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European Starling, Tania Simpson
Photo © Tania Simpson

Photo: Tania Simpson
Breeding evidence - European Starling
Breeding evidence
Probability of observation - European Starling
Probability of observation
Elevation plot - European Starling
Elevation plot

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European Starling
Sturnus vulgaris
Landscape associations:

Click on plot to view table of mean abundance
Elevation range:
0 - 1361 m
Conserv. status:
Not at risk
Global importance
of B.C. population:
N/A
Number of squares
ConfirmedProbablePossiblePoint counts
554 61 283 397
Long-term BBS trends
RegionYearsTrend (conf. interv.) Reliab.
Brit. Col.1970 - 2012 -3.75 (-4.79 - -2.55)Medium
Canada1970 - 2012 -2.52 (-3.22 - -1.85)Medium

Mean abundance by region

Bird Conservation Regions [plot]
NW Interior ForestBoreal Taiga PlainsGreat BasinNorthern RockiesN. Pacific Rainforest
 0.21 0.640.27 1.13
Ecoprovinces [plot]
N. Boreal Mountains Taiga Plains Boreal Plains Georgia Depression Sub-Boreal Interior
   0.211.23 0.41
S. Interior Mountains Central Interior Southern Interior S. Alaska Mountains Coast & Mountains
0.240.23 0.64  0.56

Mean abundance by habitat [plot]

Boreal Altai Fescue AlpineBoreal White and Black SpruceBunchgrassCoastal Douglas-fir
 0.20.471.11
Coastal Mountain-heather AlpineCoastal Western HemlockEngelmann Spruce -- Subalpine FirInterior Cedar -- Hemlock
 1.15 0.2
Interior Douglas-firInterior Mountain-heather AlpineMontane SpruceMountain Hemlock
0.62 0.14 
Ponderosa PineSpruce -- Willow -- BirchSub-Boreal Pine -- SpruceSub-Boreal Spruce
0.64 0.180.28

Characteristics and Range The introduction of the European Starling to North America is one of the most dramatic examples of the translocation of an alien bird species anywhere in the world. Native to Europe and Asia, about 100 birds were released into New York's Central Park in 1890 and 1891. Within a century it had become one of the commonest and most widespread species on the continent, occurring from the Boreal Forest to Mexico, with a population estimated to number more than 200 million birds (Cabe 1993). It arrived in British Columbia around 1945. It is a very charismatic bird, an exceptional ventriloquist capable of mimicking many bird and man-made sounds, and forms dense flocks that twist and turn in flight with mesmerising synchrony, in order to reduce predation risk. It is also a crop pest responsible for an estimated $800 million of damage annually (Pimentel et al. 2000). It has also been introduced to Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

Distribution, Abundance, and Habitat In British Columbia the European Starling is largely associated with human settlements, so is most widespread in southern, central and northeastern regions. It occupies a similar provincial range now to when The Birds of British Columbia was published in 1997, with some subtle differences: the Atlas shows more extensive clusters of breeding on northern Vancouver Island, around Prince George and the Peace River lowlands, and less widespread records through much of the Southern Interior Mountains Ecoprovince.

The main centre of abundance is in the lower Fraser Valley and adjacent areas of the Georgia Depression Ecoprovince, as noted by Campbell et al. (1997). It is also common in the valley systems of the Southern Interior Ecoprovince, and more locally in the southern Coast and Mountains Ecoprovince. Highest abundance occurs at the lowest elevations.

Starlings are closely associated with human settlements and connecting transport corridors, using rural, suburban and urban areas, especially with access to agricultural habitats that provide plentiful feeding opportunities (especially berry crops, orchards and well-watered grazing pastures). They also readily colonise natural and semi-natural habitats including mixed forests, especially riparian strips and Trembling Aspen (Populus tremuloides) groves that provide nest sites. Nests are made in a wide variety of cavities and crevices, natural and man-made.

Conservation and Recommendations After a period of prolific increase, the long-term trajectory of European Starling populations across Canada and in British Columbia is now declining (Environment Canada 2011). This invasive alien species is of conservation concern for the potential impacts it has on native species. The European Starling outcompetes many native cavity nesters, but most evidence suggests that it does not exert a major effect, especially in areas where nest cavities are not limiting (Koch et al. 2012). It is considered a nuisance in locations where large roosts deposit heavy fecal loads and substantial noise, and is a major agricultural pest in orchard and vineyard regions of the southern interior and Fraser River delta. Ongoing eradication in the Okanagan Valley requires improved science to be effective (Neuhauser 2013). Best practices for farmers to minimise the impacts of starlings are available (Holm and Kirk 2013).

Peter J. A. Davidson

Recommended citation: Davidson, P.J.A. 2015. European Starling in Davidson, P.J.A., R.J. Cannings, A.R. Couturier, D. Lepage, and C.M. Di Corrado (eds.). The Atlas of the Breeding Birds of British Columbia, 2008-2012. Bird Studies Canada. Delta, B.C. http://www.birdatlas.bc.ca/accounts/speciesaccount.jsp?sp=EUST&lang=en [16 Dec 2018]

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