DistributionWidespread throughout the northern hemisphere, the European Starling is native to Eurasia and is found throughout Europe, northern Africa, northern India, Nepal, the Middle East, and north-western China.
Furthermore, it has been introduced to and successfully established itself in New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, North America, Fiji, and several Caribbean islands. As a result, it has also been able to migrate to Thailand, Southeast Asia, and New Guinea. In Australia, Common Starlings are present throughout the southeast, although some isolated populations have been observed in northern and Western Australia. They are prevalent throughout New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, Tasmania, and scattered sites in the southeastern part of Western Australia.
StatusOverall, the European Starling is listed by the IUCN as being a species of least concern. However, it has been adversely affected in northern Europe by intensive agriculture, and in several countries, it has been red-listed due to declines of more than 50%.
BehaviorIt is a highly gregarious species in autumn and winter. Flock size is highly variable, with huge flocks providing a spectacular sight and sound usually occurring near roosts. These huge flocks often attract birds of prey such as Merlins or Sparrowhawks.
Flocks form a tight sphere-like formation in flight, frequently expanding and contracting and changing shape, seemingly without any sort of leader. Very large roosts, exceptionally up to 1.5 million birds, can form in city centres, woodlands, or reedbeds, causing problems with their droppings. These may accumulate up to 30 cm deep, killing trees by their chemical concentration; in smaller amounts, the droppings are, however, beneficial as a fertiliser, and therefore woodland managers may try to move roosts from one area of a wood to another to spread the benefit and avoid large toxic deposits.
HabitatCommon Starlings prefer urban or suburban areas where artificial structures and trees provide adequate nesting and roosting sites. They also commonly reside in grassy areas where foraging is easyâ€”such as farmland, grazing pastures, playing fields, golf courses, and airfields. They occasionally inhabit open forests and woodlands and more rarely in shrublands such as the Australian heathland. European Starlings rarely inhabit dense, wet forests . Common starlings have also adapted to coastal areas, where they nest and roost on cliffs and forage amongst seaweed. Their ability to adapt to a large variety of habitats has allowed for their dispersal and establishment throughout the worldâ€”resulting in a habitat range from coastal wetlands to alpine forests, from sea level to 1900 metres above sea level.
FoodThe European Starling is insectivorous, and typically consumes insects including caterpillars, moths, and cicadas, as well as spiders. While the consumption of invertebrates is necessary for successful breeding, starlings are omnivorous and can also eat grains, seeds, fruits, nectars, and garbage, if the opportunity arises. There are several methods by which they forage for their food; but for the most part, they forage from or near the ground, taking insects from or beneath the surface of the soil.
PredatorsStarlings are hunted by birds of prey, including the Peregrine Falcon and Brown Falcon. However, in the 1970s the consumption of chemically treated crops by the starlings which were subsequently eaten by Peregrine Falcons caused a dangerous build-up of the toxin in the falcon. As a result, lower reproductive success was observed as a result of thinner eggshells and a build-up of organochlorine residues in eggs.
European Starling nests are especially vulnerable to predators such as stoats, foxes, and humans. Common Mynas are also a threat, as they often evict eggs, nestlings, and adult starlings from their nests.
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