Starling / Grackle Identification:
Starlings are an introduced species to America and have adapted well to urban life which offers abundant nesting and food sites. The starling is a dark, chunky, muscular bird that is distinguished from other balckbird species by its short tail and longer, slender bill. In the winter starlings showcase a highly speckled, irridescent coat, while in the summer their plumage is much duller brown/black with less speckles. Starlings gather in massive flocks (some numbering tens of thousands) and these aggressive birds will drive out other native bird species often taking over the other birds' existing nests.
Common grackles are about 12" long and have green/blue or purple tinged black plumage with a glossy purplish head, neck and checst. The female of the species is slightly smaller and duller colored than the male grackle. Boat-tailed and great-tailed grackles are slightly larger than the common grackle at about 16" in length with similar plumage, but these pest birds have long "V" shaped tails that crease in flight. Like starlings and other members of the blackbird family, these birds are aggressive, colonizing in huge flocks to overwhelm structures and drive out native bird species.
Damage Caused by Starlings / Grackles:
When starlings or grackles are in their flocking phase, thousands of these pest birds can literally overwhelm trees or buildings in an area. Typical starling or grackle problems are large scale buildup of their sprayed feces (a whitewash look) which can lead to structural damage, as the uric acid in the pest bird droppings can corrode stone, metal and masonry. Machinery and drainage problems occur from starling nesting materials and bird droppings. In addition, the bacteria, fungal agents and ectoparasites found in starling droppings and nesting materials are responsible for a host of serious diseases, including histoplasmosis, encephalitis, salmonella, meningitis, toxoplasmosis and more. The large quantity of starling or grackle droppings can open a company up to slip and fall liability if not properly cleaned up. Many companies also retain significant clean up and maintenance costs due to starling problems or grackle problems that are not resolved. Agriculture often has grackle problems as these problem birds will eat small seedlings and damage crops.
Starling / Grackle Control Products:
The best grackle and starling control product is 1-1/8” StealthNet bird netting. Bird net is extremely durable and creates a true bird barrier. Bird netting permantently resolves starling problems, keeping these problem birds completely away from the area.
In addition to bird net, another effective starling control product is an electrical wire/track. product as these pest birds are generally to nimble for most traditional mechanical ledge products. Electrical bird track is particularly useful for starling control or grackle control on building ledges.
You can get rid of starlings and grackles with audio visual bird scare products if the bird scare products are implemented quickly when the birds move into an area. A combination of sophisticated noisemakers like the BirdGard Pro, Bird Squawker (for larger areas), Zon Gun propane canon.
Bird scare eye balloons, bird scare flags and flash bird scare tape creates a menacing, predatory feel to the area driving the problem starlings or grackles from the vicinity. A new technique for starling bird control and grackle problems that has found some success is fogging with methyl anthranilate, a grape extract that reacts with the birds olfactory sense like pepper spray. This is a technique that should be undertaken by experienced professionals only.
Grackles build a bulky yet dense nest of twigs, grasses or weeds lined with feathers, rags or dried grass. The nest may be held in place with a foundation of mud or cow dung. Grackles will nest in a variety of places from willow swamps, dense brush to tall trees with trees being the most common. Boat tail grackle nests will seldom be seen more than twenty miles from the coast.
Grackles breed during the spring. They usually lay four to five eggs in a single brood for the year. Common grackle eggs are a pale green to light brown with purple and dark brown streaks and blotches. Boat Tailed Grackles have lighter blue to grayish eggs with dark streaks and blotches. The eggs take 14 days to incubate with the young being able to fly about three weeks later.
Grackles have a definitive seasonal behavior. They nest and breed as one pair or in small groups in the spring time. In the fall, the birds will fall to form large colonies with the juveniles first forming the groups and later joined by the adults. These large colonies can number in the thousands. In colder, northern climates the flock will migrate south, while southern birds will stay put or move into a more urban location. These flocks will usually take over several trees or urban dwellings for their evening roosting. In the winter, their feeding site may be quite far from their roosting spot, making trapping or baiting difficult.
The Starling is a nesting bird. Their nests are in enclosed areas with at least a 1-1/2 inch opening. Look for their nests in old trees, church steeples and other holes and crevices. Due to their bullying nature they will take any suitable site, evicting any previous owner. They sometimes watch other birds build a complete nest before forcing them to leave.?
Starlings have two broods a year with four to five eggs a brood. They average eight offspring a year. The eggs are white, pale blue or green-white. Incubation of the eggs takes twelve days. The fledglings leave the nest after 25 days. The young leave to join other juveniles and form huge flocks that move on to other territories.?
Not a true migrating bird, starlings may move from rural trees to warm city buildings in winter. The daily cycle is one of leaving the nest at sunrise to travel up to sixty miles to feeding areas before returning for the evening. They disperse to mate in the spring. After mating season, they will often coalesce into huge flocks with defined feeding and roosting areas.