Dateline – May 13, 2021 – Carrollton, Texas

European Starlings are cavity nesters. They will readily make use of both man-made and natural cavities. Knotholes and abandoned woodpecker nests are prime locations. As are birdhouses and building nooks and crannies.

Ordinarily, starling nest are built well off the ground—10 to 25 feet up is common. But, the one I’m about to share with you in the pictures below is a little different. This starling nest was located in a knothole on the trunk of a Mesquite tree only a foot or so above the ground. Unusual in my experience!

Starlings are dedicated parents, and the two adults made multiple food deliveries while I was on site. European Starlings are omnivores, so a wide variety of things were included on the menu for the baby birds. In the accompanying photographs you will find the adults bringing back wasps, caterpillars, spiders, and mulberries to feed their offspring.

An ordinary starling clutch will consist of 3 to 6 eggs. The cavity in this tree trunk must be fairly spacious to accommodate a brood of that size. There was no way for me to verify exactly how many juveniles this nest contained, but it did become possible to differentiate the two adult birds to a degree. One of the adult’s beak was stained a reddish color with mulberry juice. This was starkly different from the yellow beak seen on the second adult bird.

The juveniles in this tree cavity are several weeks old and nearly ready to fledge. It will only be a matter of hours from the time these pictures were taken before they are ready to leave the nest for good.

Here is the nest… notice the knothole roughly 12 inches above the grass
The knothole was only a little more than an inch in diameter.
The cavity inside must be spacious in order to accommodate a full brood of babies
The adult starlings returned to the nest frequently with food for their babies
Starlings are omnivores. Sometimes the parents would bring back
bugs for their babies to eat, and other times they would bring berries
My presence made this starling abort his first delivery attempt after I had setup on location.
…but he didn’t go far.
The juvenile poked his head out to encourage his parent to complete the feeding
It didn’t take long for the adult to muster his courage and return
The motivation to care for their young is strong in birds
The adult’s beak is caked with mulberry juice
Off to find more food
The adults returned to the nest with food every 3 to 5 minutes
This time it looks like a red wasp is on the menu
Look at the beautiful colors on the adult bird
Back to work!
Returning with a caterpillar
A closer look!
The juvenile quickly becomes interested…
…and demands to be fed!
The adult readily complies
Notice the nest’s proximity to the ground
The adult returns with a mulberries
Note the red, mulberry juice-stained bill on the adult bird
Baby demands more!
This time the adults comes back with a spider
Here’s a closer look
The juvenile takes the spider and retreats back inside the nest cavity
A bird-parent’s work is never done

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