Starlings (Sturnus vulgaris)
An introduced bird with an upright stance and a rapid jerking walk. First released in the 1850's in Victoria, it is now widespread throughout eastern Australia. It's name comes from the spangled star-like appearance of it's fresh autumn moult.
Starlings are omnivorous. They feed mostly on the ground, feeding on insects, seeds and small fruits. They are a major pest on cultivated fruit crops as well as industrial, commercial and domestic buildings
Starlings are now so numerous they may be threatening some native bird species by competing for nesting places - tree holes etc.
Up to 3 broods of four or five young each a year can be raised by a single pair of birds. In late summer, starlings can congregate in huge flocks (20,000 plus) and cause massive damage to crops in a matter of days. Starlings are very tough and wiry and yet show caution when dealing with man.
Starlings may commence eating grapes up to 6 weeks before harvest while sugar levels are still low. Their main source of protein is from insects and seeds, and energy from fruit.
Starlings have a high metabolic rate and obviously need to get more energy from their food source than they expend to obtain it. They need to get maximum return for the amount of energy they use up. This can be used to the farmer's advantage.
By harassing the starlings when they land in a crop and causing them to fly away, circle around and then land again, only to be chased away again is causing them to use up valuable energy for no return. Usually after half an hour or so of this, they move on to another "easier" site.
Starlings love power lines as a perch site, similarly they like big old dead trees. They usually avoid more heavily treed areas, probably to keep away from goshawks and the like which can ambush them.
As starlings can wheel around and land in any part of a crop (not only from the edges as birds like silvereyes will do), often we use speakers which are multi-directional (360 degrees) placed throughout the crop.
Of all the pest birds in Australia, we find the starlings by far the easiest to control. This is no doubt assisted by their flocking nature - one out, all out!