Starling trap

MBlanchrd at MBlanchrd at
Tue Jan 23 19:57:12 PST 2001

Hi, Tweeters, 

I've already recieved one request for my starling trap plan, so I decided to 
put it out on our forum for everyone. This will be my fifth season of using 
mine, and I always..always...trap at least 20 starlings a season. I seem to 
get the big husky dominant males, I don't know if I've ever trapped a female 
except inadvertently.
 I am certain that the number I catch is only limited by the number of traps 
I have (which is one.). The trap usually only catches one at a time, but 
every once in a while, I'll have two and even three in it during the height 
of the nest searching period. 

The trap is very simple, requires no springs, tripwires, trapdoors, 
electricity or bait. It's powered by gravity and the bait is the starlings 
behavior. You can build one in an afternoon for about twenty bucks total in 

 I found the design several years ago on an Iowan farmer's personal Website. 
Wierd, I know, but the man knew what he was talking about. He had a 
tremendous problem with starlings getting into his silos and chutes (I'm on 
thin ice here, because I have no experience with silos). The starlings would 
get into the chutes and die because they couldn't get out, never mind what 
they were doing to his corn and silage with their droppings. So he built a 
few traps based on the fatally attractive chutes design and caught LOTS and 
LOTS of starlings. 
Although he described himself as a "corn farmer from Iowa" he was also an 
astute observer of starling behavior.
He had learned a very important fact about starling behavior. They are, 
apparently, the only passerine willing to enter a box that it can't see the 
bottom of.
So he designed a trap that a starling would find very attractive, with a nice 
large hole for a broad shouldered male to fit into, and one almost impossible 
for it to escape from. They're smart. I have had one or two escape, but I 
think I can fix that by lengthening the pipe. 

I'm not going to try the fiasco of last year, where I tried to scan the plans 
into my computer. My scanner went into a tizzy and my computer (we call her 
Christine for a reason) went bonkers. So here's a detailed description. It's 
very simple and easy.

Bill of Materials: with a little common sense..I'm not going to tell you what 
size nails or screws or what have you.

Lumber to make a  5 x 5 inch bird house, and the frame for the cage.
3 or 4  three-foot sections of aluminum stove pipe, 5 inch diameter.
Hardware cloth (NOT chicken wire!)
Hinges and a sliding door bolt (or a hook-and-eye) to secure the trap's door.
Duct tape
Black plastic sheeting or something to keep the cage dark

Now then. Build a 5x5 inch bird house. It's height is up to you, but make it 
so that a starling thinks it's just dandy for a passle of starlings to be 
raised in. Make the entry hole about two inches.
Do NOT put a floor in it. 

Connect the stovepipe sections into a long pipe. Duct tape the joints to keep 
light out and to keep it together.

Construct the cage as large as you like. It should be small enough to be 
easily covered, and yet large enough that you can comfortably get the 
starlings out.
Mine is about 12 inches square. It's just a frame of wood with hardware cloth 
all around, sides, floor, roof. Put a door on one end, have it open SIDEWAYS 
like a house door, rather than like a oven door, because it's easier to 
remove the starling with a sideways door. Put a secure fastener so that the 
starling can't unlock the door.

Assemble the trap. Put the floorless house atop one end of the stove pipe. 
Duct tape it so that no light can enter and so that it holds the pipe in 
place. Making the house the same width as the stovepipe means it may be a 
tight fit, but that's okay. Make sure the pipe doesn't go way up into the 
house. You merely want it an inch or two inside the house to keep the two 
together, and then duct tape them. I found that duct taping the outside 
diameter of the pipe was enough to wedge the pipe firmly into the house 
without it sliding up further.
Or if you have a jigsaw, you can make an "adapter".. a piece of 5x5 wood that 
goes where the floor in the house would go,  with a hole that just barely 
fits the stovepipe, and put that up into the house. Make sure that it doesn't 
give the starling any purchase.

