Can You Own A Pet Starling?

Do starlings make good pets? Yes, they make surprisingly good ones and they are legal to keep in the US as well. If you are interested in keeping a pet starling read this article to get a feeling for what it would be like.

Image of a starling

Is It Legal To Keep A Pet Starling?

When we talk about starlings, most people refer to the European starling (Sturnus vulgaris) which is an invasive species in the United States. The violet-backed starling and the chestnut-bellied starling are native to Africa and are endangered.

Beneath sparrows, wild starlings can, too, be legally kept as pets in the US. This is because as an invasive species they are considered a pest and aren’t protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. That means even states like Florida or California don’t have any restrictions in this regard.

Have in mind, that this is not true for native species like blue jays, even if they are songbirds.

Most pet starlings that live in our households are the offspring of wild animals. People found them as nestlings or fledglings and started to care.

Even if there is nothing against it from a perspective of law, I recommend contacting a wildlife rehabber first. You make a long commitment if the young bird imprints on you.

Many people have also difficulties distinguishing between a nestling and a fledgling. If you want to learn more about how to care for baby birds, read my article about the topic.

The Temperament And Behavior Of Starlings

Starling behavior at a birdfeeder

Starlings have a great temperament and they make good pets in general. Most people who decided to adopt a starling say, that there are no better pet birds. Even parrots and budgies aren’t able to match.

Starlings are affectionate and love to spend time with humans. Young birds bond fast and strong, they like to spend as much time as possible with humans while they chose one person as their parent.

Experts recommend placing their habitat in the room with the most activity. Surprisingly these little energy bundles like to be mentally stimulated all the time without a break. They like to watch people in the room. But the TV or anything else can also be very interesting.

If you spend a lot of time with your pet bird it’s even possible that a starling can learn tricks and games just like a dog would do.

Apart from that starlings show their feelings. It’s absolutely possible to see if your pet bird is happy or upset when you watch him closely.

Do Pet Starlings Need A Cage?

Yes, starlings need a cage and believe me, it’s easier for you to clean their mess when they have a cage where they eat and do the business. However, it’s like always, the cage should be as large as possible. Something like an aviatory or a whole room would be even better.

No matter how large the cage is, starlings need a lot of time for free flights. They don’t climb and so so all their exercise is tied to flying. You should plan several hours of supervised time where they fly through your rooms every day.

Can Starlings Talk?

Yes, starlings can talk. Some owners report that their pet starlings started to talk without any training. Others say, the birds start to mimic sounds from their surroundings no matter, what the source of these sounds is.

Words they learned from humans, a melody from a song, even noise from mechanical machines are possible outcomes.

If you want to know exactly, how you can teach your starling to talk, watch the video below.

What To Feed A Starling?

Starlings are omnivores that often love insects the most. Their desire for exercise causes a fast metabolism and therefore the food should contain enough energy. A high level of protein satisfies this need best.

However, while worms and different insects are always a good choice, the diet shouldn’t miss occasional seeds and fruits.

Most people who find a baby starling first choose to feed a mix of dry dog food and chicken or other poultry. Of course, the dog food kibbles must be softened with water. Often even adult starlings like this kind of food very much but need more variety in general.

The video below shows how a young starling is fed by his new owner. He goes into detail and explains everything from how to do it to what to feed.

Common Health Issues

Starlings are a healthy species that aren’t prone to any disease. But of course, they can get ill and you would need to find a vet for regular checkups. When a bird gets ill they often get respiratory problems of any kind.

This might look like a cold in some cases. But it’s good to know, that humans can’t transfer a cold or flu to birds.

Another thing you have to consider is that the droppings of birds can cause diseases in humans. Salmonella and other bacterial infection are good examples of what can be transmitted. A clean habitat is a good way to prevent such things from happening.

Offer a birdbath so that your pet bird has the chance to clean itself.

The Lifespan of Pet Starlings

Talking starling in a tree

Starlings can live up to 20 years, sometimes more. Quite a long time for such a small bird. If you decide to take care of a nestling or fledgling you should have this in mind.

It’s not possible to release the young bird into the wild once he imprinted on you. And this process takes place fast if you start to feed the baby bird and spend time with it.

He just chooses his human as a parent and doesn’t learn how to interact with his conspecifics. He also won’t know how to find food on its own.

So be aware of the responsibility you take when you take the bird into your house.

Where To Buy A Pet Starling?

This is an easy question: Nowhere. You can’t buy a starling. Pet shops don’t have them for sale and there are no breeders either.

You would have to raise a wild baby starling on your own if you want one as a pet. But be responsible don’t take one away from its parents. Only care for birds that are orphaned and wouldn’t survive on their own. 

Fledglings often look kind of helpless, but the truth is, that they have outgrown their nest. They belong on the ground and will learn to fly soon. Often people take them away with good intentions but in reality, they do more harm than good.

Another way to get a pet starling is to contact a rescue center or rehabber near you. It might that these institutions don’t have any starlings as they are invasive and not protected but perhaps you are lucky.