A Pet European Starling Is Not Appropriate for Everyone!

Click a topic of your choice to read it:
Should You Share Your Life with a Starling?
Pet Starling Personality at Different Ages
Sharing Life with a Starling
Multiple Starlings in the Home
European Starlings and their Care

Should You Share Your Life with a Starling?   next

Many persons who rescue baby European starlings that are in trouble have little or no information about what to expect when raising them. Many people who would like to adopt a rescued starling have no idea what type of commitment such a bird is. These people are unaware of the commitment and time required, and they do not know about the needs of an adult starling.

Have you found a baby starling needing help, and are you wondering if you should raise and keep it? Are you thinking of adopting a rescued starling? Ultimately, only you can decide whether or not raising a starling or adopting one is right for you. This webpage was created to help give you info that could make your decision easier. [NOTE: This webpage is long, so feel free to skip to the subheading(s) below that most interest you.]

Important Note: If you raise a baby starling, do not then assume that you can release it after you grow tired of it! -- A baby starling raised alone without being placed with other baby birds WILL "imprint" on its human caretaker, and it will do so while still a nestling (within its second week of life)!

What does it mean to have a starling who is "imprinted" on people?
A human imprinted starling does not relate to other birds as its own kind but views you as its own kind instead. Normally, wild baby starlings imprint on their parent birds and learn necessary survival skills from them. A starling imprinted on humans lacks most survival skills, has no fear of humans or predators, and cannot find its own food. It does not realize it is a bird. You cannot simply open the door and let a human imprinted starling fly free when you grow tired of it. It will not join wild flocks and may not survive. Once you have raised a starling, and it has imprinted on you, you have made a long-term commitment for a bird who might possibly live up to 20 years or longer.

Read the following info at the Starling Talk website about imprinting and tameness: "Starling Talk Baby Starling Care: Imprinting"

Pet Starling Personality at Different Ages: top next

Baby Starlings -- Cute as buttons
Baby starlings are adorable creatures! Starling nestlings are small and cuddly. They do not mind being held, stroked, and snuggled, and they cannot run or fly away. Most people who rescue them fall in love with these helpless babies that depend on them for everything. But the fact is that starling babies are only sweet and snuggly for a short time. As with all creatures, they grow up. Once a baby starling fledges (becomes fully feathered and begins flying) at around three weeks old, its personality begins to change.

Fledgling Starlings -- Energetic, temperamental little fliers
Once they begin flying, many starling fledglings want to be almost constantly in motion. Flying has given them a new sense of independence, and as they continue to grow and hone their flying skills they may become harder to handle. They want to fly as much as possible and often balk at returning to their cages. They may lunge and play-fight, pecking and biting at their owners. As they approach weaning age, fledglings can become quite difficult to handfeed. Their curiosity, playfulness and energy is boundless, and although they still want to be with their owners, they are no longer docile babies who want to sit in laps and be cuddled. If their owners do not continue to handle them and interact with them daily during this stage, they may grow to dislike even sitting on their owners later.

Adult Starlings -- Social, vocal, curious, incredibly intelligent and demanding
Adult starlings who are imprinted on humans want to interact with their owners as much as possible. Think about it -- since your imprinted starling views you as his own kind, he wants to interact with YOU. These demanding birds are very different from pet parrots. Very few starlings will sit still and allow themselves to be cuddled although most do enjoy sitting on their owners. To be well socialized, adult starlings need plenty of time spent with their humans regularly. Spending time with humans and "playing" with a variety of safe items provides these highly intelligent birds with necessary mental stimulation. Starlings are also trainable and can learn things very quickly if taught with patience and consistency. At any given time our adult starlings seem "playful", inquisitive, aggressive, attentive, temperamental, or downright sweet, but one thing is for sure -- they always want to be with us.

Pet Starlings -- Rescued starlings are extremely intelligent and thrive in a home where they receive lots of attention and care. Our starlings (whom we often say are permanently stuck in toddlerhood) are smart and full of mischief, and their antics keep us laughing. The rest of our website discusses all these wonderful aspects of living with pet starlings.

However, we want to emphasize here that having a starling in your home is a HUGE responsibility! If you are trying to decide whether or not to raise a baby starling and have no idea what can be involved in being a starling owner, we encourage you to read the considerations below.

Sharing Life with a Starling -- Things to Consider: top next

Long-term Commitment
Raising and keeping a European starling, or adopting one, means making a commitment for the lifetime of the bird. An imprinted starling is not a disposable pet that you can simply put outside if it becomes an inconvenience! Can you handle sharing your life with a starling for the next 15 or 20 years, despite any lifestyle changes you may make (such as college, marriage, moving, having children, etc)?

