viernes, 21 de septiembre de 2012


By Hugo M. G. von Österreich und von Toskana
Member of the Union of Concerned Scientists (USA)
September 21, 2012

We have countless of miracles right in front of our own faces wherever we care to look at on this beautiful planet. All we have to do is open out hearts and pay more attention to our surroundings. And behold them!! 

One of these miracles is the aeronautical display of thousands of starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) flying up and down like a single entity and yet separate before they settle for the night on Ot Moor in England (Video 1).

                                                       Video 1. Starlings on Ot Moor.

Thoughout the year and especially during Spring starlings gladen our souls with their melodious tunes (Video 2).

                                                           Video 2. Starling singing.

The Ecological Services of Starlings

Starlings are considered pests but this kind of thinking is totally wrong. New research is proving that these birds are very beneficial to farmers as excellent biological control agents. They are insectivores (Fig 1).

Figure 1. Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) with load of insects. Source: RSPB.

More than 57% of the annual food of adult starlings is composed of animal matter including insects, spiders, snails and other invertebrates picked up in the fields in the United States (Kalmach, 1928). 

In other parts of the world the intake of animal matter is much higher. For instance in New Zealand starlings consume up to 90% animal foods while only 10% consists of cereal and weed seeds. The study revealed the insect orders Coleoptera and Lepidoptera to be most important (Coleman, 1972,1977).

Fruit farmers see starlings as a nuissance. Nevertheless fruits such as cherries form 2.66% of the starlings annual diet, but this consumption is restricted to June and July when it forms 15-17%, as pointed out by some researchers in the United States. 

The value of the insect-feeding habits of starlings outweigh by far their fruit-feeding habits. In some areas of the United States farmers have discovered this fact and are now attracting starlings to their properties by placing nesting boxes in trees and fence poles. This way these birds can control the insects in the plantations.

The ecological services of starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) as biological control agents are very important and what is more they are free of charge to us! 


Starlings are disappearing in Europe

Starlings are in trouble throughout the European Union including the UK. They are declining at an alarming rate. It is estimated that 40 million starlings have disappeared from this continent since 1980. 

In the UK, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) has launched an important research project to find out the reasons behind the starlings decline. You can help by contacting the RSPB here.

Environmental pollution is most likely the culprit of their population crash. Whatever is affecting them in the end will affect us as well.

Let us show Starlings love and respect!


Coleman J.D. (1972). The Feeding Ecology, Productivity and Management of Starlings in Canterbury, New Zealand. Ph.D. Thesis, University of Canterbury, New Zealand. 121 p.

Coleman J.D. (1977). The Foods and Feeding of Starlings in Canterbury. Proc. New Zealand Ecol. Soc., 24: 94-109.

Kalmach E. R. (1928). The European Starling in the United States. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Farmer´s Bull. Nº 1571: 1-27.

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