Date of this Version
Linz, G., R. Johnson, and J. Thiele. 2018. European starlings. pgs. 311-332. In: W.C. Pitt, J.C. Beasley, and G.W Witmer, editors. Ecology and Management of terrestrial vertebrate invasive species in the United States. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL. 403 pp.
European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris, Sturnidae) are native to Europe, southwest Asia, and North Africa and have successfully established populations on every continent but Antarctica (Rollins et al. 2009). In 1890 and 1891, a member of the American Acclimatization Society, Eugene Scheiffelin, released 100 starlings into New York City’s Central Park, with the objective of introducing all the birds mentioned in the plays of William Shakespeare to North America (Cabe 1993). He was successful, as 16 pairs survived and reproduced prolifically. Starlings reached the Mississippi River in 1928 and were observed on the West Coast in 1942. In a little over a century, the United States (U.S.) starling population grew to approximately 200 million (Feare 1984; Cabe 1993; Johnson and Glahn 1994), but has now declined to about 140 million (Jernelov 2017). They now inhabit all of North America. Their range extends southward to the Bahamas, Central America, the Yucatan Peninsula, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, and Cuba. There are no subspecies in North America. Genetic analysis indicates that all starlings in North America descended from the New York City colony (Cabe 1993). Outside their native range, starlings are considered to be one of the most destructive invasive bird species worldwide, nominated by the Invasive Species Specialist Group, a science and policy network under the Species Survival Commission of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, to the “100 World’s Worst” invaders (Lowe et al. 2004; Rollins et al. 2009).