Flock of starlings over reedbed

Starling migration

Many starlings come to the UK for the winter.

Starlings in the UK

These birds are residents, and most never leave us. However, this number almost doubles every winter with the arrival of thousands more birds from Eastern Europe. Hard weather there forces them to migrate west in search of food.

In October and November, you can see flocks of migrant starlings arriving along the east coast of England. Most have flown across the North Sea from Belgium or the Netherlands, after travelling across northern Europe. At Hunstanton in Norfolk, 409,000 starlings were counted passing overhead in autumn 1997, including 87,000 on the 16th October alone. Most of these birds continue migrating westwards until they have spread across the whole country. They join our resident starlings to form huge flocks, often roosting in parks, reedbeds or city centres.

In spring the migrant starlings return to Eastern Europe, while our own resident birds set up breeding territories at home. They nest in holes in trees and buildings, where they lay 4–6 eggs. The young spend about 21 days in the nest, and are then fed by their parents for a few more days before leaving to join up in late summer flocks. 

You may think from these huge numbers that our starlings have got nothing to worry about. But sadly starlings are declining. The UK breeding population fell by about 50 per cent between 1972 and 1998. Scientists think that modern farming practices may be to blame.