Creation: A starling named Oliver


It was my last semester of teaching before leaving the university and my tenured full professorship.

Summer had just begun. I was sitting outside my townhouse under a tall fir tree, grading final exam essays.

Suddenly, I heard the harsh “Ca Ca” call of an European starling. My instincts told me those were a mother’s distressed cries.

I ran to my back patio to investigate. Sure enough, a baby starling was on the ground, having fallen from his high nest in a hole under the eaves of the roof of the townhouse. He was only a week old and couldn’t yet walk, much less fly. His right leg had broken from the fall and hung limply by his side.

The next morning, I found a clump of blood in the improvised home I had made for him from a wire box. Miraculously, “Baby” had lived through the night.

Like all baby starlings, he had all black feathers, with a big yellow-lined beak.
Truth be told, he was so homely, only a mother could love him!

I hand fed Baby a gruel of Kaytee baby-bird powder formula mixed with the mango sherbet I had in the freezer. I would dip the end of a Q-tip into the gruel, pry open his beak and dab the glob of gruel into his mouth. He was a quick learner. After the first day, Baby opened wide his beak as soon as I pointed the Q-tip at him.

Three weeks passed. I was convinced I should set him free.

So I went onto my back porch and placed him on a low branch of a nearby tree. Baby just perched there but made no attempt to fly. When I stretched my hand out at him, he gaped, wanting to be fed.

I immediately scooped him into my hands, saying “You’re not ready to be on your own!”

Another week passed. I made a second effort to release him “into the wild.”

As I descended the stairs from my upstairs bedroom with Baby, I was sobbing as I whispered goodbye. My heart was broken. Tears streamed down my face, with each big drop falling on Baby cradled in my hands.

I went out the front door to the side of the townhouse beneath tall fir trees. I opened my cupped hands and Baby flew onto a nearby branch. Then he flew up and up into the tall tree until I couldn’t see him anymore.

At that moment, my phone rang. So I dashed into the townhouse to answer the phone. It was my husband. I told him about releasing Baby. He remonstrated me — that Baby would never survive “in the wild” because he’d been hand fed by me and wouldn’t know how to find food for himself.

In a panic, I dashed back out and craned to catch a sight of my starling. No sight of him.

“Baby! Baby! Baby!,” I cried.

Down flew my little starling!

That was it. Baby is coming home. We will never be separated again. Ever.

Baby continued to be hand fed — for a total of three months!

Renamed “Oliver,” my starling is a joy. A talented mimic, he sings like a canary, finch, and lovebird — who are his companions in neighboring big “cages” (we prefer to call them bird townhouses).

Did you know that starlings love to bathe? I didn’t either.

Oliver loves to take baths in the large bowl I fill with fresh water every morning. When I first discovered he likes taking baths, I refilled the bowl again and again. He took a total of SEVEN baths that day!

Here’s another picture I took of Oliver, perched on my left hand. Look at the iridescent colors and spots on his feathers! We’re in my bathroom. Behind him is a mosaic tile I’d made of the Russian Orthodox warrior saint, Demetrius.

Remember that broken right leg?

It healed itself after two months. There’s not a thing wrong with the leg or with any other part of Oliver.

I call him “my miracle birdie.” 😀

Update (Oct. 31, 2018):

Oliver Baby is now more than 12 years old!

~Eowyn

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Caroline Niven-Roy
Guest

What a story… heart warming…

Bob
Guest
Bob

NOT EVERYONE LOVES STARLINGS The battle to free Rome’s skies of starlings By Peter Popham in Rome Monday, 24 November 2008 It is one of the city’s most striking sights: the thousands of starlings that gather on winter evenings above Rome’s Termini station and other parts of the city centre, creating vast kinetic sculptures in the air – demonstrations of formation-flying that make the Red Arrows look like amateurs. The downside is what descends to earth: tonnes of droppings that coat cobblestones, cars and the clothing of anyone imprudent enough to stand and gaze. They drive pedestrians from the pavements,… Read more »

TrailDust
Admin

Thanks for sharing about Oliver, Dr. Eowyn.

Siegfried
Guest
Siegfried

Beautiful story!!!!

C.S. Miller
Guest
C.S. Miller

It’s a great story. I haven’t seen a starling in a long time.

sparrow59
Guest
sparrow59

I love this story. As kids, my brother and sister and I found baby birds and always tried to save them. They had always died by morning. Now when I find one dead in my yard, I always say ,”There’s another one for Heaven Lord”

sparrow59
Guest
sparrow59

Also Dr. E., What a nice story after all the bad news this week.

moxielouise
Guest

It’s always nice to know another animal lover. Reminds me of my “pet” pigeon I befriended when I was a kid (Walter). He took up residence on our roof, so my parents were unhappy with the results…they made me pack him up in the car and we drove him 20 miles out into the country to let him go. When we got back home he had beaten us back there.
😀

sam
Guest
sam

Lovely story; you have a good heart. Please be careful about handling wild animals and with whom you share your stories. “Possessing, selling or displaying” any wild animals is now illegal in most states. This includes any type of rescuing other than turning injured animals over to licenced rehab facilities. You never know what “civic-minded citizen” might call the game commission.

DCG
Guest

Pretty bird!

Dave
Editor

Great story, Eowyn.
And I have a six yo Schnoodle named Oliver. 🙂
-Dave

Joan
Editor

Thank you Dr. Eowyn for sharing this beautiful story of your love for the smallest of God’s creatures, and therefore, your great love for God! If it wasn’t for you, Oliver would not be with us! You are so very kind and dear! You have saved and helped many of God’s beautiful birds. I, too, love birds and have tried to help them as God sent them into my life. Birds are so beautiful! Bob, take a hike! I have asked God to help me with being patient, but when people do not get the point, I cannot be patient!… Read more »

p2b2t
Guest

I just loved reading about your rescued bird.

Angela
Guest
Angela

I came across your story while googling info about my own pet starling. It sounds like you and I have been through a similar ordeal. I rescued my Starling from the middle of a highway and had every intention of releasing him when he could fly and eat on his own. I took him outside one saturday morning to release him and I just kept remembering the warnings of other bird rescuers who said “a starling who has been hand-raised alone by a person will NOT survive in the wild”. It was true that my Cosmo was imprinted on me… Read more »

Angela
Guest
Angela

By the way… there is a yahoo group for people who own pet starlings. Here is the link if you have any interest in joining. The people in the group are very knowledgable about all things starling.
https://pets.groups.yahoo.com/group/Petstarlings/

marblenecltr
Guest

Wonderful story-and it’s true!

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