European starlings are medium-sized, vocal birds that typically live in urban areas. Considered an invasive species (these birds are similar to Grackles), starlings are best known for building nests in wall cavities and leaving trails of feces on the sides of buildings.
If you have European starlings living around your property, you know exactly how destructive and obnoxious they can be.
Fortunately, you’re not doomed to live with them forever. Here at Smith’s Pest Management, our team offers creative, comprehensive pest management solutions (including bird control) to residents in and around the San Francisco Bay Area, so we’re quite familiar with how to resolve a starling problem.
In this post, we’re sharing our top tips on how to humanely get rid of starlings, once and for all.
Let’s get started.
What are European Starlings?
European starlings are medium-sized black birds with a metallic sheen and pink legs. While they look like Grackles, they are a different species.
Starlings have short, triangular wings, a short tail, and vibrant, lightly speckled plumage. They are generally 6” long and about the size of a standard robin.
Their beaks are pointed and yellow, although they become dark-colored in the fall.
What Attracts Starlings to My Yard?
Like many birds, starlings are primarily food-driven.
The next question, of course, is “What do starlings eat?”
Starlings live on a diet of insects, seeds, and berries, and will generally establish colonies in any area where these food sources are easy to find.
Starlings are also drawn to environments that offer the ideal habitat for nest-making:
They prefer open, grassy areas like lawns, parks, fields, and golf courses. Starlings are common in areas that house livestock since they love to eat cattle, poultry, and hog feed.
What Kind of Damage Can Starlings Cause?
For such a small bird, starlings can cause incredible damage to your property, including the following:
One of the most common signs of a starling infestation is the droppings they leave behind. In addition to being unsightly, these droppings are extremely slippery, which can lead to problems in public areas.
Starling droppings are also highly acidic and can damage paintwork, deck stain, and masonry on and around buildings.
Large quantities of droppings often require repair work or expensive clean-up by a professional service.
Starlings build nests on and around buildings, which can block drainage pipes and gutters.
In some cases, these blockages can cause extensive water backup and damage, and lead to thousands of dollars’ worth of destruction in a building.
Starlings like to build their nests in warm areas, which commonly leads them to exhaust vents and ductwork. When nests block these critical structures, it can cause indoor air quality issues and fire hazards.
In search of food, a flock of starlings can easily peck blank spots into a yard, eat crops and flowers, and destroy a vegetable garden.
When a flock of starlings arrives at your home, they can make quick work of your landscaping.
Starlings are extremely loud birds and can make your outdoor space unpleasant to spend time in. Their calls and shrieks can wake residents up early, and make sitting in the backyard a harrowing experience.
How to Get Rid of Starlings Quickly & Humanely
You have a starling problem, and you’re wondering how to get rid of starlings but not other birds. Don’t worry – there are many options.
Here are a few of our most effective suggestions:
At the Birdfeeder
If you’ve noticed starlings raiding your bird feeder and chasing other birds off, the best option is to invest in a starling-proof feeder.
Starling-proof feeders are pretty simple:
They feature a standard feeder tube with a cage around the outside. The cage prevents large birds like starlings (as well as other pests, such as squirrels) from accessing the seed in your birdfeeder, but allows small birds like chickadees to pop right through.
For best results, look for a cage with a diameter of at least 11.” This will exclude grackles and starlings, and make it impossible for them to stick their heads through the cage to steal your birdseed.
On the Roof
Do you have starlings nesting in the roof? This situation requires immediate attention.
Fortunately, there are a few ways to deal with the issue:
- Remove the nest material. If you can see the starling’s nest material, remove and hide it. Hiding it will make it harder for the starling to re-establish the nest and may encourage them to go elsewhere.
- Use a nesting deterrent. Nesting deterrents are available at most home improvement stores. They’re made of a clear plastic plate that you can mount along your home’s eaves. This makes the spot hard to build a nest in and deters starlings from returning.
- Install “scares.” Scares (generally reflective mirrors or imitation predator birds, like owls) can work to deter starlings and keep them from coming back.
- Patch holes. If you catch a starling nest before it’s fully constructed, or before the birds have returned for the season, patch the area with durable wire mesh. You may also consider blocking off the chimney, vents, pipe fittings, and attic openings with the same material.
