Starling Sturnus vulgaris, adult male in hedge of Wild privet Ligustrum vulgare, Bedfordshire, England,

Population trends and conservation

Starlings are taken by a wide variety of predators.

Adapt and survive

Starlings are very tenacious and adaptable birds. Over the centuries they have expanded their numbers and range in the wake of farmers, wherever suitable conditions became available. They used to be uncommon birds in the UK. 

In the past, one third of juveniles survived their first year of life, but this has reduced to only 15 per cent. Birds which survive to breeding age can expect to live a further two or three years. The oldest known wild individual was 21 years old.

Starling, London

Declining numbers

Starling numbers have declined markedly across much of northern Europe and the UK. The decline in the UK started during the early 1980s and has continued ever since. Recent data from the Breeding Bird Survey suggest continuing population declines affecting starlings in England and Wales since 1995. The cause of the starling decline in the UK is unknown.

Long-term monitoring by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) shows that starling numbers have fallen by 66 per cent in Britain since the mid-1970s. Because of this decline in numbers, the starling is red listed as a bird of high conservation concern.

Going hungry

Starlings are heavily dependent on soil invertebrates like earthworms and leatherjackets, and it is possible this food supply has either declined or perhaps become less available during dry summers. 

This reduction in invertebrates may be down to land-use changes and modern agricultural practices which can damage soils and their associated biodiversity.

Starling, Sturnus vulgaris: adult, garden bird on feeder, England