Lately I have been spending time in the city of Fayetteville. Though it is not the wilderness, nature is still all around. The park across the street is home to deer, raccoons, foxes, opossums, and a wide variety of birds. The birds of the wilderness are very different from city birds. I miss the indigo buntings, black and white warblers, and scarlet tanagers. However, a family of red-shoulder hawks nests in the old pine on the corner while mocking birds and robins frequent my yard, but the starlings dominate the neighborhood.
The European Starling was introduced to the New York when Eugene Schieffelin got the bright idea to import all the birds mentioned in William Shakespeare’s work to the United States from Europe. Schieffelin released some 60 pairs of starlings into Central Park between 1890 and 1891. It was believed that nonnative bird species would be beneficial to the environment. But in the case of the starling, it has turned out to be environmentally devastating.
This bird’s population was never a problem in its native land, but here its numbers have reached well into 200 million. Starlings are very adaptable and eat a wide variety of insects, berries, seeds, and even lizards. Though their large numbers play a part in seed dispersal and pest control, they wipe out entire plants or crops and eat just as many pollinators as pesky bugs. Farmers complain that the birds steal grain from livestock and devastate grape, olive, berry, and grain crops. Other problems, including disease contamination, arise when huge flocks of thousands migrate from one urban area to another. They have been known to kill mature trees with simply an over accumulation of dropping when roosting together.
The starling in the yard, behind this house I am staying in, is aggressive and bold. She spend days collecting grass and straw from my pile of lawn clippings just beyond the porch. In front of my very eyes she carried nesting material into a hollow portion of the catalpa tree. Her general disposition was that she might just fight me for the territory. One of the worst things about the invasive starling is its attitude. It will attack native birds and drive them from their homes. For the past few days I have watched her building her nest deep inside the hallow tree. Yesterday I heard a chorus a peeping when she landed on the tree. After she left, I got a ladder. Standing on the top step, I still could not see inside. So I lifted my camera high above my head and aimed it down in the hole. I retrieved baby bird pictures.
My kittens, another nonnative animal that kills native birds, have been curiously climbing up the catalpa while the mother bird anxiously guards the entrance. I do not know who to cheer for, so I have not interfered. Invasive creatures pose a moral dilemma. Just as the starlings invaded this country, multiplied, and ran off the natives, so have we. Who are we to take sides unless we are going to take responsibility for our own invasiveness? I gave away of my cats today. But I haven’t the heart to get rid of the starlings. So I live and let live; and I will die and let die.