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European starling

European starling (Sturnus vulgaris) [nonnative] Photo © David W. Brewer

Features and Behaviors

The European starling averages seven and one-half to eight and one-half inches in length (tail tip to bill tip in preserved specimen). In the spring and summer, this bird’s black feathers are iridescent, and the large, pointed bill is yellow. In the fall and winter, the bird appears to be spotted, and the bill is dark. The young bird is gray-brown with no speckles.

The European starling is a permanent resident in all Illinois habitats except heavily forested areas. This bird was introduced into North America in 1890-91 at New York City. The first starling was seen in Illinois in 1922. It is considered a pest because it competes with native animals for nest sites and food, damages buildings and crops and can carry diseases. The starling is a very adaptable and aggressive bird. It may mimic the sounds of other birds or make a series of whistles, clicks and rattles. Starlings form huge roosts that are known for their noise and amount of waste products produced. The breeding season occurs from April through June. This bird nests in cavities or holes, competing with native species for nest sites. The nest is a mass of plant and other materials, which is built to fill the cavity. The female deposits five to seven, light-blue eggs. The male and female share incubation duties over the 11- to 13-day incubation period. Two broods are produced each year. The starling feeds on insects, berries and seeds.

Illinois Range


​Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Sturnidae

Illinois Status: common, nonnative