European Starling

Sturnus vulgaris
European Starling specimens on display in the exhibit "Birds of D.C."

A medium-sized (7 ½ -8 ½ inches) songbird, the European Starling in summer is most easily identified by its glossy iridescent body, long yellow bill, and short tail. In winter, this species becomes duller overall with white-spotted plumage and a dark bill. Immature birds are dull brownish-gray, but are shaped similarly to adults. Male and female European Starlings are similar to one another in all seasons. The European Starling is native to Europe and West Asia, wintering to North Africa and the Middle East. In recent times, this species has been introduced elsewhere in the world, including in temperate North America, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. Some introduced populations of European Starlings migrate short distances in spring and fall, but many such populations in warmer climates are wholly non-migratory. European Starlings inhabit a wide variety of open habitats, including grasslands, meadows, and agricultural fields, across their wide range. This species has also been incredibly successful at utilizing man-made habitats, and may be found in the heart of major urban areas. European Starlings eat a variety of foods, including seeds, grains, insects, and (in some areas) human refuse. In temperate and subtropical parts of the world, the European Starling is often one of the most visible bird species, particularly in urban areas. Individuals may be observed foraging for food in fields, yards, parks, and even on bare sidewalk. This species is a cavity nester, and birds in introduced populations are frequently reviled for aggressively displacing native birds from nest sites. European Starlings are primarily active during the day.

DC Information

Introduced. Common permanent resident, very abundant in winter. Found throughout this area in most habitats, particularly in or near developed areas. Breeds early February to late July. Adults in fresh plumage (late summer) have whitish tips on many of the feathers, giving them a speckled appearance. Spring birds are uniformly dark. The young are brownish.

Specimen Information

In the exhibit, the two dark speckled birds are adults; the one that is lighter speckled and the one that is lighter without speckles are juveniles.  This image shows one juvenile on the left and an adult on the right.

Distribution Map

distribution map for this species

Bird Vocalizations

Sound from xeno-canto. XC53831 Sturnus vulgaris (Common Starling)

Sound from xeno-canto. XC27153 Sturnus vulgaris (Common Starling)

Sound from xeno-canto. XC27154 Sturnus vulgaris (Common Starling)