Friday, December 16, 2011

How to Raise Starlings as Pets

Just like any pet, Starlings are a lot of work and time-consuming. So when you find a baby bird, you need to decide right away whether you want to keep it or release it. There is a very crucial time frame in which you can raise a bird to let it go. If you find a bird that is less than two weeks old, if you are with it for ANY amount of time between the 7th and 14th day, it will become "human imprinted".

Human imprinted means that the bird will think it's human, it will think you are its mommy, and it will never relate to other birds the same. They will fight with other birds and normally will not survive if let go in the wild. Birds that have been human imprinted then let go, have been found several miles from home, practically starved. They don't know how to be a bird. They only know what you have taught them while in captivity, which is that you came to feed him until he could fly, or some similar story. They only know your voice, not their own. So if you find a bird that is less than two weeks old, and you cannot put it back in its nest or it has been tossed out, then you have one of three choices: you must either raise it as a pet, give it to someone who wants to raise it as a pet, or give it to a rehab center where they have a bird aviary for such birds. But keep in mind that most rehab centers euthanize Starlings.

Here is a photo of Starlings at 13, 14, and 15 days old:

If you find a bird that is more than two weeks old, it has been imprinted by birds. If you decide to keep it, spend a lot of time with it. If you decide to release it once it's old enough, then you must spend AS LITTLE time with it as possible so that it does not get used to humans. In other words, you are there only to feed it.  I personally don't think birds do well by themselves.

If you decide to release it by yourself rather than giving it to a rehabber, please go over the following check list and if you answer "no" to any of them, the bird is not ready for release:
  • Is it cautious of all humans and pets?
  • Is it in 100% physical condition (no handicaps or missing limbs, infections, etc.)
  • Has it become accustomed to the outdoors for at least two weeks?
  • Has it been reared and socialized with others of its species?
  • Is it familiar with the release site?
  • Has it been provided the proper diet with necessary supplements (protein, carbos, fat)?
  • Has it had access to it's natural foods and learned how to forage?
  • Is it familiar with nature, such as rain and blowing leaves?
  • Is the release environment appropriate?
  • Have you evaluated the release site for possible overpopulation of same species or high predator or roaming domestic pet activity?
  • Is the time of release appropriate to the species--when they are most active. (Every morning when the sun comes up I am woken up by the Starlings in my neighborhood jabbering. That is their most active time.)
  • Will a backup food source be available for an extended period of time? (Perhaps leave a cage with food and shelter for it to come to if needed.)
  • Is it familiar with the materials and sites it should seek for shelter and protection in the wild?
  • Does it know not to stay out in the open? (was it given adequate covered areas in cage to hide?)
  • Are the weather conditions favorable for at least 5 days? (no rain, high winds or temperature extremes)
  • Is the animal mature and cautious enough for release?
  • Are you releasing it because the animal is ready (not because you are)?
  • Has it had an opportunity to hear the distress calls of it's own and other species?
  • Has it had access to view overhead sky and stars?
  • Has it had at least two weeks of flight practice?
  • Is it waterproofed?
  • Will it be accepted by it's own species?
* source:
    As you can see, that's a lot for a little bird to learn, and for you to teach it.

     Now, if you decide to keep it, here is a checklist to consider:
    • Starlings are a BIG responsibility and need you to spend lots of time with them every day
    • Starlings live to be about 20 years old. Are you ready for that commitment?
    • Birds are messy and need their cage and surroundings clean every day
    • Starlings are very vocal.
    • They need a large cage, big enough for flying time, or you need to let them out of their cage (not outside or they'll fly away), therefore, there will be droppings around your house.
    • They need plenty of toys and interactions to keep them busy and using their brain.
    • Do you have other pets? Dogs and cats, no matter how tame, have a natural instinct to catch a bird in its mouth. Other birds may not get along with Starlings. Starlings are known for pecking at eyes, out of curiosity, so beware when your children handle them.

      Here are some common dangers you need to watch out for when having a Starling as a pet:
      • Open windows/doors
      • Uncovered windows, glass, mirrors, etc.
      • Watch where you walk and sit if he's out of the cage.
      • Open containers, glasses, toilets seats, etc. can be a drowning hazard.
      • Empty containers that a bird could get stuck in
      • Kitchen dangers--hot stove, food, oil, open cupboards and fridge
      • Ceiling fans
      • Open fireplace, burning candles
      • Halogen lightbulbs (they get HOT)
      • Small objects that can be swallowed
      • Strings, threads, hair (can be swallowed, wrap around their tongues or toes, cutting off circulation)
      • Cat litter boxes
      • Cage liners, bedding, etc. that could be eaten
      • Non-stick coatings, like teflon and dupont, can kill birds with their fumes. Even though we don't smell it, it's toxic to birds. So make sure you never cook on high heat with non-stick coatings and always have something in the pan before turning on the heat.

        Other fumes that can kill:
        • Aerosol sprays
        • nail polish remover, wet nail polish
        • spray starch
        • strong bleach or pine oil
        • paint
        • insecticides
        • mothballs
        • smoke
        • air fresheners, candles, incense, potpourri
        • residual fumes from newly installed carpets
        • cedar and pine shavings
        • fumes or smoke from cooking
        • carpet powder
          Here's a list of poisonous houseplants:

