Starling invasion

Today I had my first proper starling invasion. Thirty birds or so cleared me out of all food (!) leaving only the peanuts hanging. I was amazed at their behaviour and aerial display. Really gorgeous birds, but, since I'll need to replenish the fat daily, and worst clean up their mess everyday, how long do they last for? Is it just a season? I am concerned since I have enough of a handful with parakeets pooing everywhere, including the feeders. And, I'm a bit tired. I do more cleaning than enjoying....:(
  • Hi.

    They will keep coming now they've found you, I'm afraid. I have had the same problem at my old house. They'll keep coming throughout the time you make food available for the birds. Starlings can use feeders in the RSPB narrow gauge sanctuary cage - I had both types.

    If you really can't cope with it, I sympathise.  Now I live in a terraced house with a small garden and neighbours' rotary dryers too close for comfort, I concentrate on feeding smaller birds. The starlings visit but in much smaller numbers; they peck up any dropped food and leave quickly.

    There is an adjustable sanctuary cage which will exclude them if adjusted to the narrowest gauge. Clingers only feeders work well.  I have great, blue and coal tits; sparrows; chaffinches; goldfinches; robin; dunnocks; wren; and Fred the wood pigeon. I do put out a little loose food before dawn for the blackbirds.

    I kept sunflower seeds going through the summer and had a family of newly fledged blue tits visit the hanging feeder. It was wonderful to see fourteen new blue tits so excited with their first visit! Most of them are still around although they don't all come together.

  • In reply to Grandmamac:

    Grandmamac, thanks for your input. I thought starlings migrated here in winter, i never knew we had resident starlings - it seems I may be in this for the long haul. The only good thing is that they eat everything put out, but don't hang about, so I can refresh the food then.

    I have hanging feeders out and a wide mesh ground sanctuary. They use both, happily. I would not want to omit them from the food since they are quite something to watch and in decline. I do quite like to see them gobbling all the food. Faeces is a real concern of mine since it's not my garden and it's everyday, all over the baffle, feeders and paving stones. The tits feel so safe that they have taken to eating from the ground (!) like the pigeons and it gets soiled all the time. I do worry if I don't clean after every daily feeding session, they'll get sick. I've heard you can lay bark below the feeders, but I'm not sure if this will rot all too quickly since this season is so wet, spoil seed  that will be taken and be a health hazard. At least this will catch the faeces and husk, making clean up a whole lot simpler on a weekly basis.

    And I can't wait to see this year's family of tits. You must have been overjoyed. I've only been feeding a few months, and already they're bold enough to come and greet me by the kitchen window. Enough to melt your heart!

  • In reply to ellemoonie:


    You are right about the numbers increasing through migration through the winter. There are resident starlings as well. I don't like excluding them but I need to consider my neighbours. I will put out available food in severe weather.

    I haven't used bark on paving so I can't advise you there. Is it likely to remain undisturbed for a week? Would it get blown about?

    I think your feeders and cage sound fine and avoiding a build up of spoiled seed and droppings will help. The problem is that the birds can encounter less healthy conditions when feeding elsewhere.

  • In reply to Grandmamac:

    I never considered the bark blowing away. Thanks for pointing that out. I don't like to omit any bird either, and I do see how you must consider your neighbours. I do think they're delightful, maybe not for the others. Now everyone has to grab what they can before the starlings arrive since I cannot go out every time the food clears. Even the robin seems overwhelmed by all the new visitors, which is very sweet. I just worry, as sentimental bird feeders do, that the shy dunnock and co. will lose out. The saving grace is that the magpies returns late to an empty garden with no food left for them which is terribly amusing. (They get what they can I suppose, not to seem like a magpie hater.)

    If these are residents, I may be in this for the long haul.

  • In reply to ellemoonie:


    Can I bump this because I despair. So it's been about two weeks, they clear out everything and bring all their buddies, the greater the number of fat blocks, the greater the number of starlings arrive. If no fat blocks are about, they feed off anything.

    If I restrict the food to one block a day, they raid the ground table and 'protected areas', coconut halves protected with hanging wire baskets so that at least the tits have something hanging. They have 'access all areas' basically, and it's taking its toll. Every evening, I sweep and clean up all the droppings. It's like Rome on a 1% scale, and that's quite a lot still all over the garden. All I see is the fat block in their droppings, which has made me not put out any fat to deter their numbers. I just cannot win. I feed them what I am prepared to, and they polish it off in hours.

