Monday, April 02, 2018

Starlings In The Wall

Roger heard something and I tried hard to hear it too. Nothing. He got up and walked over to the wall in our bedroom, put his ear to it and whispered, "There's something in this wall... maybe a critter... some dripping water.. I don't know what, but I hear it." I went outside to listen. That's when I heard it too. Something was definitely making noise in the space between the exterior and interior wall of our bedroom. While we were in the yard, wondering out loud about what was going on, it flew out. A starling. Well, we were relieved it wasn't a mouse or a rat, but not sure what we should do about a starling building a nice spring time nest in there. I looked down at the ground and saw the remnants of the wire screen vent in the eaves there. Bummer. Those birds had found a way in and made it even better for themselves.
We tend to have a "live and let live" attitude about most things, and most especially about birds. But we seriously wondered about having a non-native species like a starling in there. What kind of trouble would be enabling? So, I wrote a dear friend who is a true birder and asked her. This was her response.
1. Introduced species. 2. Keeps a very, very filthy nest. Hauls in a lot of material (fire hazard) and toward the end of the nestling period allows the babies to defecate freely in it. Think stinking, soggy mess that I wouldn't touch without rubber gloves on. So there's that. But 3. often has chicken mites. Chicken mites are very bad medicine. They infest the nest and will come through the walls and infest you...wait until you see the pair outside together and wire that space off. They still have plenty of time to start another nest elsewhere. (PS-- this is slightly edited)
So, Roger went out and got the ladder to measure the space that he needed to cover. When he had the right piece ready, we made sure the birds were out. We banged on the wall, we talked, shouted, waited, banged some more, talked some more. They were definitely gone. He covered the space. We agreed that if we heard any sound from in there, he would open it up and wait til that bird left. But we never heard a single sound again. We were so relieved to say good bye to those birds. It's a good thing one of us still has good hearing. Yikes!
We're still taking our early morning walks, trying to tip the scales toward beauty and away from grief and sadness. A city sunrise is a good beginning. Working on tipping the scales everyday as we plan our trip south for my mom's memorial and Roger's family reunion. Life goes on... life goes on. Sigh.


28 comments:

  1. Starlings are a naturally occurring species here, but not in my roof space! Not a bird to be encouraged, they'll find plenty of other places to nest.

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    1. John-- We haven't heard a peep from them since we blocked their entrance, so we're hopeful they found someplace else to nest.

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  2. They're an invasive species here also and can be quite nasty. Sounds like you handled it right. Good luck!

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    1. Dave- We were glad to get expert advice on how to proceed. We're such softies about birds. I think we were successful in getting them out and keeping them out. Yay!

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  3. Isn't it great the weather is letting us walk in mornings again? Bye bye birdie!

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    1. Barbara-- A bright sunshiny day makes all the difference in the world to me! Bye bye birdie indeed!

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  4. Egads! They sound almost as bad as humans! (Just joking: Nothing comes close to humans for destructiveness.)

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    1. CCorax-- Thank you for that laugh. True, no other critter is as destructive as we humans. Sigh.

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  5. Traditionally, most gardens here have a starling nesting box, tall and narrow. We clean it out every winter and hang it back up (high up and facing east) wait for the birds to return in spring. They don't come every year and I wouldn't bet that it's always the same pair, but every 2nd or 3rd spring, we have a nest and a young family. When the starlings fail to come, the blue tits move in and make a real mess of it.

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    1. Sabine-- I think if the starlings were a native species here we would have built a nest box and encouraged them to move in. When we lived up on the Olympic Peninsula 2004-2008, we had several swallow nest boxes and loved watching them. Now, we limit ourselves to just feeding hummingbirds.

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  6. The line between "live and let live" and "let wildlife take advantage" is a fine one! I feel like I encounter it daily!

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    1. Steve-- It is definitely a balancing act.

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  7. So glad you nipped that in the bud. When I bought this place, I had to hire some men to dig out a huge garbage bag of nesting material from several years of Starling visits and yes they do have mites. One of the workmen was getting attacked while he worked. Not good house guests.

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    1. Patti-- Now I'm really glad we took the action we did. Your comment reassures me is was the right way to go. Bye bye birdie!

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  8. That's where the little beggars went, We used to have lots of them around where we live but very few now. Have a look at the video of a Starling Murmuration. I have only seen it a few times on the Summerset levels
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NREmtGhIHew

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    1. Oh my! I followed the link--beautiful!--and came across this suggested video in the sidebar:
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kZYw7VvB44s

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  9. Bill and CCorax-- That video is absolutely spectacular. I've watched other murmuration videos, but that one is stunning. Thank you thank you!

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  10. Glad you're getting your walks!

    Oh, this reminded me so much of a time when we were living in Japan. (1998-9) It was a more traditional kind of house, and one day we heard animals in the wall. Turned out that a local stray cat had taken her kittens up to the attic space, trying to escape the tanuki (translation is dog coon -- kinda racoonish, but also carnivorous). A kitten or two fell between walls; we rescued them by removing a plate for the wall plugs, and then my beloved went to the attic to get the rest. It was stressful! We lived in a duplex with the landlady, who busted us for having disallowed pets, so the cat family had to go live in the doghouse; mama cat moved the babies shortly thereafter.

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    1. kathya-- I love reading your kitten rescue story in Japan. I'm glad the mama cat moved her babies. Your story reminded me of a time when I was living in Colorado with my first husband and we heard something in the walls of our rental. It was a mama raccoon with her babies in there. It was my first interaction with raccoons, and that mama was fierce.

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    2. It was actually 1988-9! Hate my own typos. But anyway, a long time ago, in a faraway place... But, a mama cat will do what she can do.

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  11. I take a live-and-let-live attitude towards most things, too, but I would also stop short of having starlings nest in the wall. It's good you were able to seal them out, rather than in.

    We used to see huge flocks of starlings around here 50 years ago. There were probably hundreds of thousands of them. They roosted in a pine thicket near the textile plant where my mother worked. I have seen only small numbers of them in a long time, which is fine with me.

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    1. Mark-- I can't imagine what it must have been like to see hundreds of thousands of starlings. Although you do remind me of when I was young and the sky would literally darken with migrating birds. Those days are long gone.

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  12. Glad you managed to exclude the starlings before they nested. Not something you want to deal with later!

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    1. bev-- Yes, we were pretty happy about catching them before they had time to build their nest. So glad Roger has good hearing!

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  13. They sound like a real mess. They are bullies to my birds at the feeder.

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    1. Sharon-- I feel a little bad for them because they are an introduced species and didn't choose to be here. But... they are bullies and I'm glad we at least stopped them from nesting in our walls!

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  14. Oh, we had that starling issue many years ago, we had circular vents at the end of our roof joists, very high up. They pecked them out and nested there for longer than I care to admit. Finally got a guy out to re-cover them with sterner stuff.

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    1. Phil-- We're so glad we heard them before they had a chance to nest and call it home. Gotta keep an eye on those critters!

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