4 Proven Ways to Get Rid of Starlings TODAY! (2024)

I try my best to prevent, repel, and deter starlings at my feeders.

stopping starlings at bird 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. 🙂


*Click here to skip directly to the 4 strategies that help stop starlings!*


 

Here are THREE reasons why I try to keep European Starlings 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!

keep starlings away from bird feeders

  • 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.

FOUR ways to 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.

foods that repel starlings

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!

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:

  • Food #1: Black-oil sunflower

types of bird seed - black-oil sunflower

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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.

  • Food #2: Striped sunflower

birdseed types - striped sunflower

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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.

  • Food #3: Safflower

safflower seed - best bird food

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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.

  • Food #4: Peanuts in the shell

whole peanuts in shell for bird food

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A starling’s wimpy beak can’t break through the hard exterior.

  • Food #5: Nyjer

different types of bird seed guide

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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. 🙂

Audubon 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 favorite overall feeders in my backyard. And it’s also great at stopping squirrels. 🙂

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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.

YouTube video

Birds Choice Upside-Down Suet Feeder  View $ on Amazon 

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.

starling nest on house

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!

get rid of starlings from nestboxes

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!

This is one of my favorite ways to control European Starlings, and it runs counter-intuitive to what you might think. We are going to feed them as much as they can eat, but we are going to decide WHERE it will happen!
Here is what you need to do:

Offer MASSIVE amounts of cracked corn positioned at least 15 feet away (4.5m) from your other bird feeders.

Starlings LOVE eating cracked corn (and other grains). And luckily, cracked corn is one of the cheapest bird foods you can purchase by weight.
Next, I fill a large bird feeder with cheap cracked corn. Then I hang this feeder away from my other feeders that have the more expensive food that I don’t want the starlings to eat. I also make sure to put plenty of food on the ground since starlings eat here too.

distracting starlings with other feeders

Learn more about the LIVE streaming cams in my backyard HERE!

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?

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184 Comments

  1. I am curious. If starlings are native to Europe, are they a problem there too? What controls their populations in Europe?

  2. You are probably way too young to have celebrated New Year’s Eve the way I did. My parents would wake me up and we’d go the living room. When the clock struck midnight we banged pots and pans with wooden spoons. Then back to bed. I use this method to scare away starlings. If I have hundred(s) of them at my feeders I go out on my back deck and bang the bottom of a pan with a METAL utensil. They fly away right away. If they return, a second round really works.

  3. I had a single starling around for a season that co-existed w/out problems for other birds and was picked on by other starlings. The flock seemed to come and go so I changed to just sunflower seeds in the shell for a few days when they showed up and they left. I noticed starlings avoid crows. The crows chase off the starlings and ignore the other birds. The crows live year around in a large area here and make the rounds, so are not always in my yard.

    1. Ha! I like Grackles! Our local great-tailed Grackles make every type of bird sound you can think of – whistles, clucks, screeches, chirps, etc. etc. They seem to live in the trees of our local Walmart parking lot (I rarely see them anywhere else). They drag these huge oversized tails around while looking for scraps and making all these weirdly funny sounds. They crack me up!

  4. Thank you for sharing! Living in N. LA, I have so many cowbirds & a few starlings that I fight with keeping away from my feeders. They even figured out how to hang on to the small perch peg on my tube feeder. I’ve seen one lonely mourning dove trying to find some food on the ground, He even tried to eat at my cedar wood feeder but is too big to fit.
    I want to help him out but the other 2 invasive species get to it before he can if I put any on the ground.

  5. So that my other backyard birds can eat, I stay outside with them, talk & walk about. I also feed ‘my’ feathered friends no earlier than an hour before sunset. It seems they don’t hang around as much at this time, but gives all those I wish to feed plenty of time to clean up.

  6. Starlings chased my woodpeckers out of my tree. What could I have done to prevent it.
    Greg@ garden studio.us
    Thanks in advance.

