Starling Co-Parenting


About a week or two ago all of the baby starlings that live in our eavesdrop fell out of the nest — the nest that was built on the severed and torn parts of many of my tomato plants including the ‘Zapotec Pink Pleated’ and the ‘Patio Orange’, two plants that are forever malformed by the trauma — landing in a succession of hard thumps onto the potting table and turning our lives into a minor farcical comedy staring John Lithgow or Chevy Chase as a bumbling family guy forced to take on the ill-prepared responsibility of caring for a tiny, demanding creature (or creatures). Wacky hijinks ensue. Except that we’re pretty much mostly prepared since around here a baby starling or three seem to fall out of the nest every single year. We’ve been through this routine before.

We immediately made a makeshift nest using a cardboard box and dried plant matter. Lucky for us the parent starlings figured out the situation quickly and have been feeding the babies regularly. Despite their attentiveness two babies have since died. The first was probably injured in the fall and died soon after. The second was smaller than the third and less active. The surviving bird seems healthy and has grown from a nestling that looked like this to one that looks like this. We’ve had to bring the box indoors on a few nights that were too cold, have had to keep the cat inside (she hates us for it), and have found it necessary to stay off the deck ourselves to allow the parents freedom to feed. If we are out there when they come by with food they screech and yell at us to get lost. I like the baby bird but I look forward to the day when it is ready to fly the nest and we can have our deck back.

If you find a starling nestling this site has good instructions on how to care for the baby. Starlings actually leave the nest at the fledgling stage and live on the ground for a couple of days learning to catch food and fly. If you find a baby on the ground it might not be orphaned but in its fledgling stage so it’s important to understand the difference.

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

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7 thoughts on “Starling Co-Parenting

  1. I saw a baby starling following its mother in our yard last week. The mother was feeding it. I guess it was a fledgling.

    You and Davin are amazing for being such caring foster parents to some birdies.

  2. It is so wonderful that you are caring for the starling, and have done so in the past. I lived in a small town in Central IL when I was in high school the starlings were so bad that the local police department would have “scheduled” nights when they would go around town and shoot up into the trees to “scare” the Starlings. It is nice to see someone caring not only for the nestling but the parents well being as well. Thanks for sharing your story.

  3. sweetness. we have baby sparrows in our eaves and my girls and i sit outside and listen to them chirp for mama until she comes to feed them. i love having the company of birds in our yard. there’s something so enchanting about it.

  4. I was the proud grandmother of 4 baby killdeer. Killdeer build their nests on the ground- in the gravel driveway, to be exact. I was so excited that these eggs actually made it the 20+ days. I even blogged about the adventure.

  5. The photos of the baby starlings are so cute! Thanks for info on bird co-parenting. That’s amazing the mother will still feed and care for the young even in the human-made makeshift nest. The starlings in our garden chopped the tops off the tomato plants too, but they are recovering successfully as far as I can tell. Lots of leaves and more green tomatoes every day! Zapotec is such a cool heirloom. It’s the only pleated tomato I’ve ever seen.

  6. Oh that is so cute! I checked the website you linked to, that tells the difference from a baby and a fledgling (or whatever they are called). I think that I now know what to look for. The baby’s are ugliest but in a way cute and the fledgidfwh things are really like, stiff and yeah….NOT CUTE! Well thanks!

  7. Erin: One thing I am learning from this post is how maligned starling are. I’m not happy they snipped my plants but we all gotta live together. I may joke about my annoyance but fundamentally I really love having them around.

    Katie: I LOVE killdeer. We used to love seeing them on the tracks near here pretending to be dead.

    Aireen: I’m really looking forward to the Zapotec. I am growing three plants and 2 have little tomatoes already.

    Shelly: Yes, so much to learn but very interesting. I know tons more about birds now than I ever expected.

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