I want to start out by saying that it is not illegal to trap and kill starlings. Starlings (and house sparrows) are birds that are not native to the United States -- they were introduced from Europe back in the 1800's in New York City. Starlings and house sparrows are smart and adaptable to all environments and they're prolific breeders, so it didn't take long for them to populate the entire United States from coast to coast. Both breeds are cavity nesters which means that they live in bird houses, holes in trees excavated by woodpeckers and just about anywhere else they can find a hole or cavity to fly into--drain pipes, store signs, street lights, or attics in houses. Because of this, many of our native birds that nest in cavities (bluebirds, tree swallows, purple martins, woodpeckers, etc.) have experienced population declines due to the fierce competition for nesting sites from starlings and house sparrows. Starlings and house sparrows are very aggressive competitors for nesting sites and have been known to kill the native species -- even in the nest box! -- in order to take over and build a nest of their own (sometimes right on top of the birds they killed!)
Because I have nesting bluebirds in my yard in the summer and I'm still trying to attract purple martins, house sparrows and starlings are not welcome in my yard. I try to be tolerant of the starlings--especially in summertime because I know they eat alot of insects in the ground. Because I don't keep suet out in the summer, the starlings generally don't bother my birdfeeders at all. However, the single starling that showed up at my suet feeder the other day has now turned into a flock of 15-20 and that's beyond my limit of tolerance!
So I got my trap out of the garage this morning, set it on a board and baited it with suet (outside the trap and also inside). I believe that starlings are incapable of resisting suet or anything else with corn and/or peanuts in it. Here's a look at the baited trap.
I have strategically placed it right below the suet feeder they have been using in the tree. Sometimes if they drop a chunk of suet from above, they will fly down to find it--this is a good way to catch them also.
To be a responsible starling trapper, it is imperative that you monitor the trap to make sure you don't catch anything other than starlings. (Also, if you have to go away for awhile, please be sure to close the trap doors, or put the trap away.) Sophie is happy to assist me with the starling trap monitoring. She alerts me by barking if any birds go into the trap.
Sometimes starlings will also approach the trap from the ground as they're moving across the yard in search of food (this is why it's good to have the trap on a board--gives them easier access to the suet bait you've put outside the trap). I believe we have an adult and some juveniles in this picture.
OK, just hop inside please!
Now I put Sophie to work. She's excited to have a bird in the trap and quickly runs outside to bark at it until I get there and remove the bird from the trap. I hold the bird and Sophie quickly dispatches it with one or two chomps of her strong jaws. Gross? Yes, somewhat, but it's a much quicker dispatch than when I used to have to wring the bird's neck.
Starlings are amazingly intelligent. The trap will work for probably only a day or two at this location. Then I'll have to move it underneath a different suet feeder if I want to continue trapping these birds. In a few days (or weeks - depending on how long I have the trap out), the size of the starling flock has decreased and they have figured out my yard is not the ideal place for them to be and they move elsewhere.
You may think I'm cruel and uncaring person for killing these birds, but I've seen the results of what they can do to our native cavity nesters. Finding an entire nest of baby tree swallows pecked to death in their birdhouse was enough to convince me that trapping and elimination measures were going to start taking place in my backyard.