From Birding

Lifebird #22 – Blame it on the Bard

Species  European Starlings / Sturnus vulgaris
Where Home
When November 2003
Who Joann
Number 22

The European Starling is one of three species we birders love to hate. American birders, at least. “Hate” is probably too strong a word, but why do we dislike starlings at all? It’s not looks: their bright yellow bills and legs contrast nicely with their plumage, which when worn and tattered is glossy black with iridescent brown and greenish-yellow spots. Their calls are mostly unattractive squeaks and whistles, but they are talented mimics. It is the starlings’ success that we dislike.

European StarlingsEuropean Starlings were introduced by Shakespeare enthusiasts to New York City’s Central Park in the 1890s. They have succeeded wildly, and descendants of these released birds can now be found across the United States and Canada, and in parts of Mexico. I’ve seen them in Minnesota, California, Alaska, Virginia, Louisiana, and a few other states. Which is to say, anywhere I’ve looked. (I’ve also found them in London, England, which is one place where they ought to be.) The problem with this success is that these birds are very aggressive and out-compete other cavity-nesting songbirds, and have contributed to declines in the populations of many of our native species.

The first European Starling I saw was probably out-competing a woodpecker for the suet in one of my feeders. I see them occasionally in our yard, but not regularly. I consider myself lucky in this respect, because starlings tend to gather in large flocks, and might easily overrun my feeders if they spent more time in the neighborhood. The photo above was taken in Little Canada, Minnesota in 2007.

See lifebird index.