Sam is a European Starling and he’s just a little over a year old as of this writing. We got him from a friend who found him, recently hatched and nearly dead, outside her place of work on the gravel in the parking lot. He was pretty much bald and didn’t have his eyes open…just pitiful!
We have rescued starlings for years, always releasing them when they became old enough to make it on their own. Just before we got Sam, we had “Dibbins” and he stayed longer than any others. Then there was Sam…
We fed him a concoction of the stuff you can get at the pet store to feed baby birds, but since that is primarily suited for birds like parrots and cockatiels, we supplemented with a cat food that had been soaked in water, so it would be mushy. And it had to have a pretty good ratio of fat and protein. Since Starlings are omnivores, he needed a type of “meat” as well as other nutrition, so that’s how we had to do that. Mixing those two together, I guess he ate every 45 minutes to every two hours as he got older.
Birds grow FAST! So, it only takes 2-3 weeks or so, and they’re ready to fly. But I’m so glad we got pictures within that time. It was so fun teaching him to walk around and perch and peck for worms and he seemed to enjoy it as much as we did.
Once he got old enough to fly, and had learned to do so pretty well, we were readying ourselves to say goodbye. This wasn’t our first rodeo, and we let him have his opportunities. He would fly out the door when we went out, but after looking around – on several different occasions – he decided that just wasn’t his thing. He preferred sitting on the television and taking naps while music videos played…
Or standing on his cage and posing when he saw that I had my camera! He has been a ham ever since then.
Starlings are known for their irridescent feathers that can seem bright purple in one light and vibrant green in another, or just plain black or brown when there isn’t much light. And of course, their tell-tale white-tipped feathers on their head and chest. Since we hadn’t ever had one long enough to see those come in, I wondered if they all had them or if it was only some. As it turns out, these feathers come in slowly, not all at once. And he proudly preened his one or two tipped feathers once they started to appear 🙂
As he got to be older, his starry feathers showed up in full force, as did his little personality. Well, little may not be exactly the right word. Like I said, he always has been a ham, and every time the camera comes out, he knows exactly what’s going down. When he was younger, like in this next picture, he was all about posing and stretching and flaunting the best way he knew how, but these days, he wants to be on the other side, to see how it all goes down. I can’t seem to get a good picture of him these days for anything!
Since we’d never actually lived with a Starling before, I had no idea what all we were about to learn. For one thing, wild birds – or at least birds that were meant to be wild – absolutely HAVE to have a certain amount of sunlight! How did we find this out? Why, the scariest way possible, of course! One day I noticed he wasn’t preening like he use to. He would turn his head back to start, and suddenly he would become unbalanced and have to catch himself. This went on all morning and into the afternoon, getting worse and worse until I finally called a vet, nearly in tears. And of course, in my little rural locality, there were no vets that knew anything about it. Some of them referred me to the pet store for a light like the ones you use in reptile cages, but those don’t work for these birds.
I finally called around to a vet some fifty miles away, and had every intention of taking Sam out there, but the vet told me that, while it could be a vitamin deficiency that would require injections, we should just try getting him some sunlight and see if that helped. So we chose the window that had the most sun for the longest period of time and I literally held him in the window so the sun could hit him. What I saw amazed me: he began to fluff out his feathers and spread his wings and absolutely LOVED IT. And so began his loving relationship with the laundry room window, which he now sits in on his own, every single day, just soaking up the sun…
Another thing every supposed-to-be-wild bird needs is a good tree 🙂 I hadn’t really thought much about it, since he would pretty much go to sleep in whatever room we were in, but one of my best friends showed up one day with a tree, just for Sam! And he wasted no time in falling in love with it!
At first, he would sit in it often, just checking things out and getting the feel of it. Now, it is his “bedroom.” Every single night between 8:30-9 pm, he flies around the dining room where the tree sits in the corner, and chirps the loudest most distressful sounding chirp he can possibly muster up. This is his way of saying, “I hope you all are getting ready to be done in here soon, I’m kinda tired!” And so, the lights have to go off on that side of the room after which he nestles down inside his tree and isn’t heard from again until the sun peeps through the french doors early the next morning, around seven or so.
It was about this point in time that Sam learned to talk. Yes, you heard me right – Sam talks! No worries if you don’t believe me, no one else did either 🙂 Until they showed up and heard it for themselves.
It wasn’t something we tried to do or tried to teach him or anything like that. As a matter of fact, one morning I had laid back down in bed after Jimmy had gone to work and awoke to Sam sitting in the bedroom window sill, singing at first. I still had my eyes closed when I heard him say, very distinctly, “He’s my baby.”
