European starlings are one of those pest species, like brown rats and pigeons that are scattered all over the world displacing indigenous species. Starlings are probably one of the worst, in that they are so aggressive, adaptable, and prolific breeders. I’ve seen them in North America, Australia, South America. And Asia; and everywhere they go the local populations of songbirds drop. This is a species that outside of Europe should be SOS (shot on sight). This is a perfect target for a mid power .177 or a higher powered gun at longer range.
The European starling is a non-indigenous feathered pest in North America that loots the nests of native birds and overrun their territory. In the last hundred years this bird has extended its territory throughout most of the United States. It is believed that the initial population was a small flock of birds on the East coast and populations are now thought to be many millions of birds, and they continue to expand their range at the expense of native species displacing or starving out their rivals.
These birds are intelligent, aggressive, and able to adapt to virtually any new environments from desert to mountains to coastal grasslands. They thrive in proximity to man, and are seen in huge numbers in almost every city in the country, and are pestilential in many agricultural areas. Besides his aggressive nature, the starling is equipped with a sharp beak and strong claws that are a real threat for the other species they displace. Indigenous species in the United States, which suffer at the expansion of the starling, include woodpeckers, bluebirds, great crested flycatchers, purple martins, tree swallows, and others, which are driven from their nests.
As mentioned, the starling has proven a tenacious pest all over the world, and has been responsible for negatively impacting native bird populations not only in the United States, but also Australia, South America, Africa, anywhere he has been able to get a foothold, which is anyplace this bird has been introduced. I was on a safari on the Eastern Cape of South Africa hunting, and mixed in with all the African bird life were European starlings! In our country the starling is a major threat to the smaller bird species (such as the purple martin) and have decimated many local populations.
While the starling is an aggressive creature and a tough fighter, they are an easy bird to kill. Almost any medium to high power airgun will do the trick for general shooting around farms and roosts, and a lower power rifle is often better around industrial areas, houses, etc. At one time I used .177 which is fine, but a .22 hits with authority and dumps birds where the increased power is not a risk. The main thing you need, as with all hunting applications, is accuracy at whatever ranges you’ll shoot to. You also need a gun that cycles and can be gotten onto target quickly, as these birds don’t sit still very long.
A shot to either the head or the chest area works equally well. If your gun is not too loud, you can sometimes pick off multiple birds from a flock before they spook and fly off. When using a rifle, I like to shoot from about 30-60 yards, as it softens the sound of the shot and allows me to remain unnoticed in my camouflage or hide for a longer period of time. I like to shoot these birds around local farms, railways, and mowed lawns adjacent to woodlots near my house. One can successfully shoot starlings over bait, using either commercial feed or homemade concoctions. When opportunistic hunting while hiking a potential area yields success, another method we commonly use in my area is to set up bait and hunt from a blind. This takes patience, as the hunter must sit quietly at the bait station waiting for the quarry to join him. When the birds arrive it is necessary to move slowly and deliberately while bringing your rifle to a shooting position and targeting in. These birds are wary and the wrong movement at the wrong time will flush the entire flock. Baiting for pest animals is legal in most regions of the country, and is a productive way to get a large number of birds into range.
The starling are and excellent target species in the off-season months when everything else is either very scarce, or out of season. In the spring season I have had great success finding areas where the birds are nesting in large numbers, and picking them off as they feed and head back to the nesting area. One such area that I hunt is an old factory equipment storage yard, with old outbuildings riddled with vents and holes used for nesting sites, equipment, high power lines, trees. If I keep hidden and have a silenced gun, I can get a full days shooting in. The European starling is a smart and wary varmint that is in constant need of culling.
At any rate, get out there and shoot those starlings whenever and wherever the chance arises, you’ll be doing our native species a good turn and get in some great fast action shooting practice.