have identified your wild baby bird as a Starling,
House Sparrow, and you realize it needs help.
this bird really need help? Baby birds that
have all their feathers are fledglings and are ready
to leave the nest. They need to be on the ground
a day or two as they learn to fly, their parents
are taking care of them. Unfeathered babies can
be returned to the nest, for it is not true that
if you touch a baby bird the parents will abandon
it. If the nest has been destroyed, you can make
a new one using something such as a parrot nest
box and wire; nail it close to where the original
one was. You should put fully feathered babies in
a bush or on a tree limb, and they should be just
fine. You might want to ask any cat owning neighbors
to keep the cats in for a day or two to give the
baby birds a chance to learn how to fly. The exception
to this would be if there is an injury or the baby
has been in a cat's or dog's mouth, even if you
don't see any marks on it. Cats and dogs have a
bacteria that can be fatal to baby birds if they
are not treated with antibiotics. These birds need
to be taken to a wildlife rehabber or veterinarian
what? You need to learn baby starling care such
as how to keep a nestling warm, what type of formula
to feed it, how to handfeed it and how often to
do so. This page will assist you in helping your
baby starling thrive. Baby starlings and House Sparrows
require the same care and food.
Message board will give you lots more information
on sparrows and starlings as well as a chance to
talk with other owners of starlings and sparrows.
To join click: Message
you find mites on the baby starling, a good, safe
product to use is 5% Sevin Dust. Powder the bird
carefully taking care not to get the dust into its
face. The mites are species specific and will not
infest your house or other birds.
Warmth & Bedding
the baby is not completely feathered, it needs to
be kept warm. You may use a heating pad on low heat,
however cover the pad with a towel. (Some approximate
temperature ranges are: unfeathered chicks -- 90
degrees; chicks with some pin feathers -- 85 degrees;
fully feathered chicks -- 75 degrees.) Place the
baby bird into a small container such as a margarine
tub lined with crumpled towels. It cannot get any
traction on a smooth surface, and the legs sliding
out from under it will cause spraddle leg. Then
put the container with the baby in a box and set
it on the heating pad. If the baby bird has no feathers
you will then need to cover the box with another
towel to help hold the heat in.
of the wild baby birds that come into wildlife centers
are dehydrated and suffering some degree of starvation.
Babies who have been orphaned for a while will need
to be hydrated before being given any food. To check
hydration you can look inside the bird's mouth;
it should look moist. A dehydrated bird will usually
have reddish looking skin.Or you can pull the skin
up on the back of their neck, and it should spring
back as soon as you let it go. Gatorade or Lactated
Ringers Solution are good hydration fluids. In a
pinch you may make your own by boiling 1/4 cup Karo
corn syrup (Starlings
are sucrose intolerant so table sugar or molasses
would not be good choices)
to one cup water and adding a pinch of salt. Cool
to lukewarm, dip your fingers into it and place
drops on the top outside of the baby's beak. It
will then be able to suck some in without the danger
of aspiration. Or you can soak small pieces of bread
in the sugar water, squeeze the liquid out so it
isn't dripping, and feed it to
the baby, or feed small slivers of fruit, without
the skin, that has a high water content such as
grapes, watermelon, cantaloupe, plums, or cherries.
put liquids directly into the mouth of a wild bird,
this includes parrot hand-feeding formula. It
is too easy for them to inhale the fluid, causing
inhalation pneumonia or even drown.
Food for Baby Starlings and Sparrows
are omnivores but are close to being insectivores,
and they require high amounts of animal protein.
Baby starlings in the wild are fed almost a total
insect diet (solid food) by their parents, and therefore
are unable to cope with liquids. Adult sparrows eat mostly grain but as babies are fed insects by their parents, so they require the same nutrition as starlings. Parrot hand-feeding
formula or softbill pellets are not appropriate
foods for baby starlings and sparrows. Parrots and most captive
softbills have different nutritional needs than
that of starlings and sparrows who are more insectivorous as babies. This
is believed to be what adult starlings need in the
way of protein and fat; 33.1% protein and 12.1%
fat. Protein/Fat ratios were estimated by calculating
the average value of insects, seeds/grains, and
wild fruits then multiplying the bird's intake ratios
(as a percentage of total diet) of each food group
and averaging the totals. A baby starling has even
higher protein needs. Kaytee softbill pellets have 18% protein and 6% fat, the main ingredient is corn.
