(Photo © Len Endy
European Starlings are a similar size and color to blackbirds, cowbirds, and grackles (glossy black with iridescent purple and green) but they’re a very different shape. They have much shorter, and notched, tails; more pointed wings; longer, more straight, and thinner bills; and shorter, more colored (pinkish) legs.

  • In summer, starlings have yellow bills and pale spots on their backs, which blackbirds, cowbirds, and grackles never have, while in the winter starlings are covered in bright white spots that these other species lack.
  • Grackles and blackbirds have yellow eyes, and cowbirds have very short and thick bills, plus lots of brown on their bodies and heads.

You’ll rarely see a starling alone; look for them in groups of five or six on telephone wires or in yards. Chances are, if you see a large flock (let’s say more than 20) of black birds descending upon a field or flying in a tight mass in the sky, they’re European Starlings. Sometimes grackles and blackbirds are in these groups though, so watch out for the distinctions mentioned above!