Bird Database

European Starling

(Sturnus vulgaris)

State of the Birds
At a Glance





Strongly Decreasing


None identified

Conservation Actions

None identified

European Starling

(Sturnus vulgaris)

Perhaps the most famous thing about the European Starling in North America is the story of its introduction. The species is native to Europe and western and central Asia, where it is a common and well-respected member of the avifauna. And because it was mentioned in the works of William Shakespeare it caught the fancy of a group of well-meaning Americans who, in the late 1800s tried to introduce all such birds to this continent. Apparently around 100 birds were released in New York City in 1890-91, and it is believed that all ninety million starlings currently estimated to occur across the United States and Canada are derived from this founder population.

This is great news if you’re an afficionado of Shakespearian birds, but not so much if you’re a native cavity-nesting bird. Even in their native range starlings are aggressive competitors for nest sites and will exclude species like woodpeckers from their holes. Here in the United States, they’ve been known to usurp the cavities of birds as diverse as ducks and swallows, with negative effects on species such as Purple Martin and Eastern Bluebird. Thankfully, active management of these two species has largely reduced the threat posed by starlings. At the same time, starling populations are in consistent decline across North America, the rare decline that conservation biologists are worried about. Similar declines in Europe may be due to intensification of agriculture, which has altered natural habitats and possibly reduced some sources of food.

Conservation issues aside, starlings are fascinating birds. They are highly social and form large flocks outside the breeding season. Birds in these flocks fly quite closer together and often maneuver synchronously in beautiful shifting flocks called murmurations. These form in response to a predator or when the flock prepares to go to roost for the night. Starlings are also excellent mimics, exceeded in North America only by mockingbirds and their relatives. Remember this when you hear a Killdeer or pewee in the middle of the winter when starlings are starting to sing but the migrants they’re copying are still nowhere near New Hampshire.

Seasonal Abundance

Relative abundance based on eBird data. Numbers indicate likelihood of finding this species in suitable habitat at a given time of year, not actual numbers encountered.

European Starling
Range Map

Information for the species profiles on this website was compiled from a combination of the sources listed below.

  • The Birds of New Hampshire. By Allan R. Keith and Robert B. Fox. 2013. Memoirs of the Nuttall Ornithological club No. 19.

  • Atlas of the Breeding Birds of New Hampshire. Carol R. Foss, ed. 1994. Arcadia Publishing Company and Audubon Society of New Hampshire

  • Birds of the World. Various authors and dates. Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology.

  • Data from the Breeding Bird Survey

  • Data from the Christmas Bird Count