Alternative methods of Starling control


Summary/Key Points:

Starlings are attracted by: exposed feed; water sources and open feed stores; accessible perching sites (trees for roosting); some starlings are known to return to the same farm yera after year.

Starlings: consume around half of their body weight in food each day; are selective feeder (they sort rations, selecting out what they want to eat changing the nutrient balance of the intended diet); cost an average of £106/100 cows/day in 2012/13 from feed and milk yield losses; they can sped bacterial infections.

Legally only 50 starlings a year can be culled on farm.

Simple changes in daily routine can reduce the impact if infestations listed below:

  • Morning vs afternoon feeding

● Simply switching from am to pm feeding lowers the amount of feed losses between 14% and 22% 

● Feeding in the afternoon, after the birds have left the farm to roost, means the cows have up to 16 hours access to uncontaminated feed before the birds return the next morning 

● Cows will rapidly adapt to any changes in their routine 

● A noticeable increase in lying and cudding time was observed during the day when feeding late afternoon 

● Starting this feeding regime early in the autumn before starlings arrive could reduce the attractiveness of the farm to starlings 

● Reducing feed losses can potentially increase milk yield

  • Most effective control methods:

● Exclusion: using <28mm hole netting, mesh, fitted rolller blinds and doors, ventilated wall cladding 

● Disturbance from farm labour, shooting to scare etc, particularly early in the morning and random gas guns or rockets 

● Fly a bird of prey (Harris Hawk or Sparrowhawk)

  • Most effective control approaches:

● Implement preventative measures completely and persistently before and during the migration period (October/November) 

● Use of several methods of mitigation simultaneously or sequentially​

Fo further information the report is available.

01 January 2001 - 01 June 2012
AHDB Dairy
Project leader:


411104 Starling Report Final 7Aug12

About this project


Participatory research to evaluate potential control methods for starling infestation on dairy farms on the Somerset levels.