Starlings Sturnus vulgaris, gathering above reed bed at Ham Wall RSPB reserve

Starling deterrents

Starling numbers have been declining seriously right across Europe for many years, and the species is red listed and in serious conservation trouble.

The starling situation

The UK Starling breeding population has declined by around 65 per cent in the last 30 years.

Therefore, it seems a shame that anyone would wish to deter this charismatic bird which needs every help it can get. We do appreciate that in some situations it is advisable to exclude the birds, and the following methods may be useful if one has to resort to these measures.

  • Starling roosts are found in locations where large numbers of birds can gather in safety. Such sites are becoming scarcer, and roost sizes are declining as the numbers of starlings Europe-wide decline. Because of the adverse conservation status of the starling, it would be best to tolerate a roost wherever it may be. However, if the roost must be moved on, a tape of a starling distress call played underneath a roost after dark can effectively move the birds to another location. 
  • Perching on ledges can be prevented by fitting spike strips and other such barrier deterrents onto the ledge. 
  • Because of their intermediate size, it is not possible to exclude starlings only from feeders in gardens. Timing the feeding to avoid the peak times of starling presence may help. 
  • Any audible deterrent (apart from distress calls) will not be starling-specific, but is just as likely to scare any bird within its effective range, and in gardens is likely to be unacceptable because of the nuisance it would cause to the neighbourhood. Keep in mind that call and audio related deterrents should not be put in place after starlings have already started nesting - they have to be implemented before the breeding season.