If you are looking for a quiet pet bird, European starlings are definitely not for you. However, if you are looking for an energetic, sociable, vocal bird, they might be the best pick. Let's talk about the pros and cons of choosing a starling for your pet bird, and discuss what you will need to know to feed them properly and keep them healthy.
Credit: Dick Daniels (http://carolinabirds.org), CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:European_Startling_%28Sturnus_vulgaris%29_RWD.jpgCredit: Dick Daniels (http://carolinabirds.org), CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:European_Startling_%28Sturnus_vulgaris%29_RWD.jpg
America Welcomes the Starling
How did starlings get from their native ranging area to the United States? The answer is really simple. They were brought to America and purposely released as part of a project to introduce various birds from the works of Shakespeare into America. According to “Introduced Species Summary Project,”1 100 birds were released in the Central Park area of New York City in 1890 with a goal of establishing them in the United States.
Whether or not that was a wise goal remains to be seen, but it has been successful achieved, and the birds are well established in America. The Global Invasive Species Database has this to say about them: “This species has been nominated as among 100 “World’s Worst” invaders"2. In point of fact, the starling is number 90 on the list, but because the list is ordered alphabetically, there doesn't seem to be much relevance to their position. Now, let’s take a look at how these birds rate as pets rather than pests.
What's Great About Starlings
European starlings are inquisitive, demanding birds that imitate sounds and human speech. They are the best birds for individuals who have the time or the desire for preparing special diets, cleaning up messes, and playing frequently.
They possess above average intelligence, so if you are looking for an agreeable companion, you will need to invest time in socializing and training them properly. They love all types of pet bird puzzles and toys, and these items provide the necessary mental exercise to keep the birds from getting bored because of their high energy level.
Starlings are cavity nesters and lay up to three clutches of four to six blue/green eggs. They lay one egg per day. The eggs incubate for about 12 days, hatch in about 12 days, and the birds fledge in about 21 to 23 days.
Starlings are small birds with black plumage, black eyes, and long pointed bills. Bill color depends on breed season, being yellow in season and dark out of season. Males weigh slightly more than females do, but determining the bird's sex is difficult.
Credit: User: Mike R, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Starling_eggs.jpegCredit: User: Mike R, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Starling_eggs.jpeg
Feeding Your Bird a Healthy Diet
Starlings require large amounts of protein in their diet. In the wild, they would get this protein from eating large quantities of insects, but in captivity, they depend on their humans to provide dietary protein.
The best way to do this is by including high protein dog or cat food, or adult formula chicken and turkey mash with other nutritious foods. Seeds, plants (vegetables), and fruits round out the starling’s diet. Avoid feeding them prepared parrot or mynah foods as these formulations do not include the nutrients these birds need. Include foods like these to ensure a healthy diet:
Now that we understand how the starlings arrived in America and what they need to be happy and healthy pet companions, let's discuss some fun facts about them, and see how they compare to the other various types of pet birds.
Did You Know?
Here are facts about starlings that you may not have known:
- Northwestern Asia, Europe and North Africa are the origination points for starlings.
- Some typical alternative names for them are the Common starling, English starling, and Blackbird
- Their genus is Sturnidae, and their species is vulgaris.
- Starlings are about eight to nine inches long and weigh about two to three ounces.
- Flight cages are the best housing choice because starlings need lots of flying time. The smallest cage size is three feet long, two feet wide, and four feet high, with a 1/2 inch bar spacing to accommodate their twelve to sixteen inch wingspan.
- You can expect your starling to live for about 15 years.
- The most common known health problems of the breed are hyperkertosis and hemochromatosis (iron storage disease).
- Starlings are incredibly intelligent, but they are also curious and prone to mischief.
- Their need to vocalize is extremely high. They whistle, trill, chirp, warble, scream, talk, and mimic humans, other birds, and household sounds. Starlings are best for those people who want a talking, chattering bird.
A Note About Human Interaction Needs
Starlings can be aggressive about getting their needs met, and their need for interaction with their humans is off the charts. You must give them early and regular mental stimulation with puzzles, toys, and other types of play. However, unlike some other pet birds, they do no cuddle, so plan on interacting with them in other ways and on other levels.
However, given all their other good qualities and their ability to be interactive and entertaining companions, you might want to try these pet birds the next time you are in the market for a new pet. If this babbling bird with its high energy level sounds like a bit too much bird for your tastes, you might want to find out more about Monk parrots (also called Quaker parrots) to see if they would be a better choice as a pet bird.
While Monk parrots do talk and can develop quite an extensive vocabulary, they also like to cuddle and are more affectionate birds than the European starling. Regardless of what species you choose, once you have a bird as a pet, you may wonder how you ever got along without one of these charming, feathered friends as a companion.