My bird feeding station has been designed with care to prevent, repel, deter, and get rid of starlings.
And before you say that I should feed all of God’s creatures with a smile on my face, I want you to know that I wholeheartedly disagree!
Here are the four reasons why I try to keep European Starlings, also known as “rat birds,” out of my backyard:
Starlings are aggressive!
One of the best reasons to get rid of starlings is because they are aggressive towards other birds, and it’s not surprising to witness them attacking and scaring away other species from my feeders.
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology collected thousands of observations from backyard bird watchers across the country to analyze the dominance hierarchy between birds at feeders. For example, if two birds wanted to be on the same perch, The Cornell Lab wanted to see who won and scared the other away.
Starlings travel in large flocks!
We have already established that starlings are aggressive and scare away less passive songbirds.
The other problem arises with the fact that starlings don’t travel solo. These loud, raucous birds generally arrive in large flocks, completing taking over your feeding station. I feel bad for any other species that try to sneak in for a quick bite.
Instead of just one bully coming to your feeder, starlings are like a gang of battle-tested warriors ready to fight any other birds standing in their way.
Starlings will put a dent in your wallet!
This statement should come as no surprise. What do you think is going to happen to your bird food supply when 30 starlings show up to gorge themselves?!
Starlings are invasive to the United States!
Did you know that starlings aren’t even supposed to be here? Back in 1890, forty starlings were brought over from Europe and released in New York City’s Central Park. The man responsible (Eugene Schieffelin) had a mission to introduce all of the birds mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays in North America.
The rest is history as starlings easily conquered the continent, along the way outcompeting many of our beautiful native birds. Their ability to eat almost anything and adapt to human development is uncanny to no other species, except maybe the House Sparrow.
Thanks for nothing Eugene!
Do you see any starlings in my yard?
Even implementing the strategies listed below, starlings are extremely hard to prevent in your backyard!
Now let’s talk about 3 effective ways to get rid of European Starlings!
1. Choose Your Food Wisely.
This strategy is my favorite way to keep starlings away from bird feeders.
Let’s look at the body type of a European Starling. Specifically, take a closer look at their beak.
The shape of a starlings beak is long, pointy, and soft, which is perfect for eating invertebrates such as insects, spiders, worms, snails, and caterpillars. Their beak also allows them to eat fruit, grains, and smalls seeds.
If you are using any of the below foods at your feeding station, then you are at risk for a starling invasion!
Foods that attract starlings to your backyard:
Cracked corn: Starlings can’t resist cracked corn, and it might be their favorite food! Remove immediately to help get rid of starlings.
Sunflower kernels/chips: Because of their soft and pointy bills, starlings like any seed that has already been cracked open, such as sunflower chips.
Suet with corn, peanuts, etc.: In my backyard, starlings go crazy for suet, but only if it has cracked corn, peanuts, or other shelled seed inside. If I just put out plain suet, they tend to leave it alone.
Mealworms: Invertebrates make up a large portion of a starlings diet in nature, so this is not surprising.
Bread or other human food: There is a reason starlings thrive living around people. They love many of the same things we eat!
So what foods keep starlings away from our bird feeders?
Knowing which types of food that starlings don’t prefer is critical in your quest to prevent them. Small shifts in the foods I offer in my feeding station has made an enormous difference in keeping them away.
Because of their slender and soft break, starlings have trouble eating any food that has a thick outer shell. Their break doesn’t provide the type of leverage or power needed to crack open.
Foods that help deter starlings:
Black-oil sunflower: Starlings will eat black-oil sunflower, but in my humble opinion they don’t seem to love it. If you have a big starling problem, you may also need to remove black-oil sunflower, but luckily I have not had many issues offering it.
Striped sunflower: Starlings are not able to open the thick shell!
Safflower: The miracle seed! Starlings, squirrels, and other blackbird species don’t care for safflower, but most other feeder birds (cardinals, chickadees, etc.) eat it willingly.
- Safflower Seed 101: Everything You Need To Know!
- 7 Effective Ways To Keep Squirrels Off Your Bird Feeders
Peanuts in the shell: A starling’s wimpy beak can’t break open.
Nyjer: Too small for starlings to bother.