  7. Hi, do you have any advice on how to make them leave? They are dominating an area in the condominium where I live and everyday they take more m2, make a lot of noise and shit all over…they are even now in the electric cables

  8. Not a single thing that you recommended to get rid of starlings has worked. Giving them food in another location? Nope. They ate the corn AND the bird food. The love peanuts in the shell. They love everything I’ve been told they don’t like. They don’t even fly off at loud noises unless the noise is like fireworks – which is disrupting to my neighbors & myself since I would have to do this every five minutes for entire days in a row. I’ve removed all food for over a week but the first birds to return when I put the food back are the starlings. They’ve already scared off the cardinals and the little birds. The bluejays are dwindling. Even the crows are gone. Starlings can’t get into caged bird feeders but they swarm the ground beneath it to get the scraps and their presence scares all other birds away. Are there traps or poisons that are legal and effective to use? If not, it looks like my bird feeding oasis is shutting down.

    1. Miriam, I modified one of my bird houses (the size for a small duck) and installed a VAN ERT trap in it. The first thing in the spring, when the starlings find it, they readily go in and get caught. I use a net bag to open the house up to make sure it’s a starling and then “dispatch” said “thief”. I reset the trap (very easy) and wait for the next unfortunate avian to take a chance. For some reason they just quit coming around.

      1. I have had success with starling decoys purchased from Amazon 6 for 20 dollars. Reposition the wings and reattach with hot glue in the “DEATH” position and hang them around. I also purchased a starling distress cd from Pete Rickards for 17.50. It’s an unusual site and you will have to search around for the nuisance bird section. Many of these recordings are supposedly not specifically for starlings. This is from the 60’s or 70’s and is seems to be genuine. It works when I turn it on – but the other birds don’t seem to mind. Finally, I have a bb gun which, when I see a starling, I shoot it in their direction. Of course all the birds take off – but the welcome birds come back to the feeders quickly, and the starlings take some time. I have NO MORE FLOCKING,
        although a single or couple will come along and then I shoot my bb gun at them. It has taken about a week. I hope these suggestions help you.
        Best wishes. Susan from Kentucky

          1. Hi Dana,
            I already replied, but I don’t see my reply posted. Your question is not stupid: I found the term while searching the net for ‘decoys’. The starling decoys from Amazon has the wings in a flying position. I cut them in half and hot glued them to the side of the bird so it looks dead. Elmer’s glue doesn’t work due to the rough surface. I bought a hot gun from Walmart’s for $10.00. Hope this works for you.
            Best Wishes, Susan

  9. It’s easy to hear them coming, they are so raucous.I use the Aqua-Zook water gun and a water bucket near by to deter them. They catch on fast, and I seldom see them now.

  10. They are so raucous, they are easy to hear coming. I use a water gun called The Aqua-Zook that shoots about 30 to 40 feet. They hate it. So do the pigeons.

  11. Any ideas for keeping starlings away from mealworm feeders? I set them out for robins, baltimore orioles and bluebirds, but the starlings will clean them out. Thanks for all your great information!

    1. Unfortunately it also prevents the larger birds like the robins but I use an enclosure meal worm feeder so the bluebirds can get their fill. I purchased mine from Amazon.

    2. You can always hunt them, or let others hunt on your property. They’re invasive, they’re Exotic birds meaning it’s legal as long as you have a hunting license. You can also get some pretty feathers out of it.

  12. Hi Scott! I just found your wonderful site and am enjoying reading the articles (love the fun and amusing comments too!) and taking the quizzes. I thankfully am not having a Starling issue, but my Oregon friend just told me about hers, so I will be sharing your info and website with her. Thanks for sharing so many of your helpful observations with everyone!

  13. We seem to have smarter starlings.
    We put corn on the cob for sqirrels. The starlings pick up the loose corn and soak it in the birdbath before eating. Whatever the sqirrels leave loose, the starlings clean up to the last kernel.

  14. I live in Ontario, and have found, by mistake that the Starling and Blackbirds eat dry cat food. I buy small bags from the Dollar Store, and put a handful out every morning. By the afternoon it’s gone. The crows will sometimes still some too !!!

