I try my best to prevent, repel, and deter starlings at my feeders.
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! I will gladly send you all my starlings and let you pay for all the bird food they consume. 🙂
Here are THREE 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 uncommon to witness them attacking and scaring away other species from my feeders.
Starlings travel in large flocks!
- The other problem arises with the fact that starlings don’t travel solo. These loud, raucous birds generally arrive in large flocks, completely taking over your feeding station. I feel bad for any other species that try to sneak in for a quick bite. If starlings just came one at a time, I would enjoy them MUCH more.
Starlings are invasive to North America!
- Did you know that starlings aren’t even supposed to be here? Back in 1890, 40 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 out-competing many of our beautiful native birds. Their ability to eat almost anything and adapt to human development is uncanny, and second to no other species, except maybe the House Sparrow. Thanks for nothing Eugene!
Just a warning before we begin: Even implementing the strategies listed below, starlings are extremely hard to prevent in your backyard! My best defense is using all of the tips together.
Now let’s talk about FOUR ways to help stop European Starlings!
#1. Choose your food wisely.
A great way to keep starlings away from your bird feeders is to use foods they don’t enjoy eating.
Let’s look at the body type of a European Starling. Specifically, take a closer look at their beak.
The shape of a starling’s 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 small seeds.
If you are using any of the below foods at your feeding station, then you are at risk for a starling invasion!
- RELATED: Bird Seed 101: The 10 Best Types (Learn more about the foods below)
Foods that starlings CAN’T RESIST:
- Cracked corn: Starlings LOVE 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 beaks, 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 not consume it as fast.
- Shelled Peanuts: As you will see below, peanuts still in the shell are great to use to prevent starlings.
- Millet: Starlings love eating any sort of grain, including all types of millet.
- Mealworms: Invertebrates make up a large portion of a starling’s 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 starlings don’t prefer is critical in your quest to prevent them. Small shifts in the foods I offer in my feeding station have made an enormous difference in keeping them away.
Because of their slender and soft beak, starlings have trouble eating any food that has a thick outer shell. Their beak doesn’t provide the type of leverage or power needed to crack the food open.
Here are FIVE 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:
This type of sunflower seed has a much thicker shell than black-oil sunflower. Luckily, starlings have huge problems opening up the shell to get to the delicious seed inside.
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.
- Peanuts in the shell:
A starling’s wimpy beak can’t break through the hard exterior.
This small seed is too small for starlings to bother with.
And there you have it. 🙂
Being aware of the foods in my backyard is a central part of my starling prevention strategy.
#2. Use a starling-proof bird feeder.
This strategy is my favorite way to keep starlings away from bird feeders. If starlings can’t physically access your bird food, then they can’t eat! 🙂
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 types of feeders that prevent starlings:
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. I LOVE watching starlings grasp onto the outside of the cage and just look at the delicious food on the inside. 🙂
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 favorite overall feeders in my backyard. And it’s also great at stopping squirrels. 🙂
Let me be clear, a weight-sensitive feeder WON’T stop starlings like a caged feeder. The hope is that you will slow down an entire flock of starlings.
For example, on the Absolute II feeder above, I can make the perches incredibly sensitive to weight, where only one medium-sized bird (like a starling) can feed at a time. As soon as a second starling tries to hop on the perch, the feeder closes.
I love this feeder because only ONE (maybe two) starlings can eat at a time. It’s great because a whole flock of starlings can’t sit there and wipe all of your food out in a sitting.
Upside-down suet feeders:
I thoroughly enjoy feeding suet to woodpeckers in my backyard. The problem is that starlings also LOVE eating 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.
My upside-down suet feeder has done a great job preventing starlings from devouring all my suet. It’s actually funny to watch the starlings try to eat the suet, as they hop up and down, but can only manage a bite at a time.
Lastly, just a warning that it may take some time for woodpeckers to discover your upside-down suet feeder. And overall, they definitely don’t like it as much as my other suet feeders.
#3. Discourage starlings from nesting in your backyard.
Starlings LOVE building nests around humans. That’s because these birds are cavity nesters and prefer using vents and other small openings around your house to build nests and raise their young.
For example, 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 easy 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. Here are two options you can check out:
In addition, if you have any birdhouses or nest boxes in your yard, you must constantly monitor them for starlings!
As cavity nesters, starlings are naturally attracted to any nestbox in your backyard. To keep them away there are 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 birdhouses!
Tip #4: Distract starlings using lots of CHEAP food!
Offer MASSIVE amounts of cracked corn positioned at least 15 feet away (4.5m) from your other bird feeders.
I’m sorry if the above picture is hard to see, but I wanted to show my feeders filled with cracked corn placed behind and away from my other feeders.
This strategy has helped keep some of the starlings away from my main feeding station, which lets other birds enjoy the sunflower seeds, peanuts, and suet in a bit of peace.
Final thoughts about preventing starlings:
If you want to prevent starlings and stop them from coming to your bird feeders, I have found that these four effective strategies work:
Offer foods that starlings don’t eat.
Use starling-proof bird feeders.
Eliminate potential starling nest locations.
- Distract starlings with a second feeding station.
If you have a big starling problem in your backyard, it may be best to combine strategies (that’s what I do)!
What is your favorite way to prevent, deter, and repel starlings?