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What Do Starlings Eat: Diet and Feeding Habits

Written by Garrett Hayes

Last updated on Jan 25th, 2024
starling - featured image

The avian world is filled with fascinating species with unique characteristics and dietary preferences. Among these is the starling, a beautiful bird known for its synchronized flocking behavior and melodious songs. 

In this article, we will delve into the dietary habits of starlings, exploring what they eat, how they forage, and their impact on ecosystems. 

Additionally, we will address some frequently asked questions related to "What do starlings eat?" and more.

Let’s begin.

What Starlings Eat

Starlings are highly adaptable birds and have a diverse diet that varies depending on the season and the availability of food sources.

So what do Starlings eat? Their feeding habits can be classified into the following categories:

Insects and Invertebrates

Starlings are primarily insectivorous, they primarily eat insects, including beetles, ants, spiders, and earthworms. 

They are skilled aerial hunters, catching insects mid-flight or foraging on the ground. This diet provides them with essential proteins and nutrients, especially during the breeding season when they require higher energy levels.

Starlings diligently nourish their offspring with a blend of small, soft-bodied invertebrates, which are procured and transported to the nest by both the male and female parents. 

The specific composition of this diet may vary depending on their habitat but typically includes beetles, caterpillars, millipedes, cranefly larvae, grasshoppers, and crickets.

Soon after hatching, the nestlings are provided with these diminutive prey items, as they become capable of feeding. As the baby starlings grow older, their diet expands to incorporate larger insects and a broader range of nourishment.

Fruits and Berries

During the warmer months, starlings eat fruits and berries to shift their diet. They are known to consume a variety of fruits such as cherries, grapes, apples, and elderberries. 

Starlings play a crucial role in seed dispersal, aiding plant propagation and maintaining biodiversity.

Seeds and Grains

Starlings are opportunistic feeders and will consume seeds and grains when available. They often raid agricultural fields, causing concern for farmers due to their potential crop damage. 

Starlings are particularly attracted to grains like corn, sunflower seeds, and wheat, and can consume large quantities in a short period.

Nectar and Pollen

While starlings primarily rely on insects and fruits, they occasionally visit flowers and Starlings feed on nectar and pollen. 

Baby starlings eat nectar and contribute to pollination, promoting plant reproduction and ecosystem balance.

Other Birds And Small Animals

Due to their voracious appetites, starlings are generally opportunistic feeders, consuming a wide variety of food to sustain their energy reserves. 

This includes instances where adult starlings eat baby birds and eggs. However, it is more common for starlings to engage in aggressive behavior towards other birds in order to drive them away, rather than for the purpose of predation.

It's important to note that such behavior is driven by the necessity of finding food and the availability of resources. 

As long as starlings have access to a diverse omnivorous diet that fulfills their nutritional requirements, they typically do not consume baby starlings and other baby birds.

Nevertheless, starlings are still classified as omnivores and possess the capability to consume anything that fits within their soft beaks. While most types of meat may be too tough for them, a hungry starling might seize the opportunity to eat a broken egg if it presents itself.

Foods That Are Toxic To Starlings

Now that you know what Starlings eat, let's talk about what they don't.

While starlings have a diverse diet and can consume a wide variety of foods, there are certain food items that can be toxic to them.

If you have any concerns about feeding specific foods to starlings or other birds, it's always a good idea to consult with a local avian expert or veterinarian for further guidance. It's important to avoid feeding starlings these potentially harmful foods:

Chocolate

Chocolate contains theobromine, which is toxic to birds, including starlings. It can lead to symptoms such as increased heart rate, tremors, and even seizures. Avoid offering any chocolate-based products to starlings.

Avocado

Avocados contain a substance called persin, which can be toxic to Starlings and other birds. It can cause digestive issues, difficulty breathing, and even heart problems. Do not feed starlings any part of the avocado, including the flesh, pit, or skin.

Caffeine and Alcohol

Both caffeine and alcohol are harmful to birds, as they can negatively affect their nervous system and cause serious health issues. Do not feed starlings any caffeinated beverages or alcoholic beverages.

Salty Foods

Starlings have a low tolerance for sodium, and excessive salt intake can be harmful to them. However, they tend to have an appetite for salty foods, Starlings may also feel encouraged to eat processed foods. Avoid feeding them salty foods like chips, pretzels, or heavily salted nuts. Stick to natural, unsalted food options.

How And What To Feed Starlings Through Your Bird Feeder

If you wish to feed and attract starlings to your birdfeeders, keep in mind that they have relatively soft bills. 

Softbill mixes are especially well-received by starlings, as well as by robins, thrushes, blackbirds, and wagtails. These mixes typically consist of soft grains, sunflower hearts, raisins/sultanas, and mealworms.

In addition to softbill mixes, suet, mealworms, fat balls, and human foods like kitchen scraps are excellent options for starlings. 

However, it's important to be cautious because a hungry flock of starlings will devour almost anything you offer them, including more expensive suets or birdseed mixes.

Keep in mind that the kind of bird food you're offering Starlings should match the feeder you'll put them into. 

But, you don't always have to use feeders, sometimes food scattered on the ground is what they love most!

To make sure they have a great feeding experience, you may also provide a birdbath. This is because Starlings require water for drinking and bathing as well, not just a bird feeder. Install a shallow birdbath or a basin of water at ground level or raised on a pedestal. Ensure it is clean and refreshed regularly.

You can create a diverse and natural environment by planting native trees, shrubs, and flowers from which starlings eat and seek cover. Evergreen trees or dense vegetation can provide nesting sites and shelter.

And most importantly, avoid using pesticides and herbicides in your yard, as they can harm starlings and their food sources. Opt for natural pest control methods and create a chemical-free environment.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can starlings be attracted to bird feeders?

Yes, starlings can be attracted to bird feeders if they contain suitable food. However, they have a competitive nature and may intimidate smaller birds or consume large quantities of food, which can be problematic for bird enthusiasts.

How can I deter starlings from damaging my crops?

There are several methods to deter starlings from damaging crops, including using scare devices, netting, or implementing cultural practices that make the environment less favorable for them, such as reducing potential nesting sites.

Are Starlings Omnivores?

Yes, starlings are indeed omnivores. They exhibit behavior that leans towards insectivory for a significant part of the year. During this period, starlings primarily rely on insects as their primary food source.

However, as the summer season approaches and seeds, grains, nuts, and berries become more abundant, their diet expands to include these plant-based foods.

Wrapping It Up

Starlings are remarkable birds with diverse and adaptable diets. Their feeding habits encompass various foods, including insects, fruits, seeds, and nectar. Understanding what Starlings eat and their foraging behavior is essential for appreciating their role in ecosystems. 

While they can occasionally be seen as pests due to crop damage, it is important to recognize the positive impact they have on insect control and seed dispersal. 

By striking a balance between human concerns and ecological considerations, we can coexist harmoniously with these captivating creatures.

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