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Common Starling

From Opus

Adult male S. v. vulgaris in summer plumagePhoto © by Donald TalbottLeicestershire, UK, 7 May 2015
Adult male S. v. vulgaris in summer plumage
Photo © by Donald Talbott
Leicestershire, UK, 7 May 2015

Alternative name: European Starling

Sturnus vulgaris


[edit] Identification

Adult female S. v. vulgaris in summer plumagePhoto © by Donald TalbottLeicestershire, UK, 27 April 2017
Adult female S. v. vulgaris in summer plumage
Photo © by Donald Talbott
Leicestershire, UK, 27 April 2017

Length 21–21.5 cm (8ΒΌ in), wingspan 37–42 cm, weight 55–100 g
A medium-sized, blackish, short-tailed songbird, often forming huge flocks. Compact shape, with triangular wings in flight. Wide variation in plumage with age, and some variation with time of year. Both sexes similar, although the female is slightly less glossy than the male, and differences in bill colour in spring.

Adult breeding

  • March to August
  • Adults glossy-black, males with few or even no spots by mid summer, females with somewhat more, though much individual variation
  • Bill yellow; with pale blue-grey base in males, and pale pinkish-yellow base in females
Adult winter S. v. vulgarisPhoto © by John KingDordogne, France, 16 December 2016
Adult winter S. v. vulgaris
Photo © by John King
Dordogne, France, 16 December 2016

Adult non-breeding

  • August to March
  • Glossed black with a purple and green shine
  • Tips of the body feathers have large white or buff spots
  • Dark bill
  • Red-brown legs
  • In late winter, the white spots gradually reduced or lost by feather wear, while the bill turns yellow and the legs turn pink.


  • Young birds are dull 'mousy' grey-brown with dark bill and legs
  • Moulting juveniles in late summer show a contrasting mixture of fresh adult non-breeding feathers and old juvenile feathers

[edit] Similar species

Spotless Starling in southwest Europe and northwest Africa is devoid of spots, but there are structural differences in the throat feathers (long and slender in Spotless, short in Common). Spotless Starlings are always blacker than Common Starlings, including the juveniles.

[edit] Distribution

Fresh juvenile S. v. vulgarisPhoto © by ChrisKtenLondon, UK; 2 June 2012
Fresh juvenile S. v. vulgaris
Photo © by ChrisKten
London, UK; 2 June 2012
Juvenile S. v. vulgaris moulting into first winter plumagePhoto © by Mali HallsRye Harbour Nature Reserve, Sussex,  UK, 2 September 2016
Juvenile S. v. vulgaris moulting into first winter plumage
Photo © by Mali Halls
Rye Harbour Nature Reserve, Sussex, UK, 2 September 2016
This starling is native to most of Europe and western and central Asia, but in most of the Iberian Peninsula and north Africa only as a winter visitor. A rare winter visitor in eastern Asia, east to southern Japan. Common or abundant in most of its range, but declining due to agricultural intensification particularly in the north of its range; red-listed with severe declines in Britain and most Scandinavian countries.

S. v. vulgaris has been introduced to North America, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand; it has become an invasive pest species in all these areas.


β€’ Native range, year-round
β€’ Native range, summer only
β€’ Native range, winter only
β€’ Introduced, year-round
β€’ Introduced, summer only

[edit] Taxonomy

Very closely related to Spotless Starling and has been treated as conspecific with it; hybrids are common where they overlap in northeast Spain. Not very closely related to other starlings, which have now all been transferred to other genera.

[edit] Subspecies

Flight profilePhoto © by targetmanWorlaby, Lincolnshire, 23 October 2007
Flight profile
Photo © by targetman
Worlaby, Lincolnshire, 23 October 2007

This is a polytypic species, with 12[1] or 13[2], [3] subspecies accepted:

  • S. v. granti: Azores
  • S. v. vulgaris: most of Europe, from Canary Islands and Iceland to Ural Mountains, northern Ukraine and Balkans
  • S. v. faroensis: Faeroes
  • S. v. zetlandicus: Shetland Islands
  • S. v. tauricus: Eastern and southern Ukraine, Crimea and Asia Minor
  • S. v. purpurascens: Western Transcaucasia to Georgia and Armenia
  • S. v. caucasicus: Volga Delta and northern Caucasus to Caspian Sea and southern Iran
  • S. v. oppenheimi: southeast Turkey and northern Iraq (lumped with S. v. tauricus by Clements[1])
  • S. v. nobilior: Afghanistan, Transcaspia and Khorasan
  • S. v. poltaratskyi: Eastern Ural Mountains to Lake Baikal, Kazakstan and western Mongolia
  • S. v. porphyronotus: Southern Dzungaria and Tien Shan Mountains to Pamir Mountains and Samarkand
  • S. v. humii: Western Himalayas (Kashmir to Garhwal)
  • S. v. minor: Locally in western Pakistan (Sind)

The subspecies vary in colour and extent of gloss; S. v. faroensis is also marginally larger and S. v. granti marginally smaller. The southeastern subspecies S. v. porphyronotus, S. v. humii and S. v. minor are darker and completely unspotted in the breeding season.

[edit] Habitat

Varied. Can be found in any reasonably open environment from farmland to salt marsh.

[edit] Behaviour

Very gregarious out of the breeding season.

[edit] Actions

S. v. humii, winter plumagePhoto © by Alok TewariKangra, Western Himalayas, India, 31 January 2011
S. v. humii, winter plumage
Photo © by Alok Tewari
Kangra, Western Himalayas, India, 31 January 2011

Starlings walk rather than hop. Their flight is quite strong and direct; they look triangular-winged and short-tailed in flight.

[edit] Breeding

Nests in thatches, nest boxes, tree holes. An untidy feather-lined nest is constructed from straw, grass or twigs. The clutch consists of 4-5 pale blue, glossy eggs with. They are incubated for around 2 weeks and flegde about 19-22 days later. Timing within an area is closely co-ordinated, with all pairs fledging their young within a day or at most two of each other and with very little variation from year to year; typically on 20 May in central Britain. The flood of juveniles all fledging simultaneously reduces the risks of predation for each individual. There is usually only one brood in the north of the species' range, but if the first clutch fails they will re-lay; second broods are common in the south of the range. Late and second brood young fledge much later and have a lower survival rate than first broods.

[edit] Diet

They mainly feed on insect larvae but are opportunist feeders and frequently visit bird tables. They also like autum berries.

[edit] Vocalisation

Listen in Common Starling song clip
S. v. porphyronotus, winter plumagePhoto © by Alok TewariBasai, Gurgaon, India, 23 January 2017
S. v. porphyronotus, winter plumage
Photo © by Alok Tewari
Basai, Gurgaon, India, 23 January 2017

[edit] Movements

Migratory in northern and eastern parts of range; tends to be resident in southern and western parts and in some urban regions.

[edit] References

  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, S. M. Billerman, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2019. The eBird/Clements Checklist of Birds of the World: v2019. Downloaded from
  2. Gill F, D Donsker & P Rasmussen (Eds). 2020. IOC World Bird List (v10.1). doi : 10.14344/IOC.ML.10.1. Available at
  3. Del Hoyo, J, A Elliott, and D Christie, eds. 2009. Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 14: Bush-shrikes to Old World Sparrows. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions. ISBN 978-8496553507
  4. Cabe, P. R. (2020). European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (S. M. Billerman, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.
  5. Craig, A. & Feare, C. (2020). Common Starling (Sturnus vulgaris). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 31 March 2020).

[edit] Recommended Citation

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