The Ugly Little Dinosaur Bird

“A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.”

But what about two birds in the hand, or rather in the house, on the porch, and landing on your head chirping loudly in your ear every time they see you?

Last summer we had the unique opportunity to raise two baby birds from naked little dinosaurs into full fledged, flying torpedoes… I mean Starlings.

Yes, I know. Starlings are not exactly a favorite choice of anyone’s when it comes to birds and if you google Starlings you find more information about how to get rid of them than how to raise or care for them. However, starlings are actually very smart and interesting birds once you get past the vast number of them that have invaded our country. They can even learn to talk similar to a parrot. My friend has one who can say his name and whistle the Andy Griffith theme song!

Side note: Starlings were released intentionally in New York Central Park by Shakespeare enthusiasts because Starlings are mentioned in Shakespeare’s Henry IV Part I.

Unfortunately these two babies basically fell into our laps and I decided to teach our boys some valuable lessons instead of simply throwing them in the woods to die.

A mama Starling had built her nest in the small roof over our doorway and would often fly out of the little opening she’d found each time we came in or out of the house. It didn’t seem like a very ideal location to raise a family. I thought for sure our constant disturbances would entice her to find a new location, but I was wrong. One day coming back from the barn the boys and I found a very small, rather ugly looking baby bird laying in front of the door.

My first reaction was more exasperation than anything else because I have raised wild, baby birds on several other occasions since high school. In college I raised a baby Robin I found in the middle of the road. His name was Simba, he loved worms, sat on my shoulder as we walked around town, and would greet me at my door once he learned to get out of his box. Baby birds are A LOT of work and not really something I wanted to add to our already busy, summer schedule.

Well, I couldn’t just leave him there so I put him in a warm box and went to the barn for some dog food to mix him up something to eat for the time being. Unfortunately, since Starlings are an invasive species rescues won’t take them. I called the first person I could think of that might be interested or know someone interested in raising this little guy instead of me, my dentist and former Science Olympiad coach. (Doesn’t everyone call their dentist when they find a baby bird?) She didn’t know anyone, but asked what color the baby bird’s mouth was with the hope that if it was actually a baby Cowbird since they’re native and could go to a rescue. Baby Cowbirds have a red mouth…

Haha no such luck for me. That little mouth confirmed what I’d already guessed… Baby Starling.

The next day I was still wondering about whether or not there was any chance it could go back in its nest. I mean most mama birds are pretty devoted and will keep feeding a chick even if it falls out of the nest. So out came the ladder and up I climbed (have I mentioned how much I dislike heights?).

Oh, excitement! When I peeked in there was another ugly, naked little baby in the nest. My hopes soared with the idea that I could put my little guy back in the nest and be done with this crazy, every 15-20/30 minute feeding schedule. Back up into the nest my little baby went, but being the overly concerned person I am I decided to keep an eye out to make sure mama was actually coming around. I had gotten used to her flying out every time we went through the door and hadn’t seen her, but realized she’s also going to be careful going in and out so I placed a few leaves in the opening that would be moved if she entered….

Almost 24 hours later we hadn’t seen her and the leaves hadn’t moved. Eventually we had to make the call that it looked like mama had abandoned the nest (and we never did see her again). From the excitement of not having one baby bird to the sheer frustration of having two baby birds. Not to mention, getting them out of that nest is a whole other story.

Oh, and did I mention how Starlings imprint on their caregiver? That means, unlike the other birds I’ve raised, the two wouldn’t be able to fend for themselves if released. They can live for 20 some years and I can’t release them?!

Follow along with the journey of Cuckoo and Sweetie Heart (as my oldest named them). They definitely made our summer last year more interesting and did eventually grow on me.

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