Starling trap

MBlanchrd at aol.com MBlanchrd at aol.com
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
materials.

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
stovepipe.

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 pipe...it'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
net.
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
principle.
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!!
Michelle
MBlanchrd at aol.com
Oly, WA


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