Starlings in Decline Really
"We used to get some very big starling roosts in the autumn and winter with millions of birds. Nowadays you can count them..."
Believe it or not, starling numbers have fallen by half in the past quarter of a century, and they're still plummeting. Biologists are so concerned that they have recommended the bird be added to an endangered species list. But don't expect starlings in your life to dwindle--not, that is, unless you live in Britain, home of the troubled starling population.
Ironically, Britain also is the starling's native habitat, along with Eurasia and North Africa. Elsewhere in the world, there is no love lost for the species, which dines in vast flocks on livestock feed, spreads disease and competes with native birds for food and nesting sites. The social and aggressive birds can nest in any sort of cavity and eat food ranging from insects to grains and fruit. Introduced to North America in the 1890s, the starling is now one of the United States' most abundant birds, thriving in all of the contiguous 48 states. Estimates of starling numbers here reach as high as 150 million.
In Britain, the starling still is far from extinction. But as one wildlife expert told a Plymouth newspaper, "We used to get some very big starling roosts in the autumn and winter with millions of birds. Nowadays you can count them, when at one time they were literally countless." Scientists think the causes of the decline involve farming practices that have poisoned insect prey with pesticides and chopped down grassland habitat. Other farmland bird populations too are reeling from the impacts.