    Cue magpie rage, dragged into this bird war. An adult magpie squeezed into the ground guardian I have -wide mesh. I could not believe it. Driven by starlings feeding like kings, it kept walking in and out like it was made for its size. I now have to return this, what was a great product, since once the magpie's found a way in, they won't stop. And just as the lovely blackbirds have come to take food daily from the feeder, I have to give up the wide mesh guardian for the adjustable one. I am conflicted, and too frustrated. Is there any way I can 'keep' the blackbirds and deter the starlings/magpies? I have really relaxed towards the magpies taking odd tit bits here and there, but the starlings are the newest visitors. They have this attitude that they can eat all they like and leave me the mess - all over the feeders and into the fat block itself....(!)

    Can the adjustable ground table be adjusted to just fit a blackbird and leave the marauding magpies out? What would be the minimum? Starlings are so small, I simply cannot keep them off anything...

    I know this sounds like a jumble, but I am really stuck with a problem that's plagued me all day.

  • In reply to ellemoonie:

    Oh dear Ellie, you do seem to be having problems. I have a flock of around 30+ but they don't all come at the same time. They will feed for a while and disappear for a while. I have two metal pole feeders that are stuck in the earth which is surrounded by shrubbery so it is quite easy to hoe over and have fresh soil on top. The feeders still need to be washed and the concrete area where the bird bath sits needs swept and hosed. I don't have any suggestions for covers/cages etc as we don't have magpies or are bothered by bigger birds, apart from the odd crow who seems to know when the fat balls are out! Good luck.

    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

  • In reply to Catlady:


    I had a similar problem until yesterday, I built a new fence mounted bird table and I've fixed 50mm wire mesh around the sides. I use a small ground feeder inside the table to contain the seeds/mealworms. The starlings (about 20 of them) swooped down to try and get the feed, but they cannot access it!

    In addition I also like to feed the blackbirds. This morning was the first frost in a while and the blackbird was fighting any starling that landed on the ground. Never seen this before, but happy that it is defending its food.

    As far as the hanging feeders go, the starlings seem to leave the sunflower hearts and peanuts alone. They love the fat balls and suet pellets. I bought a squirrel proof peanut feeder and filled it with suet. This does actually keep the starlings from eating it.

    If you have a bird table, I'd suggest attaching some 50mm mesh to keep the starlings out but allow the tits etc to still enter freely. You could maybe try a squirrel proof feeder to feed suet and the likes, and also up the sunflower hearts.

    Hope this helps, Neil

  • In reply to Neil M:

    Catlady, you bring up a good point. If only my poles were situated in soil, I could just cover it with more, but as it is, the poles are in patio stands because they simply are not stable enough staked into the ground.

    I think my problem is that I am complaining too much since no one seems to find it an issue. I don't really have that many birds, or none that feed and drop concurrently like the starlings. I expected some cleaning but since they arrived, it's everyday. I have a flock like you who divide themselves into smaller raiding groups, and since they hang around and wait for the next round, they do all their business here perching on anything available - the washing line is a fave.

    Neil, they are so small they can walk in and out the ground feeder - 6cm mesh. I am very surprised by your starlings who cannot access your 5cm mesh...The can even enter a hanging wire basket (no more than 4cm mesh). I will consider a new guarded feeder but given how much I've spent, and how much energy and time bird feeding has cost me, versus the joy I actually get anymore, I am not jumping to buy a new feeder.

    I am going to have to penalise the blackbird (how sad for me) and make my new ground table just for small birds and limit these starlings to one block a day. I can't have the starlings eat everything, and leave me these great parting gifts everyday.

    If anyone has any more advice, please share. Especially in terms of keeping it clean since I cannot believe how grotty a garden can get overnight. I am not super hygienic, it may seem so, but I so share this garden with others who don't care for birds, and who, including me will be enjoying the garden again come summer time.

  • In reply to ellemoonie:

    I have had the same problem for ages but finally, thanks to another thread here, I found the answer:

    and it works and I have video to prove it (but can't post it here)


  • In reply to rynd2it:

    Hi David

    To put a video on the community you have to upload it on to Youtube first then link it in a thread, it saves space on the RSPB servers.

    My Flickr photos