Morgan’s Ford Farm Is All Atwitter

by | 07.15.2016 | 11:43am- Reprinted from today’s Paulick Report

The Morgan’s Ford Farm barn at Fasig-Tipton was a bustling place in the late afternoon of July 12 as employees began the process of packing up equipment. The Virginia-based consignor had brought two yearlings to the July Sale and was loading up its truck after a long day of showing horses. Watching all the commotion with great interest was a terrier named Magpie and a small bird, sitting in a crate and tittering away at anyone who passed by.

Wayne and Susie Chatfield-Taylor pulled double duty over the weekend, marketing their yearlings to buyers and looking after the bird — a two-week-old starling named Starbird. (Starbird’s name is a play on ‘starboard’ after a recent nautical vacation the Chatfield-Taylors took near Newfoundland.) Before they left their farm in Front Royal, Va., for the sale, the Chatfield-Taylors got a call from the nearby Blue Ridge Wildlife Center asking if the center could help raise Starbird. Starlings build structurally unsound nests that tend to fall apart, dropping baby birds in unexpected places, so the vociferous Starbird isn’t the first starling the group has gotten a call about. In fact, he’s one in a long line of wild and domestic birds to grow up under their care. At various times, they’ve raised two robins, three or four other starlings, two blue jays, several possums, and a young deer.

“He’s a good boy,” said Wayne Chatfield-Taylor. “He’s the fourth starling we’ve owned. They make terrific house pets. He didn’t have feathers last week, and he’s losing all his fuzz now. He took his first flight in the apartment last night or the night before.”

On Tuesday afternoon, Starbird was impatiently requesting his dinner, which consisted of a few kernels of dog food. Dog food is considered a good feeding option for hand-raised songbirds because it contains the animal protein that wild birds get from insects. He has begun to show interest in blueberries, and enjoys flies, which the Chatfield-Taylors catch for him with a fly swatter.

 

 Some of their birds have been released into the wild, but others (like the starlings) aren’t interested in learning how to forage for themselves after growing up indoors, so they remain pets. They do get ample opportunity to stretch their wings in the house, Chatfield-Taylor says, but enjoy their routine and put themselves back in their cages when they’ve had enough.

Those that are released, like a recent pair of crows, drop by the barn occasionally looking for a handout, though the horses don’t pay them much attention.

Wayne and Susie Chatfield-Taylor

Wayne and Susie Chatfield-Taylor

The Chatfield-Taylors have developed their breeding operation at Morgan’s Ford Farm for the past 30 years, with their wildlife menagerie as a sideline. The 1,000-acre property, situated alongside the picturesque Shenandoah River in the Blue Ridge Mountains, was first surveyed by George Washington and is now protected by conservation easements. Conservation is an important issue with the Chatfield-Taylors, who are estimated to have amassed a total of 6,000 acres of protected land around and near Morgan’s Ford.

Wayne Chatfield-Taylor was elected president of the Virginia Thoroughbred Association in 2013. The couple has bred Champion Virginia-Bred Older Horse and multiple graded stakes winner Redeemed and Champion Virginia-Bred Older Mare North Freeway, and graded stakes winner Go Blue Or Go Home.

Chatfield-Taylor said he’s not sure yet whether Starbird will continue in his apparent capacity as marketing assistant to the Morgan’s Ford consignment. He is looking forward to teaching Starbird his first few words. While many birds can mimic others’ songs, starlings can actually learn pieces of human language. This was a bit of a surprise to Wayne Chatfield-Taylor, when he was caring for the couple’s first starling.

“He said his name to us as we were putting him back into the cage. I stopped and said, ‘What was that?’” Chatfield-Taylor remembered. “As soon as he started that, he started calling the dogs, he started answering the phone. He picked up a huge vocabulary. They’re really bright birds. They steal shiny things and put them in out-of-the way places.

“We have a parrot, a cockatiel, and two finches also. The house was kind of set up around that idea. So [Starbird] will be right at home.”

Starbird eyes his dinner from his cage at Fasig-Tipton

Starbird eyes his dinner from his cage at Fasig-Tipton