Have I talked about starlings before? Only in the sense of mentioning how amazing their murmurations are. I won a scholarship in high school writing about the invasion of starlings…I should dig that up and make it a blog post haha. (Not really, although if you rate it by funding success, my writing was actually better back then)
The basic story is this. Back in the day, there were things called “naturalisation (or acclimatization) societies”, where it was popular to try and bring organisms from “home” to the new country to make it seem more familiar. One man in particular, Eugene Schieffelin*, made it his objective to introduce all of the birds mentioned in Shakespeare. (He is also responsible for sponsoring the introduction of the infamous House Sparrow)
Eugene introduced a small flock of 60 birds in Central Park in 1890 and another 40 in the following year. They reached Alaska in less than 100 years. Their current population size in the US is estimated to be 200 million birds.
I know that starlings are considered pests, but they’re actually interesting and beautiful birds, if you can see past their non native status (and the damage they can do to native bird populations). They have iridescent plumage, and they’re quite talented mimics (hence the reference in Shakespeare). Not to mention that murmuration I mentioned above, which is just plain cool.
The white tips on their feathers, which you can see here, are only present on newly molted feathers. They wear off over time, and so later in the season, the starlings will appear all shiny black. I kinda like the messy white feather tips though. There’s a very elaborate wikipedia page on these birds if you are curious to read more about their natural history and invasion biology.
But starlings are just one of many species that exhibit this paradoxical beneficial/harmful relationship with humans, that I have mentioned before. They eat insect pests…they also eat some crops. They’re beautiful, but they’re non-native. Humans love or hate them and that’s just how it is…we won’t be eradicating them any time soon.
*a name which will live in infamy