Proceedings of the New Zealand Ecological Society (1977) 24: 94- 109

The foods and feeding of starlings in Canterbury

Research Article
J. D. Coleman 1,2
  1. Department of Zoology, University of Canterbury, Christchurch
  2. Present address: Protection Forestry Division, Forest Research Institute, P.O. Box 31-011, Christchurch

The feeding ecology of the starling, Sturnus vulgaris, was studied in Canterbury from 1968-71.
Starlings fed in flocks which varied seasonally in composition and behaviour. During breeding, parent birds fed in small isolated multispecific flocks which after breeding, coalesced into much larger more regimented monospecific flocks.
Starlings dietary patterns varied seasonally both in diversity and composition, and were influenced by seasonal and local patterns of abundance of food species. Even so, birds occasionally selected certain food species at the expense of other, more common species. The birds selectively foraged on seasonally occurring field forms, especially on cereal stubbles, fields being tilled and well-stocked heavily-grazed pasture.
Numerical dietary evaluations indicated that animals foods constituted 90% of the intake of free-flying starlings, while the remaining 10% consisted largely of cereal and weed seeds. Subsequent caloric estimates of the ingesta altered the numerically established level of importance of some foods, and revealed the insect orders Coleoptera and Lepidoptera to be most important. Notable in these orders were the families Scarabaeidae, Elateridae, Curculionidae, Hepialidae, Pyralidae and Noctuidae. Earthwonns, lycosid spiders, Diptera and Hemiptera were less important elements and taken infrequently.
The diet of nestling starlings was similar to the spring diet of free-flying birds, although small nestlings were fed with small soft-bodied foods.
Nestlings averaged about 50 meals/day and when mid-way through their nestling period, consumed approximately 13 Calories/day of metabolizable food