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How far will starlings fly to feed on a daily basis?
a) 1 mile
b) 5 miles
c) 10 miles
d) 30 miles or more
Correct Trivia Answer: d) Each day they may fly 15 to 30 or more miles from roosting to feeding sites.
Starlings are robin-sized birds weighing about 3.2 ounces. Adults are dark with light speckles on the feathers. The speckles may not show at a distance. The bill of both sexes is yellow during the reproductive cycle (January to June) and dark at other times. Juveniles are pale brown to gray.
Starlings generally are chunky and hump-backed in appearance. The tail is short, and the wings have a triangular shape when outstretched in flight. Starling flight is direct and swift, not rising and falling like the flight of many blackbirds.
Starlings are found in a wide variety of habitats including cities, towns, farms, ranches, open woodlands, fields, and lawns. Ideal nesting habitat would include areas with trees or other structures that have cavities suitable for nesting and short grass (turf) areas or grazed pastures for foraging. Ideal winter habitat would include areas with structures and/or tall trees for daytime loafing (resting) and nighttime roosting; and grazed pastures, open water areas, and livestock facilities for foraging.
Starlings nest in holes or cavities almost anywhere, including tree cavities, birdhouses, and holes in buildings or cliff faces. Females lay 4 to 7 eggs which hatch after 11 to 13 days of incubation. Young leave the nest when they are about 21 days old. Both parents help build the nest, incubate the eggs, and feed the young.
Outside the breeding season, starlings feed and roost together in flocks. Starling flocks often roost in urban landscape trees or in small dense woodlots or overcrowded tree groves. They choose areas that offer ample perches so that all may roost together. Each day they may fly 15 to 30 or more miles from roosting to feeding sites. During the day when not feeding, they may perch in smaller groups inside farm buildings or in other warm, protected spots in and around urban structures.
Starlings consume a variety of foods, including fruits and seeds of both wild and cultivated varieties. Insects, especially lawn grubs, and other invertebrates total about one-half of the diet overall, and are especially important during the spring breeding season. Other items including livestock rations and food in garbage become an important food base for wintering starlings.
One of the more serious health concerns is the fungal respiratory disease histoplasmosis. The fungus Histoplasma capsulatum may grow in the soils beneath bird roosts, and spores become airborne in dry weather, particularly when the site is disturbed. Although most cases of histoplasmosis are mild or even unnoticed, this disease can, in rare cases, cause blindness and/or death. Individuals who are weakened by other health conditions or who do not have endemic immunity are at greater risk from histoplasmosis.
Starlings also compete with native cavity-nesting birds such as bluebirds, flickers, and other woodpeckers, purple martins, and wood ducks for nest sites.
To control starlings, close all openings larger than 1 inch to exclude them from buildings or other structures. This is a permanent solution to problems inside the structure. Heavy plastic (polyvinyl chloride, PVC) or rubber strips hung in open doorways of farm buildings have been successful in some areas in excluding birds while allowing people, machinery, or livestock to enter.
Where starlings are roosting or nesting on the ledge of a building, place a wooden, metal, or Plexiglas covering over the ledge at a 45º angle to prevent use. Bird spikes are also available for preventing roosting on ledges or roof beams.
Frightening is effective in dispersing starlings from roosts and other troublesome sites. Frightening devices include recorded distress or alarm calls, gas-operated exploders, battery-operated alarms, pyrotechnics (shellcrackers, bird bombs), lasers (for roosting sites at night), bright objects, and various other stimuli. Ultrasonic (high frequency, above 20 kHz) sounds are not effective in frightening starlings and most other birds because, like humans, they do not hear these sounds.
Harassing birds throughout the evening as they land can be effective in dispersing bird roosts if done for three to four consecutive evenings or until birds no longer return. A combination of several scare techniques used together works better than a single technique used alone. Vary the location, intensity, and types of scare devices to increase their effectiveness. Two additional tips for successful frightening efforts: 1) begin early before birds form a strong attachment to the site, and 2) be persistent until the problem is solved.
If you’re having problems with starlings, call 1-800-CRITTER to speak to the Critter Control professional nearest you.
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