Daily Time Commitment
Will you have time to spend caring for and interacting with a starling every day? If you work, are you willing to spend some time with your starling before and/or after work? If you travel often, can you make arrangements for a birdsitter? These are important considerations.

Part of sharing your home with a starling means that you need enough time every day to provide the necessary things your bird requires. These necessities include fresh food daily and fresh water daily, maintaining cage cleanliness and spending time with your bird. A starling should never be caged fulltime simply because an owner's' daily schedule is too busy for it. If your lifestyle is too busy for you to provide all minimum daily requirements for a starling, then a starling is not for you!

All pet birds are messy, and starlings are no different. Their large cages need regular cleaning (we roll ours outside and wash them monthly in a bleach/water solution; we change cage paper daily, wash bowls daily, scrape perches often, and wash toys as needed.) Starlings may fling food out of their cages onto walls and other nearby objects. They splash water out of their bowls. Droppings are a huge complaint of new bird owners, for starlings are not at all particular about where they go to the bathroom. In our home, we are accustomed to dealing with droppings on clothing, furniture, carpets, remote controls, curtains, etc. While a starling's messiness cannot be eliminated, it can be minimized through frequent vacuuming and cleaning. Does the thought of a bird making a mess in your home repulse you? If so, then think twice before deciding to adopt or keep a rescued starling!

Vocalization and Whistling
Most starlings are extremely vocal. Our starlings whistle, chatter, mimic household sounds, and talk loudly all day every day. They compete with our television when it is on, and they can make it difficult for us to talk on the phone in the same room with them. We greatly enjoy our starlings' constant vocalizations, however we know people who do not. If you want a quiet pet in your home, then we suggest that you DO NOT take in a rescued starling! Making sounds is something birds naturally do.

Food for Starlings
There is no commercial diet specifically for European starlings, and birdseed, parrot food, or mynah food is not appropriate for them. Thus, feeding them requires more effort than simply buying a bag of food and putting some in a bowl daily. European starlings require animal protein in their main daily diet, and some starlings also enjoy some fresh veggies or fruits on occasion. A proper diet takes time to prepare and must be a priority every day. I prepare my starlings' main diet mixture fresh each morning. Read about a nutritional starling diet at the Starling Talk Diet page.

When they must be confined for any length of time, starlings need plenty of room in which to move around and fly. This means that the optimum cage would be a flight cage or an aviary type cage. Flight cages can be purchased from pet supply stores or may be homemade with wood and hardware cloth. A large cage takes up room, and this may be an issue for people living in small or crowded homes. Nevertheless, do not buy a small canary or budgie cage and think that this is adequate for a starling! More info about cages for starlings can be found here.

"Toys", Training, and Exercise
Toys -- Keeping pet starlings supplied with safe playthings in their cages and safe play areas in a home makes them happier and stimulates their clever minds. These birds can get bored easily if given nothing to pry or carry around in their beaks. Playthings for starlings need not be expensive, nor do they necessarily need to be store-bought, but they do need to be BIRDSAFE. See our toy page for a list of our own starlings' safe toys.

Training -- Starlings are highly intelligent creatures that learn very well if their owners work with them consistently and patiently. They can learn "no", can learn to come when called, and can be taught other things. Some starling owners have used the clicker training method to train their birds. Doing an online search will yield a variety of discussions on training pet birds.

Exercise -- Flight exercises and strengthens a bird's muscles, improves respiratory function, strengthens the heart, keeps the body in overall good shape (cuts down on obesity), and helps a bird feel less stressed. Our starlings get regular free flight in a bird-safe room inside our home. During free flight, they are supervised at all times! Note: Pet starlings should NOT be allowed free flight outdoors! -- Read our Wondrous Wings webpage for our thoughts on flight outdoors and wing-clipping.

Environment (other pets, parrots, children, household dangers)
Other Pets: cats, dogs, etc.
-- Do you have other pets such as dogs or cats? If so, they will need to be kept separate from your starling when it is out of its cage, unless you do not mind the risk of it being unexpectedly grabbed or bitten by a normally well-behaved companion animal. This does happen and has resulted in the death of pet starlings! Even a simple puncture wound from a cat often results in the death of a beloved bird. Click here to read about injuries from cats and dogs.

Other Birds -- If you own exotic birds, please be aware that a curious starling can easily annoy a hookbill, who in turn can harm the starling with its strong beak. In most cases, be prepared to spend time with a starling separately from your exotic birds (unless you are certain they get along safely!) We have a number of hookbills in our home, and we always spend time with our starlings separately from them.

