common starling

The cap that tops the liquified petroleum tank at the farm makes a fine birdhouse for starlings. That was the conclusion of the pair that settled there early in the spring. When I noticed their comings and goings I lifted the cap and discovered the large messy nest they had constructed and their cute brood of four nestlings with open mouths waiting for me to feed them. They didn’t seem to notice that I wasn’t their mother or father, just hungry mouths yearning for food. I closed the lid and left the task to their parents. Though starlings are not my favorite birds by far, far be it from me to toss them out of their new home.
The starling family prospered for the next month, but their LP tank home looked more and more like a slum neighborhood with an absentee landlord. Bird digestive residue added nothing to the ambience of the surrounding garden. Finally, after the fledgling birds had flown the coop, I waged my assault, armed with a power washer. The whole tank by that time required the highest pressure and nozzle available.
I was happy for the starlings who had benefitted from my patience, and the power washer did an admirable job in cleanup, but how was I to protect the tank from further squatting by the starlings? I decided to fill the cap with wadded chicken wire.
The next morning my wife Jan observed the result. A noisy pair of starlings seemed to be having a squawking argument and poopfest due the wire-encumbered entrance to their former home. They looked and sounded like an old couple who had spent many hours practicing verbal combat. They strutted around, trying to poke their beaks into the cap entrance. The smaller of the two, whether the female or the male, I do not know, persisted in poking its beak into the hole and moving the wire until it was finally able to reenter. That motivated me quickly to add to the quantity of chicken wire until there was no possibility of nesting there again. At least, at this point, I think I accomplished that end.
They seem to be eyeing me warily as I walk around the farmyard and mumbling nasty comments to each other. My “no tolerance” policy toward rebuilding inside the LP tank cap has not yet persuaded them to stop roosting on the tank itself. The starlings and I do not seem to share the same value system. We have different needs. They do have plenty of options in the neighborhood. In that respect they have the advantage over other homeless creatures.

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