Can you help identify this weird, yet apparently friendly bird?
July 21, 2014 8:15 AM   Subscribe

A few friends of mine live in Somerville, MA, which is right outside of Boston. For the past few weeks, a bird has been repeatedly showing up on their porch and, apparently, making friends with them.

Pictures at the following links. Apologies for how tiny the pictures are.

Pic 1
Pic 2
Pic 3

My friend Ed described his most recent experience as such:

"I'm on the porch reading. It flies (with a group of other birds) to the sidewalk. Notices the porch. Flies to the chair I have my feet on, decides that's a good spot to nap. I ignore it, thinking as soon as I move it'll fly away. After a few more minutes though I turn a page and it startles awake, thinks 'hey, i'm a bird,' and starts creeping down the chair towards me. Gets to my feet and starts chirping incessantly until I offer my hand to it, so it gladly jumps on my hand, pecks a couple times, and after having a bit of a seizure, relaxes to take another nap. I continue to read.

Then I think, I have a fucking bird on my hand sleeping, so I try to take my phone out to get some snappies and pics, got a snap chat or two off but my phone dies instantly. But each time I try to go back inside to charge my phone for a couple minutes to try to get a video of the damn thing, it follows me inside. I put it on the couch to chill for a minute and I can hear it freaking out and flying after me. Every time I turn around in my room, it's on the floor in our hallway staring at me, even flies onto my shoulder the last time I went into my room so I literally walk back outside with a bird on my shoulder that won't go away. This ends with the bird seeing a flock of birds after a few more minutes and thinking 'oh right, i'm a god damn bird'"

The bird has now been named Franz Birdinand, and I'm sure he'll be showing up more in the future. I'm curious if anyone can identify the bird's species though - based on his claws he looks to me to be a bird of prey of some kind, but its beak kind of works against that theory. I have no idea.
posted by Riptor to Pets & Animals (11 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Could that be a gray jay? I've only encountered them up in the White Mountains, and they're supposed to be Alpine (or north of us), but they're super friendly and will always eat out of our hands when I tell people to hold up a handful of trail mix.
posted by ldthomps at 8:20 AM on July 21, 2014

Juvenile starling, perhaps?
posted by geegollygosh at 8:24 AM on July 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Bill and tail length (and general conformation) don't look like a gray jay, but look good for juvenile starling (scroll down for photo). Caveat: I am not very good at IDing passerines.
posted by rtha at 8:30 AM on July 21, 2014

What Bird's search function is great for this; I find it can always narrow down to 5 or so from whatever nonexpert info I can give it.

When I plugged in what looked right from the pictures, it suggested Brown-headed cowbird, which sounds more like an insult than a species, but which looks similar. But a starling makes sense too.
posted by tchemgrrl at 8:31 AM on July 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Not a juvenile Grey Jay (they'd be greyer rather than the blackish brown you have there). Starlings are probably smaller (based on the size of that man's fist). The cowbird suggestion looks interesting but their bills are chunkier. Maybe a juvenile grackle but with fewer adult feathers?
posted by hydrobatidae at 8:37 AM on July 21, 2014

Oh yes, like this guy (Common Grackle from NH)
posted by hydrobatidae at 8:40 AM on July 21, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers folks. Starling looks most likely from the options we've seen so far
posted by Riptor at 8:46 AM on July 21, 2014

Not a cowbird, we've got those and the shape is smaller and different. I'd bet on a juvenile starling too.
posted by BlackPebble at 9:15 AM on July 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

It's a fledgling/juvenile, they haven't learned to be scared yet. I had a robin like that in my back yard this year & he was tameish for 2 weeks or more before he finally realized the dogs would eat him and I could let them off the lead again. I'd stop getting it used to humans if possible as you don't want it getting into trouble later on. Shoo it away and work on making it a bit more cautious or your little birdy friend will hop into someone elses house & get itself into strife.
posted by wwax at 9:47 AM on July 21, 2014

My first guess was starling too. People do domesticate them; it might be that someone rehabbed and released this one and now it's more habituated to people. Or it's still just young and stupid, who knows. Anyway, I'm with wwax, of your friend doesn't want to take permanent responsibility for this bird, then work at scaring it/unhabituating it to people or it's going to get into trouble sooner than later. It's hard to be mean to something so friendly and fluffy, but it'll be better for everyone in the long run.
posted by theweasel at 9:54 AM on July 21, 2014 [3 favorites]

Another vote for juvenile starling; the stubby tail is pretty distinctive, and they're common as dirt in urban areas.
posted by Johnny Assay at 12:31 PM on July 21, 2014

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