Starlings, Crows and Sparrows

European Starlings

The European Starling is an exotic species that was introduced to North America in the 19th century. It is now one of the continents' most numberous songbirds. It is found across the United States and Canada, almost always near areas of human habitation and disturbance or areas with a reliable food source, such as near barns or granaries.

The European Starling is considered a pest for several reasons: it outcompetes native birds such as bluebirds and woodpeckers, taking their nesting cavities and destroying their eggs and young; it is aggressive at feeders, keeping smaller birds away and eating large amounts of birdseed; its enormous winter foraging flocks damage agricultural crops; and the large flocks leave large amounts of droppings around human habitations.

Common Crow

Crows are omnivorous, which means they like to eat all kinds of things: seeds, fruits, nuts, insects, mollusks, earthworms, eggs, nestlings, frogs, mice, garbage and dead things. They are very social, sometimes forming flocks in the millions. They thrive around people: in agricultural fields, lawns, parking lots, athletic fields, roadsides, towns, and city garbage dumps. They are sometimes considered pests because they gather in large numbers around people, making lots of noise, scattering garbage, and leaving large amounts of droppings. They are also an agricultural pest, particularly in orchards and cornfields.

House Sparrow

The familiar house sparrow is a chunky sparrow with a large head and short tail. It was introduced to this country from Europe to control caterpillars, and is in a different family from our native sparrows. It is now one of the most abundant songbirds on the continent.

House sparrows outcompete native bird species for food and nest sites, such as bluebirds and tree swallows. They form large flocks. They are sometimes considered pests because they displace native birds from bird boxes and at birdfeeders.

European starling
European starlings are chunky and blackbird-sized, but with short tails and long, slender beaks. At a distance, they look black. In summer they are purplish-green iridescent with yellow beaks; in fresh winter plumage they are brown, covered in brilliant white spots.

American crow
The common crow has entirely black feathers, bills, legs, feet and claws. The body plumage and wings have a violet iridescence in strong light. It weighs about 1 pound and has a wingspan up to 36 inches.

House sparrow
The house sparrow male has black throat, white cheeks, and chestnut nape, a gray crown and rump. The female and young are streaked dull brown above, dingy white below, with pale eyebrow.

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[Photos, left to right: Lee Karney, US Fish and Wildlife Service,; Terry Spivey, USDA Forest Service,; Terry L Spivey, Terry Spivey Photography,]