Starlings are found in cities, suburbs, and farms alike. They nest in cavities (often unintentionally provided by people), get into our trash, and sometimes roost in urban places in large flocks of tens of thousands of birds. As a reminder, it is illegal in Pittsburgh to harm any wild bird or to trap any wild bird unless you are a qualified and trained professional as defined by Ordinance No. 36 that HAP helped pass. Don’t worry – we have common problems and humane solutions for starling conflicts.
Prevention is Key
If you can prevent starlings from building a nest somewhere unwanted, that is the best possible solution. Seal any openings or cavities, and feel free to remove nests you may find – as long as eggs or babies are not there.
For sealing openings, use hardware cloth, metal flashing, or commercial vent covers. Keep in mind that lighter material like plastic netting or window screening typically doesn’t work. Make sure to check your seals and covers periodically!
If Nesting Has Already Occurred
Remove the nesting material immediately if babies or eggs are not present. If eggs or young are already in the nest, please wait until they leave and then remove the nesting material. Note that you may have to wait about 12 days for eggs to hatch and up to 3 weeks for the young to leave the nest. Once the babies have left and you’ve removed the nesting material, don’t forget to seal the opening.
If it isn’t possible to wait to remove the nest until babies leave on their own, it is possible that the parents can still raise their young elsewhere. Please follow these tips from HSUS:
- Make a substitute nest from a wicker basket, a plastic gallon jug, or a birdhouse designed for medium-sized woodpeckers.
- Cut an U shape opening in the plastic jug and flip the “door” up to keep rain out.
- Attach the substitute nest as close as possible to the original nest, but in as much shade as possible.
- Carefully remove nesting material and nestlings, and place in substitute nest.
Noisy nestlings usually attract the parents who will continue to care for them. Watch the substitute nest to see that the adults return. They should not take more than a half hour or so, as growing young birds need constant feeding. If the adults do not return to nestlings, contact a wildlife rehabilitator in your area for advice.
Finally and importantly, if it was a vent that you vacated, promptly install a vent cover to keep other starlings, and other birds, out.
Note that substitute nests won’t work with eggs. Please leave the birds to complete the cycle for this one nesting period.
In Your Yard
Leave them alone! Starlings clean insects up in the grass and are actually performing a service.
In Public Places
Killing birds does not work as a long term solution to population control. If starlings make their way into a warehouse or shopping mall, try bird-proofing entry points by using strip doors or curtains or overlapping flexible strips.
If the birds are already inside, they can be removed humanely with nets or live-traps, and then released outside. Keep in mind this is a short-term solution, and bird-proofing the entry points as described above is the best way to solve the problem long-term, in addition to ensuring open trash and leftover food are not around.
Starlings in Your Birdhouse
If you prefer starlings not take residence in your birdhouse to leave room for other species, use a birdhouse with small entrance holes to allow smaller birds in and keep starlings out.
Please note, Humane Action Pittsburgh (HAP) is not a wildlife rescue and is unable to address concerns or assist with wildlife emergencies. Please utilize the resources on our website to find the appropriate organization to contact. Submissions to HAP through our contact form or email will not be able to be addressed.