The Starling

I have a hard time believing that this story is true: it’s just too crazy – but the photos are good and hard to forge without more resources than your average internet prankster. So, here’s the tale as it was told to me…

There’s a company in the States that sells automatic car washers as a complete solution, including the washing system, cash box, installation of the building, etc. These are completely automated: you drive up, put your money into the machine, then drive through.

In any case; after the installation of a particular one of these machines, the owner noticed that the return from the machine was not so much as should be expected. Diagnostics were run and the cash processor seemed to be okay, so everybody was at a loss. The owner even went so far as to accuse the supplier’s staff of having keys to his cashbox, and returning to the scene to steal the money.

Eventually, at his wits end, the owner set up security cameras to try to catch the thief in the act. Here are some stills from the footage:

Starling on the coin return slot.
The first image. Yes, that’s a starling that’s just landed on the coin return slot.

Starling entering the coin return slot.
And there’s the starling, wriggling in to the coin return slot, where, presumably, it’s pushing it’s way up into the cash box through the return chute.

Starling with coins in beak, leaving the coin return slot.
The starling with some coins!

Starling wriggling free of the coin return slot.
The starling’s dropped a couple of coins, but is still wriggling to get free of the slot with it’s remaining prize.

Apparently, they later determined that it was not one, but several, birds who were robbing the car wash. Following them discovered a cache of loose change on the roof of the car wash and beneath an exposed root of a nearby tree.

So; what do you think – real or fake?


  1. Fake, I don’t like the proportions of the starling on the last shot.

    Also, if the owner “set up security cameras” why did he have them all pointing in the same general direction but with only a few degrees of difference (check the perspectives between pictures)? There are at least three different perspectives but (and there may be an obvious geographic reason for this) no reverse angle.

  2. I don’t care whether it’s true or not – it looks fabulous and that’s all that matters! :)

    I’m off to train a starling and raid a cash machine…

  3. Raz Raz says:

    I’d have to say fake, how come they have two subtly different angles of the cash box (i.e not different enough to actually be worth having two cameras at those angles), also the image quality seems quite a bit above what you get from your average security camera, so unless these were digitial, there is no way you would get that kind of quality from VHS – also no signs of interlacing etc.

  4. Ruth Ruth says:

    There’s a simple scientific way to prove this – let’s try and duplicate the result! Anybody got a starling?

  5. Ruth Ruth says:

    And I’m amused that your post on a serious internet anonymity issue attracted no comments at all, while the one about a starling stealing coins posted on the same day drew several. I’m sure there’s some deep lesson there…

  6. Dan Q Dan Q says:

    I don’t think it’s a Photoshop[TM] job: I actually think it’s a tame starling (they’re easy to tame: trust me on this one) and a staged shot.

    Let’s do it.

  7. Becky Becky says:

    Meh. it could be either. i hope its true…otherwise my future job just went down the drain…

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