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Saving Starlings

Monday, May 25, 2015

A lot of people hate starlings. They're messy, sometimes obnoxious, and more than that they're nonnative, the ultimate condemnation if you're a birdwatcher or a natural history purist. 
Why would anyone help a starling?
It's complicated.

I got a comment in an unrelated Facebook thread from someone I didn't know. For those of you in FacebookLand, commenting on the Facebook wall of someone you don't know is the only way to get a message to them; any private message is going to their Other inbox, along with all the spammy proposals from impossibly handsome single men from the UK that all start: "Hello dearest I am captivated by your smile you seem to be a lovely lady..."

 Cynthia had found a baby bird on the ground at our local Applebee's, which, like most Applebee's, is ringed by parking lot. Ergo, there would be three choices as to species: Starling, house sparrow, and (long shot) American robin. 

Hi Julie my name is Cynthia and I was told you might be able to help me. Last night when leaving Applebee's we found I would guess a 8 day old baby blue jay. I run a rescue w 7 indoor cats at the moment 2 dogs and 3 goats. I am needing a rehome because I can not provide the safety for him/her. He is eating well and is uninjured. My number is xxxxxxxx if you could contact me I would greatly appreciate it.
photo by Cynthia Starling

My first response was nuh-uh.  

  • Julie Zickefoose Cynthia that is not a blue jay. It's a starling. Feed it dog or cat food soaked ground kibble. I can't take it. I can help you arrange transport to Columbus if you can't get there yourself. Ohio wildlife center 614 761 0134.
    Like · Reply · 1 · May 9 at 1:09pm

    Then I thought about it. I wanted to help this person who cared enough to hunt me down.

  • Julie Zickefoose Starlings tend to nest inside the signs at restaurants. Check the letters of Applebee's for straw sticking out from behind. If possible put it back In the nest.
    Like · Reply · 1 · May 9 at 1:11pm
  • Cynthia Starling Thank you. I bought night crawlers and broke them up and have been feeding him. I will contact Applebee's.

    Julie Zickefoose Good of you. Thank you for caring. They are such intelligent and lovable babies. Purina One kitten chow would offer more complete nutrition and is available in groceries. Best of course would be to try to poke him back up in the nest if it can be located.

I didn't hear any more. Now it gets interesting. I'm in town that same day, May 9, running a million Saturday errands, including getting Liam to the BMV for his learner's permit test, finding out we didn't have proper ID so would have to come back; buying him some summer shorts because he's run out of them, picking up plants and bales of potting soil and straw, banking, grocery shopping...the back of my car looks like this. The inside of my brain is considerably less attractive.

But as I'm driving by, I decide to go check out the situation at Applebee's, see if I can find where that nest might be, and see what the chances are, if any, that Cynthia might be able to reach it to dump the baby starling back in it. The first thing I see when I get there is a pair of starlings perched on the wooden fence around the Dumpster, holding food in their bills.  Well, there are the parents, and they're on the job. Good.

The next thing I see is a car in the parking lot with its driver's door open, and there is a woman in the front seat typing hurriedly on her phone. She happens to be posting this message. To me. 

  • Cynthia Starling OK I'm at Applebee's and there are so many more...I am afraid.

    I've never seen her before, but I know she has to be this mysterious savior named, ironically enough, Starling. I walk up, saying, "Hi Cynthia. Trying to find the starling nest?"
    I won't soon forget the relief and joy and momentary confusion that cross her face as she figures out that the cyber-world and the real world are in a delicious collision at this exact moment. 

    I'm not sure what little voice guided me to her car at 1:55 pm on a ridiculously busy Saturday, because I hadn't gotten the message she sent, but there we were, and we were going to solve this problem together.

    Next: Two more starlings fall out! Ack! Zick and Cynthia to the rescue!


Julie, you softie you! When I glanced at the first few words of your FB reply to Cynthia, my mind jumped to complete it in the way you can read totally scrambled words and make sense out of the paragraph, "Feed it to the dog or cat..." My mind, even my subconscious mind, should have known better! :)

Posted by Gail Spratley May 25, 2015 at 9:51 AM

A cliffhanger! Should've known!

Isn't it great the way the Universe sometimes plays fast and loose with synchronicity! And thank you both for caring for the starlings. In my opinion, there can no more be "junk" birds than there are "junk" people. Just because they are not native to this country is no reason to let them die. They are life, in all it's glorious manifestations!

Posted by Anonymous May 25, 2015 at 11:53 AM

Cynthia Starling is my daughter. It's not unusual for her to rescue and live species. Whether it be a spider, cat, dog or anything else that has been mistreated, abused or just needs help.Very proud of the woman she has become. Thank you to Cindy and also to Julie Zickerfoose for helping her. She also learned a lot from Julie which I'm sure she will use in her future rescue attempts.
Wanda Haney

How sweet to hear from you, Wanda. I'm Cindy's biggest new fan. Hope you enjoy The Rest of the Story as Paul Harvey used to intone.

After reading "Arnie the Darling Starling" in college I could never look upon starlings with animosity again, and in fact defend them against the many lies that are told about them. They eat a huge amount of insects and as you said are very intelligent, and are great mimickers, perhaps even able to use our language meaningfully! I can't wait to hear the rest of the story....

Oh Julie, Cindy reached out, and you responded because even though they are Starlings,they are living creatures and Cindy is a kindred soul with your kind of heart. I'm anxiously awaiting the rest of this story.

What magic is afoot! You two are angels who have definitely earned your wings! And yes, the synchronicity of it all. So, c'mon "Paul Harvey!" Time for The Rest of the Story!!

You tell the best stories! Kind people finding each other and rescuing critters. This is wonderful.

Posted by Anonymous May 27, 2015 at 4:39 PM

I understand the reason for thinking of Starlings as 'junk' birds or pests, but thank you for caring for them! Here in the UK they are a native species that used to be thought of as nothing but a pest but is now rapidly declining, so much so that they're calling it a potential extinction risk in the country. It's really sad.

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