Children -- In our opinion, European starlings do not make good pets for children. Young children naturally want to hold pet birds, and they may grab them too tightly, unintentionally causing injury. Another good reason not to let a child play with a starling is the fact that some starlings are fascinated by eyes and will peck them, causing injured corneas. If you have small children, you must constantly supervise them around a pet starling!

Dangers -- A great many items in a home are dangerous to pet starlings. A few dangers include air fresheners, cleaning products, aerosol sprays, smoke, odorless fumes from Teflon, insecticides, open containers of water, ceiling fans, uncovered mirrors or windows, etc. Click here for a longer, detailed list of household danger to pet starlings.

Starlings are hardy birds. Yet, despite providing the best care possible, a pet starling may become ill or get injured. If this happens, it is important to be willing to spend money to take the bird to a veterinarian (preferably to an "avian" vet if one is nearby). A sick bird can go downhill very quickly. Over the counter medicines purchased from pet stores can make conditions worse rather than better.

Multiple Starlings in the Home top next

More than one starling = more work and more time required
It is important to realize that having more than one pet starling means extra work and more responsibility. More birds means more food to prepare, more cages to clean, more messiness to deal with, more noise in the home, extra time set aside to interact with additional birds, etc. Would you be prepared to deal with all these things?

A few more things to consider if you are thinking of sharing your home with more than one starling

  • Human imprinted starlings may not get along well with other starlings, for they do not view birds as their own kind.
  • Starlings that were rescued as babies and raised together as a group may or may not get along together nicely when they are older.
  • If you already have an older pet starling, there is no guarantee that it will accept or get along with starlings who are brought into his home later. Some multiple starlings in a home get along fine with only minor squabbles, yet others fight so much that they must be caged separately.
Would you be able to deal with fighting birds, and do you have room for several flight cages, if necessary?

If you are currently raising several rescued baby starlings together, consider the issues discussed on this webpage before deciding that you have several new pets. If you cannot commit to sharing your home long-term with several starlings, do NOT take baby starlings in and raise them, and do not adopt additional starlings.

Make an informed decision before raising a baby starling! -- The decision to raise a baby starling is not something that should be taken lightly. Do not base your decision to keep a starling on the idea that it would be fun to have a bird who can talk. Starlings do have the ability to mimic, but that does not mean that ALL starlings will talk! In fact a starling who is not given lots of time interacting with people may not mimic human speech. We hope that by discussing some of the issues involved in keeping a starling, we have provided info that may help you make an informed decision.

Remember . . . once you have handraised a baby starling, you are committed to keeping it as a pet unless you can find someone willing to adopt it and give it the love and attention it needs! If you have found a baby starling and cannot raise it and keep it, try calling vets in your area and asking for the name of a wildlife rehabber who rehabs starlings. (When calling a rehabber, ASK if he or she raises starlings for release; many rehabbers euthanize all starlings taken to them).

If you cannot find a rehabber to raise the starling, join the Starling Talk Message Board, and post in the Adoption forum. -- Many rescued starlings have been placed in good homes via the board.

European Starlings and their Care:   top

The Starling Talk website
Visit Jackie Collins's Starling Talk website to read about all aspects of European starlings. Information found there includes identifying a baby starling; total care and feeding of a baby starling (and info on imprinting); adult starling diet; pet starlings; starling health issues; info about starlings in the wild; helpful links, photos, and more. Click below to visit her website --
Starling Talk -- The most comprehensive information online about European starlings

Starling Talk -- The most reliable starling care information online!

DISCLAIMER -- We do NOT condone stealing baby starlings from nests! Our birds were found as nestlings in trouble, and our only option was to raise each one and keep it. However, when possible, we always return fallen baby birds to nests! A starling raised alone by humans imprints on its rescuers and cannot relate to other birds. It has learned no survival skills, is dependent on humans for food, and cannot be released outdoors. A rescued starling is a huge responsibility and is not an appropriate pet for everyone!
NOTE -- European starlings are not federally protected in the US, yet some states require a special permit to keep one. If you rescue a baby starling and cannot keep it, contact a wildlife rehabber, and ask if he or she rehabs starlings. (Note: Be sure and ASK, for many rehabbers will euthanize all starlings taken to them.) If you cannot find a rehabber who will raise it for release, then join the Starling Talk Message Board. -- Many rescued starlings have been placed in good homes via the board.
KNOW THE LAW -- If you find a wild baby bird other than a Starling, Pigeon (Rock dove), or House sparrow, US law dictates that you cannot keep it without a Federal Permit. Contacting a wildlife rehabber in such a situation is best. For more info about the laws regarding possession of native birds, see Possession of Migratory Birds

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