As regular CFZ-watchers will know, for some time Corinna has been doing a column for Animals & Men and a regular segment on On The Track... particularly about out-of-place birds and rare vagrants. There seem to be more and more bird stories from all over the world hitting the news these days so, to make room for them all - and to give them all equal and worthy coverage - she has set up this new blog to cover all things feathery and Fortean.

Monday, 21 March 2016

Love of Shakespeare sparked a starling invasion

Species spread out after fan of the Bard imported 100
By Ernie Cowan | 3:46 p.m. March 18, 2016

Some might call the European starling an obnoxious interloper, while the more refined bird lover may refer to it as the “Shakespeare Bird.”

However you view this ubiquitous black bird, there is no denying that it has had an impact since its unique introduction to America in 1890.

Long before the scientific world became concerned with the impacts of introducing nonnative species, a total of 100 starlings were released in New York City’s Central Park. Eugene Schieffelin was a Shakespeare lover who wanted to bring to America as many birds as possible mentioned by the Bard in his poems.

Shakespeare lovers will know that there are frequent references to wrens, owls, larks and more than 60 other species in his works. The starling was mentioned just once in the play “Henry IV.”

At no small expense, Schieffelin initially imported 60 starlings and released them on a March day in Central Park. A year later, he introduced an additional 40 birds.

They liked their new home and soon multiplied. Within 50 years, they had spread to every state, and today they number an estimated 200 million.

The first starlings were reported in San Diego County in the late 1940s, according to Philip Unitt, author of the San Diego County Bird Atlas.

In addition to competing with native species for food and nesting locations, there have been estimates that starlings cause at least $800 million in crop damage annually.

Much of the damage they cause is the result of their concentrations. Massive flocks of hundreds of thousands of birds are known as murmurations, and while beautiful, they can be destructive, even dangerous to aircraft, with more than 800 incidents reported by the Federal Aviation Administration.

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