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!