Suet: When I buy pure rendered white suet without ANY other ingredient added, the starlings leave it alone. It seems that only woodpeckers are attracted to pure suet. Starlings go crazy over suet if it has corn, peanuts, and other tasty treats included.
And there you have it.
Being aware of the foods in my backyard is the central part of my starling prevention strategy.
2. Use a starling proof bird feeder.
A great way to keep starlings away from your bird feeders is to buy one that they physically CAN’T use.
The good news is that deploying a starling proof bird feeder will stop starlings from feeding. The bad news is that the feeder will also prevent any other medium size bird or larger from eating, including many that you want to see!
Here are three feeder styles that prevent starlings you can try:
Caged bird feeders:
A metal cage encloses the feeder. The holes are small enough to keep starlings (and squirrels) away, but big enough to let most smaller songbirds through to feed.
Woodlink caged tube feeder Check Price - Amazon
Weight sensitive feeders:
These feeders can typically be adjusted to close when a certain amount of weight is applied.
I own the Absolute II hopper bird feeder below, and it’s one of the favorites in my backyard.
Absolute II hopper feeder View $ on Amazon
If needed, I can make the perches incredibly sensitive to weight, where all but the smallest songbirds, like chickadees and finches, push the perch down to close access to the bird food.
Upside-down suet feeders:
I thoroughly enjoy feeding suet to woodpeckers in my backyard. The problem is that starlings also LOVE eating most varieties of mixed suet.
One way around this is to purchase a suet feeder that forces birds to cling and feed upside down. Woodpeckers have no problem with this method, but starlings don’t particularly enjoy eating like this.
Nature’s Way Upside-Down Suet Feeder View $ on Amazon
My upside-down suet feeder has done a great job preventing starlings from devouring all my suet. Unfortunately, my woodpeckers also don’t seem to like it as much as my regular 2-cake suet feeder.
My final thoughts on starling proof bird feeders:
If you have a big starling problem in your backyard, it may be best to combine strategies! Use starling proof bird feeders along with foods that they don’t enjoy.
For example, you could put striped sunflower, safflower, and whole peanuts in your hopper, tube, or tray feeders. Then put food that starlings love like sunflower chips, peanut pieces, or cracked corn inside a starling proof bird feeder.
3. Discourage starlings from nesting in your backyard.
Starlings are cavity nesters and prefer using vents and other small openings around your house to build nests and raise their young.
I live in a suburban neighborhood and commonly see starlings flying in and out of the vents located on the sides of almost every home.
Luckily as a homeowner, it’s an easy fix to prevent starlings from nesting in your vents. Simply seal any opening with a vent cover. Many are made specifically to keep birds out AND still function normally.
Nest boxes must be monitored!
As cavity nesters, starlings are naturally attracted to any nestbox in your backyard. To keep them away there a few things you can do.
First, select a nestbox that has a hole diameter of less than 1.5 inches (3.8 cm). This hole size is too small for starlings to fit through.
If your nest box is large enough for starlings, then it’s going to take active management on your behalf to ensure that they aren’t nesting inside. During Spring and Summer, my advice is to monitor your boxes daily and remove starling nests and eggs as soon as you see them. (Since European Starlings are invasive and not native to North America, they are not protected by The Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which means humane destruction of nests and eggs is allowed.)
Many starlings prefer using the same nesting location year after year, so it’s vital to make sure they never start using your nest boxes!
I really don’t hate starlings as much as you think.
In this post, I have spent the entire time beating up on starlings and providing ways to keep them away from your bird feeders.
But now that they are under control in my backyard I don’t hate European Starlings as much as I used too. It’s even nice to see them once in a while. Their iridescent black plumage can be stunning when viewed in the right light, and their ability to mimic the sounds of other birds is impressive. I even respect the fact they are incredibly adaptable and have thrived in an ever-changing landscape.
But do you want to know my favorite thing about starlings?
It’s the magical way they travel in enormous flocks, called murmurations. See the video below for an incredible display! It’s absolutely mesmerizing. The action starts at about the 25-second mark.
If you want to prevent starlings and stop them from coming to your bird feeders, I have found these three effective strategies work:
Offer foods that starlings don’t eat.
Use starling proof bird feeders.
Eliminate potential starling nest locations.
I’d like to hear some feedback.
What is your favorite way to prevent, deter, and repel starlings?
How do you stop them from taking over your backyard feeding station?