Cornell Lab of Ornithology Birdscope
SPRING 1999/VOLUME 13, NUMBER 2

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Foiling Starlings
BY MONA CAVALLERO


Please cite this Page as:
Cavallero, M. 1999.  Foiling Starlings.   Birdscope, Volume 13, Number 2:  11.


Here's what works for this West Hartford, Connecticut FeederWatcher

Have you ever had a European Starling invasion? FeederWatcher Mona Cavallero of West Hartford, Connecticut, chronicles the recent starling events in her backyard. She hopes her experiences will help fellow FeederWatchers keep their cool when hordes of starlings show up.

December 1, 1998
Huge invasion of starlings! More than 50 birds at a time. They've taken over my feeders and scared away the other birds.

I've tried everything to dissuade them: I've taken down all suet and tray feeders except for one tray feeder full of white safflower seeds for the chickadees, doves, cardinals, and other birds. Starlings aren't supposed to like safflower seeds, but guess what? Mine do.

I have switched almost entirely to tube and small bird feeders. This seems to deter the starlings somewhat, but they still eat anything and land on anything. I admire starlings. They are a hardy, adaptable, and interesting species-but I want these big flocks to go somewhere else!

December 15, 1998
Starling numbers are down. Is it anything I have done or are they just moving on? Hard to tell. I have since removed the peanut tube feeder, which is a shame because the chickadees and the woodpeckers love it. I had noticed that starlings love peanut butter and anything related to it-they had actually hovered near my homemade peanut-butter suet log.

Although I don't have as many starlings, I've noticed that my woodpeckers and cardinals are gone. Blue Jays keep visiting, but they don't seem to like the safflower seeds.

December 28, 1998
I put up one of those special suet feeders designed to foil starlings. Open only at the bottom. It provides easy feeding for acrobatic birds like nuthatches and chickadees. Starlings try to hold on, but they have a hard time turning upside down and drop to the ground.

I did put up some sunflower suet, which the starlings don't like as much as the peanut suet.

For the Blue Jays, I have started to add a little bit of cracked corn on the safflower tray. But if I see the starlings starting to come around, I stop offering it. Now I am getting only about 10 starlings at a time.

Some things I've noticed: as soon as we get a cold snap, more starlings show up. But on a Sunday when it was mild and sunny, I didn't have any at all. Also, they'll fly away if I make a harsh rap or loud noise, but for them to stay away, I've got to keep making sounds.

January 12, 1999
My six-week effort to reduce starling numbers worked, but I really had to stick to the techniques. I probably could eliminate them entirely if I took down the sunflower suet and quit offering cracked corn, but I feel they deserve a little something during the cold.

If you can get beyond the aggravation that big flocks bring, and reduce their numbers, you can appreciate starlings more. They really are quite intelligent birds and so comical to watch when a group of them splash around in our birdbath.

By the way, all of my other birds did eventually return. I've learned that if birds are hungry, they will come back.

February 8, 1999
Starlings at my feeder already have their shiny spring "coat" and yellow beak, and I've noticed them doing a sort of "bird talk"-they sit up in the trees and seem to talk with each other in "starlingese."

My efforts at foiling these starlings continue to work. I have tried taking photos of them for Birdscope, but they fly from the feeders before I can snap a shot-a real testimonial to my success.