  15. Fantastic article Scott, you’ve really covered this ground thoroughly!
    Most of my feeders are positioned near a window. If I see starlings pigging out, I tap sharply on the window. They seem to be easily startled and it does seem to discourage them over time. Too bad I can’t automate this trick!

  16. I’m very proud of my MacGyver solution to the invasive European starlings mobbing the bird feeders outside my office window. (They bully native birds and eat everything in sight.) I put one of those remote-controlled fart-sound makers (the modern-day equivalent to the old whoopee cushion and undoubtedly popular with preteen boys) in a small Ziploc bag (to protect it from the elements) on the feeder pole. (This one from Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B002R9DQQ2). Now any time starlings land on my feeder pole, I have the immense pleasure of driving them away with fart sounds. I’ve been using it about a month now, with great success. I also follow the strategy of putting cracked corn some distance away from my main feeder pole (to lure them to eat elsewhere), as well as turning my suet feeder upside down, so only clinging birds like to use it. And then my local native birds can eat in peace.

  17. So you ration the seed in order to only allow enough for some of the starlings while starving all the native birds that can’t compete with them? Good way to help make native species extinct and it is actually a concern that non-selective feeding is increasing the decline of some species.

    In other countries including Europe where our most common destructive invasive species are from the amount of bird feeders is altering bird populations by supporting only the boldest or aggressive ones that eat from feeders. The species that have gone up are the ones that dominate bird feeders if allowed to, while the woodland and shy species that visit feeders less or get chased away easily have at best remained the same and for some only declined further. More investigation is needed for all factors but there is increasing proof that providing bird food with no selectivity as to what can eat it is a contributor to some species heading toward threatened or even endangered status. For now feeding both the invasive species and native species has not had as much of an obvious negative impact in the larger, less densely populated US but the pandemic saw a large increase in people feeding birds and other wildlife around their home. Feeding wildlife without trying to exclude invasive or aggressive species from using the entire resource is likely to start creating the same negative effects on the ecosystem and species with already low populations as is being seen in some other parts of the world.

    At the moment no one is certain what to do about it except encourage providing specialist feeders and nesting sites for a greater variety of species.

    https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/bird-feeders-are-good-for-some-species-but-possibly-bad-for-others/

    This is a human created problem and requires human intervention to prevent.

    I don’t want to just give up and let the pair of downy woodpeckers that relied on our feeders to keep their young alive last year die out. I watched the male hop around our deck railing in clear distress when he could not get past the sparrows for food, which is why we set up dedicated feeders for woodpeckers. The female joined him sometimes and eventually some juveniles appeared for awhile. The pair stayed all winter hoping the food wouldn’t stop appearing or get eaten by everything else. We’ve had birds sit at the window or even follow us around the yard chirping loudly that they couldn’t get enough food for themselves or their young. If I don’t keep the starlings and sparrows from eating all the food some of the others may lose their nestlings or die themselves if there is not enough wild food to support them. We are also replacing the lawn with native plants that provide food or shelter as well as fruit plants for ourselves and the wildlife.

    If you want to feed the starlings then like the article says try giving them a spot with their own food and put up other feeders they can’t eat from. It also allows you to feed higher quality, more expensive options to some birds that need it without the cost of also feeding it to birds that can survive on cheaper sources of food. We use various parts of the yard to provide different types of feeders with different seeds, nuts or suet. The woodpeckers and nuthatches always have high protein or mealworm containing suet only they can get to. Large sunflowers and peanuts can also only be eaten by those or some other native birds designed for cracking shells. The finch feeders don’t allow even sparrows so the house sparrows can’t eat all the finch food. I made up a ground feeding mix for the native sparrows like Juncos who generally eat from the forest floor and we get occasional doves. I scattered some daily when they were most commonly around and put a little cheap, small seed in a hanging hopper at the same time so the house sparrows would be distracted and not get much of the ground mix.

