BIOLOGY AND BEHAVIOR European starlings were imported into New York in 1890 and have spread across the North American continent. Starling nests are built in tree cavities, openings in buildings, or deserted woodpecker holes of suitable size. Two to eight eggs are laid and the incubation period is 11 to 13 days. Both sexes help in this activity. DAMAGE As fledglings leave the nest they gather in small family groups of up to 10 birds, including 1 or 2 adults. These small groups merge together into large flocks. Merging continues until all of the birds in a local area are in one large flock. These flocks are responsible for depredations to soft fruits and other summer crops.
Frightening Devices Devices such as shell crackers, spraying with water, propane exploders, broadcast distress calls, and electronically produced sounds can frighten starlings from roosts. Begin the use of these devices as soon as birds make an appearance. It generally takes a persistent effort to move the birds from a favorite roost. Use a combination of frightening devices as soon as the first birds arrive.
Cultural Methods Starlings can be discouraged from using livestock facilities by removing spilled grain and standing water, using bird proof feeders and storage facilities, feeding livestock in open sheds, feeding livestock in late afternoon, and lowering water levels in water tanks. Exclusion Starlings can be excluded from rafters with plastic or wire mesh bird netting. They can be excluded from ledges with wires, various sticky substances such as Roost-No-More and Bird Tangle-foot, and by altering the angle of the ledge to 45 degrees or more with sheet metal or wood.
Trapping A trailer may be converted into a large mobile trap by building entrances on top and plugging all escape holes. In some instances slot entrances have proven more effective while at other times wire entrances were more successful. The trap location is important. Observations should be made to determine starling flight paths, resting or perching areas, and feeding areas before the traps are placed in operation. These traps have been most effective when placed in the open near, but not necessarily under, perching or feeding areas. Baits that have been used successfully include soft fruits, raisins, and poultry pellets. Bait placed on the ground inside the trap in large amounts with a little on the top near the entrance is most effective. Bait materials that the birds feed on in the area should be used for best results.
Baits Avitrol is a restricted use pesticide and a chemical frightening agent that can be spread in empty pens and alleyways of feedlots. Starlings that ingest sufficient bait will die, but they first display distress symptoms that frighten other members of the flock from the area. Starlicide is a restricted use pesticide that is registered for use on starlings in feedlots. The treated pellets should be mixed 1 to 10 with untreated pellets and scattered in empty pens and alleyways. This toxicant is available in pellet form, so prebaiting will be necessary if starlings are feeding on grain. Starlicide is a slow acting poison that takes up to 48 hours to kill the birds; many birds die at roost sites.
LEGAL STATUS European starlings are not protected by federal law and are not protected birds in Utah. Check with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources before poisoning birds.