Sunday, February 3, 2013

European Starlings

European Starlings
Starlings are probably not anyone's favorite bird but their history is pretty interesting! Here's some cool facts taken from Cornell's All About Birds site.

All the European Starlings in North America descended from 100 birds set loose in New York's Central Park in the early 1890s. The birds were intentionally released by a group who wanted America to have all the birds that Shakespeare ever mentioned. It took several tries, but eventually the population took off. Today, more than 200 million European Starlings range from Alaska to Mexico.

. Because of their recent arrival in North America, all of our starlings are closely related. Genetically, individuals from Virginia are nearly indistinguishable from starlings sampled in California, 3,000 miles away. Such little genetic variation often spells trouble for rare species, but seems to offer no ill effects to starlings so far.

 Starlings turn from spotted and white to glossy and dark each year without shedding their feathers. The new feathers they grow in fall have bold white tips – that’s what gives them their spots. By spring, these tips have worn away, and the rest of the feather is dark and iridescent brown. It’s an unusual changing act that scientists term “wear molt.”

 Starlings are great vocal mimics: individuals can learn the calls of up to 20 different species. Birds whose songs starlings often copy include the Eastern Wood-Pewee, Killdeer, meadowlarks, Northern Bobwhite, Wood Thrush, Red-tailed Hawk, American Robin, Northern Flicker, and many others.

 Males attract mates by singing near a nest site they’ve claimed and flapping their wings in circles at the same time. After they’ve paired, males follow their mates everywhere, chasing off other males. Starlings are extremely aggressive birds that drive other species from nest sites they want to use.

 Populations in North America are stable. This recent and extremely successful arrival to North America is a fierce competitor for nest cavities. Starlings often take over the nests of native birds, expelling the occupants. With so many starlings around, this causes some concern about their effect on native bird populations. Nevertheless, a study in 2003 found few actual effects on populations of 27 native species. Only sapsuckers showed declines due to starlings; other species appeared to be holding their own against the invaders.

1 comment:

  1. I dislike this bird. They swarm my winter feeder and keep the little birds off. Fortunately, my dog dispatches these marauders effectively!