Exact handfeeding formula has protein of 22.0%
and fat of 9.0%, and the main ingredient is corn. A good brand of cat food such as Chicken
Soup for the Cat Lover's Soul brand - Senior Light
Cat Kibble (32% protein and 9% fat) will work
for feeding young birds. Always read the label of
the product to make sure not only the protein/fat
ratio is right but that the first ingredient listed
is chicken. For more information about why dog or
cat food is commonly fed to wild songbirds by wildlife
rehabbers, please read my webpage entitled, What?
Feed Dog Food To A Starling?
are many recipes for feeding ominovores, but most
are based on a dog/cat food mixture, such as the
recipe below. Use dry, soaked, cat food,
and be sure that chicken is the first ingredient on
the label. Check the vitamin package for the right
amount of avian vitamins to use since different
vitamins have different recommendations.
for Handfeeding Forumula
cup soaked cat food
1/4 cup of applesauce
1 hard boiled egg
Avian vitamins (follow dosage on package)
Around 750 mg calcium (I use Tums Smooth Dissolve
tablet) ground to powder and dissolved in
a little water.
Mix all ingredients together, and add enough
water to make it the consistency of cooked
oatmeal as seen in the photo at right.
consistency of handfeeding formula.
above formula can be divided into portions and frozen.
This formula works well for baby House Sparrows
and some other omnivore passerines. Only leave this food
at room temperatures for an hour or so, as it can
use something flat such as McDonald's coffee stirrers,
chop sticks, popsickle sticks, or a straw with the
end cut off to make a scoop. The handle of a plastic
spoon works well for older birds. Caution: Do
not use small items such as toothpicks or Q-Tips,
as it is very easy for a baby to swallow them.
I like to occasionally add small amounts of different
foods to the formula, to acquaint them with how
different foods taste, such as some mashed sweet
potatoes or carrots. You may use any of the jars
of baby foods such as peas or beans, and the jars of
strained chicken, etc. are also appropriate. The food should
be fed at room temperature.
baby without feathers will need to be fed
every 20 to 30 minutes over a period of at
least 12 hours a day. A healthy baby should
start begging for food after you have fed
him a few times. To help get a feeding response
try tapping on the container he is in, or
tapping lightly on the top of his beak. Older
babies will take longer to start gaping, and
may need to be force fed a few times before
they come to accept you as a source for food.
I feed from the time I wake up until I go
starting to feather need to be fed every 45
minutes or so, and a fully feathered baby
can go an hour or two without feeding. Feed
as much as the baby wants. You will not overfeed
him, as he will stop begging for food when
he is full.
starling being handfed.
a baby bird earthworms or fishing worms! Such worms
can carry parasites that are harmful to baby birds.
For more information click here. Gapeworms
the baby starling is about four weeks old you may
begin leaving some food in a small bowl in the cage,
and start handfeeding him some food from there.
This is also a good time to add a shallow bowl or
jar lid of water to the cage. The baby bird will
start playing with the food in its cage at about
four weeks old. Even when the he begins eating on
his own, you will still need to handfeed until he
is fully weaned at around six to eight weeks old
and sometimes longer. You will know when he is weaned,
for he will prefer to feed himself and will no longer
eat much from the feeding stick.
Weaning baby House Sparrows will start picking up
and eating small seeds as well as the dog food mix
at this time.
the baby starling has been eating on its own for
three weeks, it should be put on an adult starling
diet. This diet is based on a dog food mixture same
as the handfeeding formula, and it also incorporates
some additional foods into the diet. Click the following
link to go the Diet page which details a proper
diet for adult starlings: Diet
Normal Nestling Droppings
photos below show what the normal droppings of a
nestling starling in the wild should look like.
