European Starlings

Starling (Sturnus vulgarus) in garden, Norfolk.
David Tipling/Oxford Scientific/Getty Images

Common Names:

Starling, European Starling, Common Starling, English Starling

Scientific Name:

Sturnus vulgaris.

Origin:

Starlings are native to Europe, but were introduced to North America during the late 1800's. Wild populations of European Starlings have now been documented in every continental US state and Canadian Territory.

Size:

European Starlings grow to be about 10 inches long from the beak to the tips of the tail feathers.

Average Lifespan:

15 - 20 years.

Temperament:

Starlings are active, social birds who love spending time with their owners. Pet European Starlings are known for bonding closely with their caretakers and seeking them out for companionship. Starlings are every bit as intelligent as other more common pet bird species, and can even learn to talk. According to some, Starlings can even talk better than parrots! Those who want to keep a pet Starling should be prepared for a very curious, smart, and interactive pet.

Colors:

Adult Starlings are predominantly black, with subtle color changes taking place within their plumage throughout the year. During the spring and summer months, the feathers on the head and chest take on beautiful iridescent hues of purple and green, while in the colder months their feathers develop beautiful white tips, or "stars". Juvenile Starlings are normally a brownish-gray color until they molt into their adult plumage.

Feeding:

In the wild, European Starlings enjoy a variety of insects as their main source of food. Because of this, commercially prepared bird diets, even those meant for songbirds, are not nutritionally adequate for Starlings. The healthiest and longest-lived pet Starlings eat diets that their owners prepare for them at home.

It is best for potential Starling owners to become familiar with a good, nutritionally sound Starling food recipe.

Exercise:

Starlings enjoy being active, and they need proper exercise in order to stay in top condition. Starlings do not climb like parrots do, so most of their exercise comes from free flight. It's important for Starling owners to realize that wing clipping is not an option for these birds. For a Starling to be healthy, you must provide it with a large flight cage, so that it has the opportunity to exercise its wings. It is also highly recommended that Starlings are allowed a minimum of 1 - 2 hours supervised free flight outside of the cage every day, in a "bird-proofed" area.

European Starlings as Pets:

Most pet Starlings in North America were wild babies that were orphaned, fell from their nests, or rejected by the mother for some reason. While they are an uncommon pet, those who share their lives with a Starling insist that their bonds with their birds are just as strong as those that owners of more common species report.

While the Migratory Bird Treaty Act protects wild birds from human interference, the European Starling is one of 3 species that are excluded. This means that there is no federal law preventing people from keeping a Starling as a pet, however, potential owners are encouraged to check with their state and local wildlife regulatory agencies to learn about any laws in their area.



If you become a parent to an orphaned baby Starling, you will need to understand that you are making a lifetime commitment. Starlings can live for up to 20 years, and you can't just release one back into the wild if you tire of taking care of it. Once these birds imprint on their human caretakers, (which happens very quickly if they are handfed as babies) they will not be able to join a wild flock, will have no idea how to relate to other birds, and will be clueless as to how to hunt for food.

For more information on raising European Starlings, be sure to visit Starling Talk, the best resource on the web for information on the care and keeping of pet Starlings.