When I say that I opened my eyes, I mean to say that they very nearly could have fallen out of my head. I couldn’t believe it!! But he kept on saying it. And since then, his phrases have only increased: Hi Baby, He’s a pretty bird, What?, Ya wanna kiss d’baby?, Who is it?, C’mere Sam… and when people are laughing and having a good time, Sam laughs just as loud and just as good as anybody else. Oh, and I can’t forget to tell you that sometimes, he has a really bad cough <wink wink> He can cough with the best of us! 🙂 Oh, and once we were trying to get him to say, He’s a good bird, and he got it mixed up with one of his other well known phrases and now he can say, “He’s a pretty good bird.” 🙂 He also mimics ring tones, message alerts and several KET commercials from television.
Speaking of television, he just loves it. His favorite show is Curious George, something he became accustomed to because we’d leave the television on for him when we all left the house to go to work and school. Now, whenever that show comes on, he swoops in to sit where he can see it and hangs out.
As I was saying earlier, he has quite the personality. Starlings are normally very aggressive birds, or so I had read, but I couldn’t see how a tame Starling could show aggression…that is until one day when I called him down for some particular thing I didn’t want him to do. Along with calling him down, I happened to point at him and he took great offense to this! Now, when anyone points at him, he stands as straight as his little legs will lift him and fluffs his feathers out to look as big as he can…
But, all you have to do is talk to him real sweet and all of a sudden, he’s back to his lovey-dovey camera ham self…
In this picture, you can see his beak is turning from black to yellow, something else I didn’t realize happened. Nor did I know that “beak trimming” would be something I would have to do. But, that time came! I can’t say that I recommend it. If I had it to do over again, I would take him to a vet, but me and that girl on YouTube had it all figured out 🙂 I mean, what else was I suppose to do? He had gotten to the point that he couldn’t catch flies or gnats anymore (yes, we are probably one of the only nearly-fly-free country homes I know of!) and he was having to turn his head sideways to pick up worms, and wasn’t really having a whole lot of luck with that.
So I went on and did what the lady said. And boy, was Sam mad when I finally let him go! He wouldn’t have anything to do with me for hours and hours and when Jimmy came home, he stuck to him as if to say, “You wouldn’t BELIEVE what Mom did to me today!!”
Now, people have asked me what having a Starling around the house is like. It seems so cool to have a wild, talking bird just flying free around our house, they say. What’s it like? Well, to be perfectly honest, it’s about like having a 16 month old that’s had no nap! You might think I’m kidding, but you aren’t the one following this little three ounce tornado around the house when he’s in a particular “mood”!
Some of his endeavors include drinking out of my cup, or anybody’s cup for that matter, who has soda. Yes, he loves soda. And pancakes – with syrup, the good stuff, not the fake – and biscuits and gravy, and scrambled eggs…and on the list goes. He also can’t be trusted around raw bacon. If I happen to be frying some for breakfast, I have to guard it or he’ll swoop in and make off with a piece which he carries to the highest place he can get to and eats at his leisure. He doesn’t mind it cooked either, come to think of it, as he’s swooped through and taken it right out of my hand!
He knocks things off the counters, night stands and coffee tables, dumps over cereal boxes cause, hey, who doesn’t love cocoa pebbles? He’s even recently learned to push the stopper into the sink and stop it up, begging for bath time, as well as pulling things out of the garbage and throwing it down to the puppy. Followed by hearty laughter of course.
I know, I know, you think I’m telling tales. Like I said, everyone does until they come over and witness it for themselves. But did you know he even went into our storage closet and raided the Christmas decorations? It was my fault really, for not sealing them up too well…
Normally, Sam does not tolerate being “held”, but this time, he made an exception. This time when I let him go, he was so thankful, he hung out with me the rest of the day 🙂 But he’ll still pull as many shenanigans as he can possibly get into in a days time! When his bedtime comes, much like that “16 month old without a nap”, I’m READY for him to be in bed!
But, before he flies off to his tree for the night, he always spends some time just hanging out and winding down, usually on my arm, sometimes on Jimmy’s shoulder while he’s sitting reading his paper. Sometimes he just lays flat down on his stomach as if to say, “Man, I’m tired!”
I never dreamed such a teeny tiny creature could take up such a space in a person’s heart. I’ve had birds before, and even birds that could mimic talking, but Sam really takes the cake. I just wish you could see more than these pictures, because he’s a real character. And he’ll tell you so! 🙂
As always, thanks for stopping by. I know this was a longer post than I usually send out, but I had just got to thinking about how Sam just turned a year old in June, and he deserved some blog-time.
Be blessed today, as always, and do come back again!