Until the nestling is about 10 days old, its droppings
are encased in a coating that makes it easy for
the parents to pick up and remove from the nest.
A baby that is getting too much fluid in its food
will have loose, runny droppings. A fledgling's
droppings are no longer encapsulated in a coating.
Time for a Cage
the bird is starting to hop up on the side of the
box to be fed, it is time for a cage, the larger
the better. For details about building your own
cage or purchasing one, click on this link: Cages
For Pet Starlings.
Young starlings enjoy toys such as small plastic
whiffle balls or things they can throw around, especially
shiny things. They should have some natural sunlight
each day or a Vita light. This is a good link with
information on lighting for birds:
Birds and Lighting
Timetable for Indoor Starlings
are the average ages for first activities of indoor
days: first drink, bath (in dinner plate)
21 days: starts flying
4-7 weeks: begins eating from dish or ground
(not just from your hand)
6-10 weeks: eats fully on own
8 weeks: begins molt
20 weeks: fully adult feathers
15-30 weeks: starts talking
Raising for Release
raising a clutch of baby starlings or sparrows for
release, the diet and feeding is the same as for
baby starlings which will be kept as pets. However,
the difference in raising for release is that you
must not handle them except only if absolutely
necessary! Do not allow any pets such as dogs and cats in sight of the baby birds. Do not interact with the baby birds as
you would with a pet bird.
It is very easy for a baby starling to imprint on
its caretaker, and a tame bird would have its chances
of surviving in the wild greatly decreased.
If you have a single baby under two weeks of age,
(imprinting takes place between 7 and 14 days of
age), it needs to be given to a rehabber or someone
who will raise it as a pet, for a single bird
cannot be raised without imprinting on its caretaker.
Baby birds do not need to be taught how to fly,
but after they are flying it is important to give
them a large area to practice in and lots of free
flight time so that they can build up the muscles
needed for a successful release into the wild. If
you plan to release your babies, they do need to
be exposed to the song of their species. Please
click here to learn how baby birds learn their song.
Some additional thoughts on releasing a baby bird
can be found here:
I keep it or let it go?
are good check lists to consult before releasing
is a special learning process through which an animal
develops a sense of species identification. Imprinting
is a normal process which occurs early in life,
during a restricted period of time called a critical
period. Thereafter, all species-directed behavior,
including courtship and mating, is directed toward
the class of subjects that the animal was imprinted
on. Imprinting is believed to be irreversible.
Taming is the process by which an animal becomes
socialized to humans through prolonged exposure
of association with food or other comforts. Many
species are easily tamed during infancy. Tame animals
do not usually direct species-specific behavior,
such as courtship, toward humans if conspecifics
are available. Taming is reversible, although this
may sometimes require prodigious dedication on the
part of the rehabilitator. Taming is known to occur
in a wide range of species, with variation in the
ease and degree to which it can occur.
an animal acts tame, it may be judged as human-inspired
and thus permanently unfit for release. Since tameness
is reversible, a potentially releasable animal may
be kept captive. If an animal does not appear tame,
it may be considered non-imprinted and thus releasable,
but human-imprinted animals, especially juvenile
and adult males, may act fearful or aggressive toward
humans. Remember, a human-imprinted animal acts
toward humans as it would act toward conspecifics.
Truly human-imprinted animals may end up being released
if the care taker equates tameness with imprinting.
any case, the mere absence of tameness is no basis
upon which to judge the behavioral fitness of an
animal for release. A better criterion includes
the presence of behaviors necessary for survival..
With imprinting, the issue is not just for the rehabilitor
to avoid human contact with animals. To survive,
an animal must have a normal imprinting experience.
As long as the animal in question is exposed to
conspecifics during the critical period, some human
contact will probably not be deleterious, but should
be avoided if at all possible. (Taken from an article
by Dr. Paul Beaver, Bird Research Institute, 1984)