Jayne Hawkes, 47 of Ontario Gardens, Durrington, noticed the bird struggling to break free of the cover and called Worthing and District Animal Rescue Service to help.
She said: “My main concern was the dustmen were coming down the road and cars were coming up and down.
“I couldn’t bear to see this poor little bird squashed or left to die. I had to do something.”
Mrs Hawkes had noticed something bobbing up and down in the centre of the manhole cover but initially thought it was a leaf.
Upon closer inspection last Monday, she realised it was a starling.
The bird had become trapped in the central hole, a tiny gap used to insert special tools in order to lift the cover up for maintenance.
Senior animal rescue officer Billy Elliott said it was one of the more unusual rescues he had been called to.
“When I arrived, there were cars driving over the top of it. The little starling was in the middle of the cover where you can put the tool in to lift it up.
“It was right in the middle of the road and I had one lady with a baby helping and another lady and between us we managed to lift the cover up from three corners and get the starling out.”
Mr Elliott was unsure how the bird managed to get into the predicament but said it had suffered no major injuries during its ordeal.
He said: “I always say to people I never quite know what I’m going to be doing next. It was a really unusual rescue.
“It must have been a sight for the cars which were waiting to pass.”
After the starling was freed, it flew 20 or 30 metres onto the pavement, before flying off into a hedge shortly afterwards.
To contact a WADARS animal rescue officer if you notice an animal in need of rescue, call 01903 262828.