How to Discourage Starlings & other Bullies
How to Discourage Starlings & other Bullies
- Sep 24, 2018
Are you having trouble with Starlings at your feeders? Are they running your songbirds off and eating all their food? Keep reading for some tips on getting rid of these pesky bully birds.
What's the big deal about Starlings?
Starlings are a non-native, invasive species of bird. They were introduced in the late 19th century from Europe and thrive here. In fact, they have multiplied in number to about 200 million individuals in North America.
Usually seen as pests, Starlings are interesting birds! They are strong fliers, able to reach speeds approaching 50 mph. The oldest recorded wild starling was over 15 years old!
Like many birds, Starlings have many different plumage colors throughout the year. Even their beaks change color! They can make a large variety of sounds and also imitate many other birds, even hawks.
Starlings group together in huge flocks and form murmurations, which are a spectacular sight to see. But the birds are so numerous that these swarms are both noisy and very messy. Since they are ground foragers, they can engulf an entire lawn when they flock in large numbers.
They are big birds and they are aggressive. They run off other birds from feeders and sometimes even take over their nests. Starlings compete with native songbird species for food and space and almost always come out on top, as is the case with many invasive species.
Starlings are quite resourceful. They eat A LOT. And their favorite foods are also a favorite for the desirable bird species. Because they eat so much, they are great for controlling invertebrates that threaten crops. However, with their voracious appetites, they often threaten the crops themselves.
They are prolific breeders. One individual can raise about 8 offspring in a year. Starlings do have predators, but they are mostly birds of prey, and Starlings are much quicker and more agile in the air than they are.
So how to I discourage them?
The quickest fix is to swap out your feeders for a different style feeder that allows food to be eaten only while hanging upside down. Woodpeckers and other cling feeders won't be deterred, but Starlings will. Since they are ground foragers, hanging upside down to get food feels unnatural to them, and is just too much work. Usually this is enough of a deterrent for them to move along to the next location.
A second option is to enclose your feeders with chicken wire so only small birds can get through the openings. Make sure the chicken wire barrier is at least 2 inches away from your feeder, otherwise the starlings can reach through.
Usually, taking one of the above measures is enough to deter Starlings after a time. But if they are persistently hanging around, keep reading for more tips!
Don't offer their favorite foods. Starlings love suet, kitchen scraps, corn, bread, and sunflower seeds. Instead, offer what they don't care for, such as thistle, safflower, and peanuts.
Clean up underneath your feeders regularly. Don't leave any other food sources out and accessible. Prune the trees on your property so they aren't as thick with vegetation. Less cover makes them feel more exposed, and they are apt to move on to a more secure setting.
Make sure all birdhouses on your property have smaller entrance holes - no bigger than 1.25 inches in diameter - to avoid starlings nesting where you would rather have native songbirds. Similarly, make sure the siding on your house is sealed and there are no open crevices that may be overtaken and used as a nest. If you have an open barn or pavilion, consider using mesh netting underneath the rafters to prevent unwanted nesting.
Another option is sonic repellent devices. These are highly effective, but incredibly annoying and loud.
As a very last resort, you might remove your feeders entirely for a few weeks. The birds you want to keep around will be disappointed, but the idea is to be able to start fresh.
Whatever you decide to do, don't shoot Starlings! It's just too risky. The bullet could ricochet, you might hit a protected native bird species, or your neighbor's house in the background, or worse. Even if you do successfully take out a few Starlings, it won't make a dent in the population, and it won't deter others from coming around.
Have you used any of the above tactics to deter Starlings? Do you have any more tips to add? We'd love to hear - please share with us on social media!