The other end of the stovepipe goes into the center of the top of the cage. 
Duct tape it so that it holds tight. Make sure the stovepipe only enters the 
cage about an inch, because you want all the length you can  get for the 
stovepipe, and you don't want the starling to be able to hang from the 

Attach the trap to the side of whatever...your house, garage, barn, tree, 
etc. It makes no difference if the cage is set on the ground or if you attach 
it to the side of the building, too. I set mine on the ground so that it's 
easier for me to empty the cage.
Up til now I've always put the trap on the side of my garage facing west. 
This year I'm trying it facing south, just to see if I catch more starlings. 
I don't believe it makes any difference to the birds.
Once you have it in place, take the plastic sheeting and cover the cage so 
that no light enters it. (for this matter, you can even make the cage of 
solid wood rather than hardware cloth, but then you can't see if you a bird 
in it, and it makes it harder to get the bird out.). Plastic sheeting is not 
a requirement, it's just cheap. Use whatever you want to make it nice and 
dark in the cage.

What happens:  A male starling (I believe they are the ones who find the 
house) sees this fine house, and flies right in. He falls down the stovepipe 
into the trap, where he cannot see and he cannot escape, because he can't fly 
back up the's too narrow for him to spread his wings.

I think I need to make my cage a little taller, because the starlings can 
jump up into the pipe for a ways, and sometimes I think they jump high enough 
to make it to the first section of pipe. From there they manage to claw their 
way out. Either that, or someone in my neighborhood is letting them out, 
because I have had  a few escape, inexplicably.

I know I have a starling in the trap when I hear it scrabbling and clawing on 
the interior of the stove pipe. They will jump and jump and jump.

How to get the starling out.
 First of all, DO NOT EVER EVER RELEASE A LIVE STARLING. If you're not 
willing to kill it, don't bother trapping it, because all you will do is 
train all the other starlings about this trap. I repeat, if you can't kill 
the starling, don't trap them in the first place. 

You can kill them in various ways. One woman who uses this trap says she just 
leaves them in the cage until they die. Cruel? Well, perhaps....but at least 
they don't get out to reproduce. She says it takes a day or two for them to 
die of exhaustion from jumping. And sometimes, if there's two or more in the 
cage, one manages to get out.
Getting a live starling out of the trap: 
Use a good sized  fishnet. ( a REAL fish net, not the little green  things 
your kid uses to terrorize aquarium fish with). Place the fishnet frame 
against the doorway, making sure the netting is all around the door. Open the 
cage door. The netting must be situated so that the starling flies into it. I 
promise you, that starling knows what the door is, and when he sees it 
opening, he'll make a dash for it. 

Killing the starling:
Spin the net around once or twice so the starling is firmly entangled in the 
Here comes the hard part. I kill starlings by wringing their necks, but many 
people can't bring themselves to do that. 

The idea is to kill the bird without hurting it, (which is what every ethical 
and moral hunter does his best to do.) Don't hurt it, KILL it.

 Take your netted starling and swing it as hard as you can into something 
hard..the sidewalk, your concrete driveway, the bricks of your fireplace. 
Bash him HARD!. 
I'm sure you've seen window strike birds..they die of broken necks. Same 
Once he's dead, discard the carcass. (the same woman above has kids who give 
each starling a funeral until they run out of popsicle sticks)

You're done, except for a few things. You MUST check the trap at least twice 
a day. Why? Because, when a violet-green swallow gets desperate for a house, 
they'll sometimes throw all caution to the winds and settle on this "dump". 
I've trapped two violet-greens in five years. The first time I didn't get to 
it in time...:-(  but the second time I got him out, and I don''t think he'd 
been in there ten minutes. The swallows won't jump, just flutter around in 
the cage. 

 I have to believe that the swallows entered the trap only as a very last 
resort, because I have dozens of violet greens here every year (I have ten 
boxes up for them) and I've only had the misfortune of trapping two. That's 
why it's important to make the interior of the house as dark as possible, to 
make it unattractive to other hole nesters.
 I've never had any other bird even think about entering it.
So it is vitally necessary for you to check it twice, (at least!) every day, 
to release possible non-target birds.

So the two rules are:
 Don't trap starlings if you can't kill them
Check the trap at least twice a day for non-target birds.

Let's get out there and trap starlings!!
MBlanchrd at
Oly, WA

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