure in the European Starlings to that location.
Keith Kridler, who's everyone's favorite Bluebirder out of the great state of Texas, came up with a great method for the backyard European Starling hunter, so here we go.
Locate a window that has your bait station in full view, cover the outside of that window with clear plastic, open your window, arm yourself, sit down inside the room facing the window and get ready for action.
As the European Starlings land on the Bait Station to take their fill of the bait, pick off the European Starlings at the Bait Station by shooting through the clear plastic outside the window. The best part about this method is the report of the pellet rifle stays in the room with you, so the European Starlings can not hear the bang. Next, the clear plastic looks like a closed window to the European Starlings, so they have know idea where the shots are coming from.
As the hit European Starlings drop from the Bait Station, some may fan off, but like bees to honey they can not resist the European Starling bait, so they continue to return. In one days shoot you can pick off between 20 to 50 birds or more a day, and that's not a bad way to spend an afternoon and your local birds will thank you too.
Hunting from Blinds
Sport Wash and UV Killer.
"All home laundry detergents contain U.V. brighteners that enhance the colors of your clothes. As a result, your camo clothing becomes more visible to game animals every time you wash it. Sport-Wash and U-V-Killer eliminate the brighteners from your clothes. First, wash clothes in biodegradable, scent-free Sport-Wash then spray on U-V-Killer."
Once I used Sport Wash and UV Killer on my camouflage clothing, I no longer had a problem with European Starlings spotting
me in my blind, on my Two Men Make One hunts (more on that below) and or out on open road. To my astonishment, I've been
able to walk on open roads using what available cover I could find to get with in shotgun range of European Starlings without
them even knowing I was there.
Birds can't count! Wow!
Because both hunters walked towards the European Starlings in single file, the European Starlings only saw a single man. Then
they saw a single man walk away from their favorite roosting tree, so they believe that all is clear and safe to return to
their favorite roosting tree, unaware that there is an ambush waiting for them under their roosting tree ready to cut loose.
BLAM BLAM !!! You'll be knocking down European Starlings left and right for a while and they will not even know what is happening
to them. However, there will be a point when they feel the area is unsafe and will not return.