In the Attic
If starlings find uncovered vents or openings that allow them into your attic, they’ll quickly establish a home base. If you find a nest in the attic, start by deconstructing it and hiding the nesting material.
Next, patch all openings and ensure there are no additional ways for the starlings to enter the attic. The tips for keeping starlings off your roof can be effective for birds in the attic, as well.
In Your Barn
Barns are prime habitats for starlings since they offer everything the starling needs to thrive: food, shelter, and water.
To keep the birds out, we recommend hanging thick, long strips of plastic in the doorways of the barn, down to about a foot or two above the barn floor.
This keeps starlings from flying in but allows people, livestock, and machinery to move freely. You’ll also want to make sure to close doors when possible and block off all vents, openings to lofts or eaves, and gaps in the rafters with wire mesh.
In a Chicken Coop
If starlings are stealing your chicken feed and setting up shop around your nest boxes, the first step is to change your fencing.
Instead of chicken wire, look for wire fencing with a stronger gauge of wire, which starlings won’t be able to pull down or force their way through. For best results, opt for something with small holes that starlings won’t fit through.
It’s also helpful to consider covering your chicken feeding container to keep starlings out.
What not to do
We know dealing with a starling infestation can be frustrating. Whatever you do, though, it’s critical to avoid harming the birds.
In addition to being inhumane, destroying completed nests with chicks or eggs and shooting starlings is illegal in most places.
Instead, contact a professional pest control company who will know how to trap starlings or take other steps toward humane and effective removal.
How do Pest Control Experts Get Rid of Starlings?
Considering hiring a professional pest management company to get rid of your starlings? Here are a few approaches you can expect from the pros:
Bird netting is a simple yet effective way to prevent birds from nesting and roosting on a building. A pest control team like Smith’s Pest Management will place the bird netting over the areas you want to keep the birds out of.
If the birds have already infiltrated your building, the netting will allow them to leave the building, but not to get back inside.
Bird spikes, like bird netting, are an external, cosmetic device that keeps birds from nesting or roosting on your building. The spikes are installed on horizontal surfaces facing upward.
While they don’t harm the birds, they do discourage them from landing. If a bird does happen to land on a spike, it will experience some non-lethal, momentary discomfort that will discourage it from coming back.
In addition to the tactics listed above, professional pest management companies use a variety of pest deterrents to keep starlings away.
When you hire Smith’s Pest Management, our team will work with you to determine which deterrent method is best-suited to your property and the nature of your starling issue.
4 Proven Starling Prevention Tips
The best way to avoid a full-on starling infestation is to prevent them from accessing your property in the first place. With that in mind, here are a few proven starling prevention tips our team swears by:
1. Remove Food Sources
Starlings are most drawn to properties that offer lots of food. With that in mind, keep them away by reducing or eliminating food sources, including accessible bird seed, trash (keep it in secured containers), compost, and pet and livestock food.
2. Remove Water Sources
While starlings don’t drink much, they do need water to survive. If you can remove water sources or make them harder for starlings to access, you’ll encourage these birds to go elsewhere.
We recommend paying special attention to gutter systems, rainwater collection barrels, stock tanks, and other easy sources of water. Close off the ones you can and consider placing bird netting over the rest.
3. Make Nest Locations Difficult to Access
In addition to patching holes and access points in your building, and deploying deterrents like spikes and netting, make some landscape alterations to deter starlings.
Cut tree branches away from your home or barn, and keep bushes and plants trimmed back from the home. This is a simple step that’s quite effective at removing sources of shelter for the birds.
4. Use Noise Devices
Starlings don’t like anything that interrupts their nest-building or feeding. Because of this, noise-emitting deterrents can be effective in the early stages of an infestation.
These deterrents work by mounting onto your roof, eaves, or other problem areas, and emitting a loud noise when they detect movement.
Are Starlings Taking Over Your San Francisco Bay Area Property? We’re Here to Help!
If you have pesky starlings destroying your property, you probably feel like you’re at your wits’ end.
Fortunately, you don’t have to live with these nuisance birds forever. Even the largest flocks of starlings can be effectively removed with a few smart starling control tactics.
Here at Smith’s Pest Management, we help residential and commercial customers in Northern California, from Marin to Monterey, get rid of pest species and enjoy their property once more. Ready to learn more?