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the web of life in southern Africa

Sturnus vulgaris (Common starling, Eurasian starling, European starling) 

Europese spreeu [Afrikaans]; Leholi (generic term for starlings) [South Sotho]; Spreeuw [Dutch]; Étourneau sansonnet [French]; Star [German]; Estorninho-malhado [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Passeriformes > Family: Sturnidae

Sturnus vulgaris (Common starling, Eurasian starling, European starling)  Sturnus vulgaris (Common starling, Eurasian starling, European starling) 

Common starling, Strandfontein Sewage Works, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

Common starling feeding on ants, Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa. [photo Duncan Robertson ©]

Distribution and habitat

Originally from Eurasia, north Africa and Japan, it was introduced to Australia, New Zealand, North America, Argentina and South Africa, and is now considered a serious pest to agriculture in some of these regions. It mainly occurs in the southern half of South Africa, and is by far the most common in urban and agricultural areas.

Distribution of Common starling in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project (© Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  

Predators and parasites

It has been recorded as prey of Falco peregrinus (Peregrine falcon).

Brood parasites

It has been recorded as host of the Lesser honeyguide.


It mainly eats arthropods supplemented with fruit, seeds and nectar, doing most of its foraging on the ground, plucking food items up or probing the soil for underground prey. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • Animals
  • Plants
    • fruit
      • figs
      • cherries
      • guavas
      • grapes
      • pears
      • plums
    • seeds
      • wheat
      • barley
      • sorghum
      • corn
    • nectar
      • Aloe
  • Miscellaneous
    • dog pellets
    • scraps of human food


  • The nest is mainly built by the female, consisting of a large structure made of twigs, dry grass, string and other rubbish, lined with finer material such as paper, grass, wool, feathers or hair. It is typically placed in a hole in a building or tree, but it may also put it on the ground or even in an offshore shipwreck.
  • Egg-laying season is from September-December.
  • It lays 2-6 eggs, which are incubated for about 15 days by both sexes, although the female always solely incubates at night.
  • The chicks are brooded by the female and fed by both parents, leaving the nest after about 21 days and becoming independent about 5 days later.


Undesirable alien in southern Africa, although it is not as damaging to agriculture in comparison to the USA.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town.