Saturday 22 October 2016

Vroom with a view ... starling chicks hatch in engine bay of family pick-up

Charli Gale at jeep with starling nest and eggs in engine
Charli Gale at jeep with starling nest and eggs in engine
A pair of day-old starlings with beaks open for food in the jeep

THIS Dublin family are particularly chirpy after starling chicks survived living in a nest built in the family's pick-up.

A pair of starlings made an unusual decision to locate their home just behind the engine grille of a 4x4 owned by Alan Gale and his family.

The tiny chicks hatched in the nest built in the Dodge Ram 4x4 at Alan's home in Lucan, co Dublin on Saturday.

The pair of day-old birds are snapped with open beaks reaching for food. They have to be fed every couple of minutes by their parents during daylight hours before their mother settles into the nest with them to keep them warm at night. Dad-of-three Alan and his daughter Charli (10) carefully monitored development since the parent birds built the nest between the front engine grill and the radiator over three weeks ago.

Starlings nest in holes and cavities, especially in trees, but often also build in nooks in houses. They also sometimes find nesting space in unused vehicles and in tractor engines.

READ MORE: Meet 'Starling Moss' - the bird with a love of fast cars

Alan happily drove his pick-up truck to construction sites around Dublin while the hen starling sat on the eggs in the engine and her mate waited in the trees in his garden for them to return home.

There was panic one day last week when Alan drove the hen and her eggs in another direction, to Celbridge. The mother went missing and she was still gone when construction company owner Alan returned home.

For several hours the Gale family worried whether the eggs had been abandoned.


The male was still on the house roof-top. He kept chirping loudly and constantly. Finally, his mate returned and calmly settled on the nest. A few days later two eggs hatched on Saturday afternoon. Birdwatch Ireland is amazed at the progress of the little family of starlings.

The organisation's development officer Niall Hatch said he was particularly impressed by the female's homing instincts.

"The day she was missing for a number of hours her mate was probably trying to attract her attention," he said.

"But it's the hen's own homing instincts that would have helped her find the nest. We know it happens but we don't know how. It's one of the great mysteries."

Because the chicks have to be fed every few minutes with grubs and insect larvae by their parents, Alan has left his 4x4 in his drive and has arranged alternative transport to work.

Once the chicks leave the nest in approximately three weeks time, Mr Hatch advised the Gale family to remove the nest from the engine.

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