All day I’ve had visitors in my side yard. They don’t get along very well. Most of them come for the same thing, and frequently squabble…


It turns out those bold, pesky birds my family always called grackles are actually starlings – European, or common, starlings. Pairs have been nesting under our front-porch roof for years. And that was fine. We enjoyed the sound of baby birds.

The grackle/starlings did their thing; we did ours.

But that changed when we started rebuilding our porch…

As with all our renovations, it went slowly. We finally replaced and painted the deck late summer 2011. But we didn’t get the new ceiling installed before it got to be too cold to do things like that outdoors.

The starlings came back the following spring and once again took up residence.

Ok, well, we’ll just have to wait until after nesting season to put in the ceiling. We can’t just close them in to die up there…

Our porch became a giant bird toilet.

As you can see from the picture of what they do to the bird feeder, starlings are… prolific… in this area.


It was so bad we couldn’t use our porch. At all. AND, before we gave up trying to hose and scrub it off every day we had time, we found it was stripping the paint…

Our pairs were also prolific… parents. Starlings can lay, hatch, and raise two clutches a year. And both our pairs did. We kept waiting and waiting for them to move on… but, by the time we were sure they were gone, it was too late in the year to take on the job of replacing the ceiling and finishing the upper woodwork.

Another year with an unfinished porch, thanks to guests who far outstayed their welcome. And destroyed our paint job.

They act like they own the place


THIS spring, my husband was prepared. Or so he thought.

Since starlings are cavity-nesters, and we knew they were building their nests above the porch columns, Jeff filled the crevices, and then sealed them with sticky foam… That man does love his sticky foam…

When the starlings started pecking and tearing their way through, he put in more.

When that didn’t dissuade them, he tacked up screen.

When they started pulling off the screen, he tacked up more.

When they kept pulling off the screen and started to build nests, he pulled out what they’d started, and covered everything up again.

Whenever anyone in our family was in the front yard, we scared them away.

You would not believe how persistent these birds are.

We finally had to give up and give in to the inevitable.

If, after all that, you’d told me that before summer I’d feel at least a little sorry for the annoying, filthy birds that took over my porch again, I wouldn’t have believed you.

starling and cowbird

But see that big, paler bird in the middle? That’s their baby. And it has a sibling just like it.

Even though those “babies” can fly, they still harass their unwitting parents, constantly demanding to be fed.

starling and cowbirds

If there’s a bird I like less than the starlings destroying our porch, it’s a female cowbird.

The starlings’ babies are brown-headed cowbirds. Their mother found the hidden-away starling nest, laid her eggs… and removed the competition.

I’d found remains, egg and small bird, on the porch, so wasn’t surprised when the over-sized babies made their debut…

starling and cowbird

What’s fun about that, Melinda?!?

It is kind of amusing, when you forget about all that, to watch the family antics…

starling and cowbird

Birds are fun to watch. Fascinating examples of God’s creativity.

And, I think it’s funny that starlings were introduced to the US via Central Park in 1890, possibly by a Shakespeare fan who thought we should have all the birds mentioned in the Bard’s plays

Then there’s the fact that they aren’t the only birds I got to watch today…

blue jay

I know some people don’t much like blue jays. They’re bold and raucous. And hungry.

blue jay

They’re also beautiful.

blue jay

Blue jays have personality!

blue jay

They make me smile.


So… I’ve learned starlings like suet.

Juvenile cowbirds like suet.

Blue jays like suet.

Woodpeckers do, too! I love seeing them in my yard…

Downy woodpecker male…

downy woodpecker

downy woodpecker

downy woodpecker

Hairy woodpecker female…

woodpecker hairy 01

As you can see from the picture quality, the woodpeckers were more difficult to catch than the starlings, cowbirds, and blue jay. I apologize for the quality of the following pics, but don’t remember ever seeing a red-bellied woodpecker – I’m excited! The red-bellied was even more skittish than the others, so I ended up having to take the opportunity to shoot it from the other side of my dining room…

red-bellied woodpecker

Although the red-bellied woodpecker was skittish, it did hold its own against an always-hungry starling…

red-bellied woodpecker

So this is the bird-watching portion of my day, as captured through windows in my dining room and kitchen. The windows caused the funny white cast you may have noticed, as the photos are all unedited except for cropping them into squares.

All day I tried to capture a shot of the cute little tufted titmouse that darts onto the feeder – he’s the only one of my visitors today who prefers plain seed over suet. Here’s my first attempt:

tufted titmouse

It was getting dark when I saw it again, so I never managed to get a good shot…

tufted titmouse

Oh well. Maybe another day. 🙂 And maybe I’ll catch the red-headed woodpecker I’ve only seen once.

Hope you enjoyed my visitors, even half as much as I enjoyed photographing them!

Worshiping God by enjoying His creativity and employing ours!


2 thoughts on “Some Welcome Visitors, Others… Not So Much

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