I knew she* was capable of feeding herself. One morning, I surprised her with food in her mouth. Yet, the next morning, she looked at the food I had placed on the railing for her, hopped over to the popsicle stick I normally used to feed her, picked it up, put it down, and looked at me with a cocked head. If she had used words, she couldn't have more plainly said, "Feed me!" It was an amusing moment, and one that was startling in the clear communication with this bird. So bird children are no different than human children can be!
A week or two later, "Birdie" (or "Tweetie" to William) has me literally feeling the empty nest syndrome. She is now completely self-fed, using both food I leave for her and lifting bark to find a tasty beetle. She does still come to me, lets me pick her up, but the days are numbered. I've seen her flying with other juvenile European starlings, arguing (or so it sounds) as they fly. It won't be long before she doesn't come back to see me. Each day, she comes less frequently to say hi. And yet, that is what good parents do: they teach their young to be independent.
I was told I couldn't do it: raise a single starling. For one thing, and I didn't know this, it is illegal to raise starlings in Kentucky (one of the few states that prohibit keeping starlings). I could legally kill this baby crying out in hunger. I could drown it. If I had a hunting license, I could shoot it. I could not, however, nurture it. Birdie was was flying free but still being fed when I learned this. At this point, Birdie lived totally outside and so, I wasn't "keeping" her as a pet, I was feeding a "wild" bird. I had raised two starlings and released them successfully some years ago. I accepted that Birdie might not make it past her first year, but odds are, most birds don't.
Birdie is going to make it, and in a way, I miss her. I'm very proud that she is going to be a real bird, but it was quite heartwarming to hear her, call out, and see her glide in to the porch. William and I have become acutely aware of the sound of starling fledglings. We notice them everywhere. We have learned tons by raising this bird: what it eats, how it develops, how it lives.
The day we found her, an ugly little thing.
A cute phase
Just now, she is showing a few black and white feathers on her shoulder,
signaling that maturity is right around the corner.
Although starlings can talk in captivity, she'll likely be gone before she learns words, but don't be surprised if one lands near you and says, "What cha' doin'?
*Note: I call it a "her" although gender cannot be determined until the first molt.