    With the native, less common, or shy species having a constant food supply we then have open trays and large hoppers with cracked corn, millet, small black sunflowers, dried cranberries, and suet containing fruit and small seeds over platforms and in fly through feeders with large openings so even birds that can’t sit on a suet cage can eat it. We can control how much is available when a large flock of starlings or non-native sparrows is around while still feeding unlimited amounts to many of the native or less common birds simply by buying different types of feeders or using different seeds and nuts in different locations. So far the starlings only appear briefly and then likely move on to other yards that do not make any attempt to keep them from eating everything and leaving nothing for the other birds. Our yard continues to have an increasing mix of many species.

    I also make sure the sizes of openings and design of the bird houses is very specific so there are some that provide a safe place for various native birds. The house sparrows that often kill the nestlings of other birds when they can get a few of their own nest boxes setup on the other side of the house.

    You don’t have to actively try to kill off the invasive or overpopulated species if you don’t want to and can even let them nest in your yard but if you do nothing to provide food or nesting locations that only the other species can access you may still be contributing to the death of birds. Many people don’t consider what unseen results their actions have and sometimes it’s impossible to determine by yourself. That’s why there are organizations that attempt to keep track of these things and provide information like this in the hope people will realize there are alternatives they can be happy with that helps support the species who need it and in some cases shows them that their actions may be doing more harm than they realize.

    Do you fertilize the weeds that grow in your flower bed until they smother all the flowers? By weeds I do mean the environmentally damaging plants and not the native wildflowers that sometimes get called weeds. Would you purposefully spread bindweed or kudzu so they climb up the trees or bushes and choke them to death? Since plants don’t move around you can watch them kill each other by simply having more of one existing and getting all the nutrition it needs to grow and spread while depriving the others near it. The same is true with wild animals even if you can’t as easily see it for yourself. At least give the rest of the birds an equal chance instead of letting them slowly disappear from your area.

  18. Like everyone on this site, I am an animal lover, and I don’t like the thought of harming any of my feathered friends, but with that being said, starlings wreak havoc in our backyards. I liken them to gang members. They come into an otherwise very peaceful and harmonious neighborhood scaring away all the other residents, ravaging the feeders, and then leave until you fill them up again. I have used many of the methods suggested on this site, but as others have pointed out, it will leave some of the birds unfed. I’m waiting for someone to devise an electrical remote controlled device to deliver a shock. Would include some sort of wires that are portable. Maybe a small net like structure that could be placed in a platform feeder under the seed, or a wire similar to the bird be gone electrical tape that could be placed on a deck rail or around a feeder with a remote control that can discharge an electrical shock from in your house. Being able to control it from in the house is key. It could then be used only when the starlings are on the wire, not the other birds. Seems they would eventually leave the area. Wished I personally knew an electrician!

  19. Take 2 pieces of lumber. 3/4” thick. About 4” wide and about 18” long. Slap them together and they scramble. They hate the noise. Other birds will return. You have to keep clacking and they eventually move on. It’s a daily battle. Put a small hinge on one end for convenience

  20. Hey Jeffrey, I have found that feeding strictly white safflower (not the golden saff) is the best way of getting rid of starlings if you can’t kill them. Wait to weeks while only feeding saff then slowly reintroduce regular feed starting with striped sunflower at a 10:1 ration until you are starling free and can resume regular feed. -JT

  21. I took a more aggressive approach and pick them off with a quality quiet air rifle. I set up point in my yard with a safe backstop as a courtesy to my neighbors. I had to take out my grey squirrels as well because they were damaging my roof to gain access to my attic. Since controlling the population of starlings and grey squirrels I get more visits from song birds in greater numbers and variety.

  22. Lisa, build a birdhouse (or several) fit for a bluebird (1-1/2 inch hole) and then install “Van Ert” traps in them (look them up and buy them online). You can catch multiple birds during a day, uninjured. You can determine which ones are starlings and “dispose” of them as you see fit. (It’s what I do…) Good luck.