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There’s a huge starling roost near my house and they’re driving us nuts! What can we do?

European Starlings can be noisy neighbors. Photo by Red~Star via Birdshare.
European Starlings can be noisy neighbors. Photo by Red~Star via Birdshare.

The European Starling is an exotic species that was introduced to North America in 1890 and 1891. It’s now a permanent resident across the United States and Canada, almost always near areas of human habitation, disturbance, or agriculture, so is seldom found away from cities, suburbs, parks, and farms. As you’ve figured out the hard way, the European Starling is considered a “problem” bird for several reasons:

  • It competes fiercely for nesting cavities, ousting such native birds as bluebirds and various woodpeckers, sometimes even killing them.
  • It is aggressive at feeders, keeping smaller birds away and consuming large quantities of seed and suet.
  • Its enormous winter foraging flocks are considered pests in agricultural areas.
  • Its huge winter roosts present hygiene challenges where humans live.
  • Roosts are very noisy.

Unfortunately, discouraging starlings from roosting around your house can be difficult at best. Installing a plastic model hawk or owl in a tree may help for a short time, but if that’s all you do the birds will soon realize it poses no threat and ignore it. Many people recommend using a predator decoy in combination with another bird deterrent, such as a recording of starling distress calls broadcast through a loudspeaker, though starlings tend to habituate to these noises much more quickly than people do. A sudden loud noise may flush starling flocks from your trees, at least the first few times you try it. Some people use fireworks, or clang pots and pans together. Sometimes even just clapping your hands is enough to flush a starling flock, once or twice. But starlings are usually more persistent than people are, and least adjust to even sudden noises more quickly than we do.

Any time you notice even a single starling hanging out near your house, try to chase it away. Be persistent from the beginning to avoid having a flock become established in your yard. It’s much harder to get a flock to move once they’ve settled in at a roost site.

One of the most effective ways of driving a starling roost away involves a particular kind of professional help. Call your local game warden or a department of environmental conservation to find out if any falconers live near you. If you can enlist the aid of falconers to come for a few visits, their birds may get a bracing hunting experience that sends the starlings packing for good.

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American Kestrel by Blair Dudeck / Macaulay Library