Starling trying to feed in garden, unable to close beak


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Starling trying to feed in garden, unable to close beak

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Dear all,

This may seem like a silly / trivial question, but here goes...

I've just spotted a starling in my garden who appears to be unable to close its beak. It's trying to pick up food, but is - understandably - unable to do so.

Is there anything I can do to help it, or should I let nature take its course (obviously, if the bird is unable to eat or drink, it will weaken and eventually die of starvation).

Many thanks for any suggestions / advice you may have.


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  • P.S.: I forgot to add that the bird is not showing any other symptoms (of e.g. Trichomonosis).

    It's literally hopping around the garden with its beak continuously open.

  • Hello Alan / doggie,

    Many thanks for your reply - I've put some more clean water and crushed food out for it, and will monitor the situation. I've never seen this before, so am a little puzzled as to what's happened to the bird.


  • No, it's not exhibiting any symptoms of Trich. Hopefully it's a temporary affliction.

  • This sounds to me like "Gape" or "the Gapes" and is caused by a parasitic organism rather similar to the one that causes Trichomaniasis but not the same.

    There are treatments which are used on tame and domestic birds but it sounds to me as if it has probably gone too far with this little one.

    You should not allow it to eat with other birds as the parasite is passed from bird to bird by the infected one coughing up the eggs when attempting to eat. The same sort of hygeine precautions as for trichomaniasis ase called for I think.


  • Thank you Jenni, I hadn't come across "Gape" before, but the bird's symptoms do appear to match the description. I only noticed the bird today, and it was feeding with other starlings as well as with yellowhammers, blackbirds and chaffinches. I hope the infection hasn't been passed on...I disinfect the feeders and birdbath every day.

  • I am concerned that the bird may have already passed on the parasite to other birds, as the starlings have been feeding together with blackbirds, yellowhammers etc. over the last 2-3 weeks. Maybe I'm going over-the-top, but this is not the start to "Springwatch" I was hoping for...

  • You can't do much Wit's End. These things happen and if there was nothing to keep a check on populations we'd be overrun by all sorts - just as we are overrunning the world! It's hard I know but life is a fatal condition.


  • Thank you Jenni and Doggie / Alan.

    I almost reached the point of desperation this morning, and was considering ordering Flubenvet...not a good mindset. I then read that gapeworm can live in the soil for 4.5 I also considered treating the soil. I think I need to go for a long walk to clear my head.

    I'm sorry to hear about the Collared Dove and Greenfinch :-( We had an outbreak in Cumbria in 2007...keeping my fingers crossed for this year.

  • Correction: in 2006

  • Hi Wit's End.

    I saw you asking the same question on the CJ site with no replies.

    So Im glad you found some advice here even if its no very good news for that Starling.

  • I'm sorry to hear about this Wit's End, and I would also be at my wit's end in your position.

    Good luck with trying to sort it out.

  • Thank you "Shropshire Lad" and Linda. Yes, I also posted on that forum to increase the likelihood of a response. The RSPB website seems most effective :-)

    I've tried to tidy up the garden as best I can, and hope that this is an isolated case. I'll continue to monitor the situation and will post updates (to vent my spleen and to see if there are any other reported cases).

    As an aside, is the condition fatal to raptors? I have a "resident" sparrowhawk.

  • Must as I feared...

  • I have never seen that in over 30 years of feeding Wits End and i would feel just like you.I am sure with good hygiene and a watchfull eye all will be well.Hopefully, this is a one off and luckily,although not nice, you spotted it.I am sure the Sparrowhawk will be fine too.

  • Thank you Sheena. I've spent much of the day cleaning & scrubbing away -  hopefully this is not a drop in the ocean (I can only "control" what happens in my small garden), and that this will do some good. Sprawk also paid a visit, and missed a collared dove by a whisker.