          Amaryllis - bulbs
          American Yew
          Azalea - leaves
          Balsam Pear - seeds, outer rind of fruit
          Baneberry - berries, root
          Bird of Paradise - seeds
          Black Locust - bark, sprouts, foliage
          Blue-green Algae - some forms toxic
          Boxwood - leaves, stems
          Buckthorn - fruit, bark
          Buttercup - sap, bulbs
          Caladium - leaves
          Calla Lily - leaves
          Castor Bean - also castor oil, leaves
          Chalice Vine/Trumpet vine
          Christmas Candle - sap
          Clematis/Virginia Bower
          Coral Plant - seeds
          Cowslip/Marsh Marigold
          Daffodil - bulbs
          Daphne - berries
          Datura - berries
          Deadly Amanita
          Death Camas
          Deffenbachia/Dumb Cane - leaves
          Eggplant - fruit okay
          Elephants Ear/Taro - leaves, stem
          English Ivy berries, leaves
          English Yew
          False Henbane
          Fly Agaric Mushroom - Deadly Amanita
          Foxglove - leaves, seeds
          Golden Chain/Laburnum
          Hemlock - also water the plant is in
          Henbane - seeds
          Holly - berries
          Horse Chestnut/Buckeye - nuts, twigs
          Hyacinth - bulbs
          Hydrangea - flower bud
          Indian Turnip/Jack-in-Pulpit
          Iris/Blue Flag - bulbs
          Japanese Yew - needles, seeds
          Java Bean - lima bean - uncooked
          Juniper - needles, stems, berries
          Lantana - immature berries
          Lily of the Valley - also water the plant is in
          Lords and Ladies/Cuckoopint
          Marijuana/Hemp - leaves
          Mayapple - fruit is safe
          Mescal Beans - seeds
          Mistletoe - berries
          Mock Orange - fruit
          Monkshood/Aconite - leaves, root
          Morning Glory
          Narcissus - bulbs
          Nightshade - all varieties
          Oleander - leaves, branches, nectar
          Philodendron - leaves and stem
          Pointsetta - leaves, roots, immature
          Poison Ivy - sap
          Poison Oak - sap
          Pokeweed/Inkberry - leaf,root,young berries
          Potato - eyes, new shoots
          Rhubarb - leaves
          Rosary Peas/Indian Licorice - seeds
          Skunk Cabbage
          Snow on the Mountain/Ghostweed
          Sweet Pea - seeds, fruit
          Tobacco - leaves
          Virginia Creeper - sap
          Water Hemlock
          Western Yew
          Yam bean - roots, immature roots
          Autumn Crocus/Meadow Saffron
          Beans - all types if uncooked
          Bittersweet Nightshade
          Bleeding Heart/Dutchman's Breeches
          Bracken Fern
          Broomcorn Grass
          Candelabra Tree
          Cardinal Flower
          Cherry Tree - bark, twigs, leaves, pits
          Chinaberry Tree
          Crown of Thorns
          Euonymus/Spindle Tree
          False Hellebore
          Ficus (weeping)
          Four O'Clock
          Glory Bean
          Ground Cherry
          Honey Locust
          Indian Licorice Bean
          Jerusalem Cherry - berries
          Johnson Grass
          Kentucky Coffee Tree
          Mango Tree - wood,leaves,rind-fruit safe
          Mountain Laurel
          Mushrooms - several varieties
          Oak - acorns, foliage
          Peanuts - raw
          Pencil Tree
          Pine needles - berries
          Rain Tree
          Red Maple
          Sandbox Tree
          Scarlet Runner Beans
          Sorghum Grass
          Sudan Grass
          Tansy Ragwort
          Yello Jasmine
          Yew (Amer,Engl,Japan) - needles, thistles

          Safe Houseplants:

          House and Outdoor Plants
          Acacia Aloe
          African Violet
          Baby's Tears
          Christmas Cactus
          Cissus/Kangaroo Vine
          Corn Plant
          Donkey Tail
          Dracena Varieties
          Ferns (asparagus,birdnest,boston,maidenhair)
          Figs (creeping, rubber, fiddle leaf)
          Figs (laurel leaf)
          Grape Ivy
          Hen's and Chickens
          Herbs (eg oregano, rosemary, thyme)
          Jade Plant
          Monkey Plant
          Mother-in-Law's Tongue
          Natal Plum
          Prayer Plant
          Purple Passion/Velvet Nettle
          Schefflera (Umbrella)
          Sensitive Plant
          Spider Plant
          Swedish Ivy
          Wandering Jew
          White Clover
          Zebra Plant

          Trees and BushesApple
          Citrus (any)
          Norfolk Island Pine
          Nuts (except chestnut and oak)
          Palms (areca, date, fan, lady, parlour)
          Palms (howeia, kentia, phoenix, sago)
          Sequoia (Redwood)

          The main diet of an adult Starling is similar to that of a baby Starling.
          • 2 cups soaked dry dog/cat food
          • 1/2 cup poultry mash (or softbill pellets)
          • in a separate bowl, applesaud and hard boiled egg, about a tablespoon each. Make sure it's not in the cage too long so it doesn't spoil (no longer than about an hour)
          Again, make sure the protein/fat ratio is about 31%/12%

          Dangerous foods:
          • Avocado (toxic)
          • Raw meat and raw eggs
          • Salty foods
          • Processed meats
          • Alcohol (seriously, who would give a pet alcohol?)
          • Chocolate and candy
          • Coffe and sodas
          • Rhubarb leaves (toxic)
          • Milk
          • Earthworms
          Good foods to give an adult Starling (but not to be the main diet):
          • Figs
          • Sweet potatoes, carrots, beets, turnips (cooked)
          • dandelion leaves (as long as they have no pesticides)
          • brocolli
          • beet greens, celery leaves, turnip greens
          • fresh or frozen vegetables (if canned, rinse first)
          • hard boiled eggs
          • cooked meats such as tuna or chicken
          • corn bread and other enriched breads such as multi grain breads
          • berries
          • grapes
          • cherries
          • yogurt
          • apples and other fruits
          • apple and cherry jice
          • chopped nuts
          • mealworms
          • crickets