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European Starling

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Outside of my building there is a flock of birds. There are hundreds, if not thousands of them. They hide in a huge tree, making horrible, scary noises that can be heard from blocks away. And they make it impossible to park on that side of the street for all of the warm weather months. Meet the European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris), one of the most "successful" invasive species in North America.

There are over 200 million of these birds, and they are one of the most numerous species on the entire continent... and they are all descended from a hundred or so birds brought here in 1890 by a man named Eugene Schieffelin. You see, Schieffelin felt that North America should have all of the birds that are found in the works of Shakespeare. Thanks Henry IV, Part I, and bravo Mr. Schieffelin. Within 75 years they covering the continent, though their genetic diversity is quite low.

Starlings compete for nests with native species, (though luckily most have been holding their own against them) destroy crops, and are carrier of a handful of harmful diseases that affect humans, including Histoplasmosis. Starlings also like to roost near Airports, which has caused numerous problems, including a crash that resulted in the death of 62 people.

(Image Source)
Let's move away from the negatives now and just get into a few facts about the species itself. European Starlings are highly gregarious birds, flocking together in roosts that number up to over a million. When these groups travel, it forms a large black blob shape that is actually pretty interesting to look at. They will eat almost anything, from plants and berries, to vertebrates and invertebrates. The Starlings are also exceptionally vocal, and can mimic around twenty calls from other birds and animals.


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