Use and husbandry of captive European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) in scientific research: a review of current practice

Asher, L and Bateson, M (2008) Use and husbandry of captive European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) in scientific research: a review of current practice. Laboratory Animals, 42 (2). pp. 111-126.

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Abstract

We reviewed the use of captive European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) in scientific research published between 2000 and 2004. We estimated the numbers of birds used and documented their origin and the range of husbandry regimes employed with the aim of comparing current practice with the new European guidelines for husbandry of laboratory animals. Over the five-year period, 106 primary articles report the use of an estimated total of 2490 captive starlings. The majority of birds were caught from the wild either as adults or fledglings, and only 3% were hand-reared from chicks. There was considerable variation in husbandry. In the majority of cases, standards fell below those currently recommended as best practice in the UK and cited in new European guidelines. The median volume of home cages employed was 0.42 m(3) (0.13-5.1 m(3), interquartile range), whereas current recommendations suggest a minimum of 1.0 m(3) for a singly-housed bird. The median volume of space allowed per bird was 0.13 m(3)/ bird (0.08-1.05 m(3)/bird, Q1-Q3), whereas current recommendations suggest a minimum of 0.33 m(3)/bird. Only 27% of the articles mentioned providing any form of environmental enrichment for birds in their home cages. We recommend that more research be conducted into the welfare of starlings to inform legislation and guidelines, and thus maximize the welfare of captive animals.