Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The European Starling - Immigrant in North America

Starling at Klostermølle
Wanda gives us such great posts from the place where she lives on her blog  ~ Moments of Mine ~, and there are many excellent photos of the beautiful birds of North America and much, much more. But then there was a photo of an European starling, and I wondered how it had ended there? There was a reason why. Wanda sent me information about, how the sweet little European starling was now an invasive species in the United States. So here is the story about the little starling-immigrant.

There have gradually arrived many invasive species of animals and plants in Denmark during the last ten years, like various birds and plants. The racoon and wild boar is seen in the southern part of Jutland, especially the wild boar who walks across the border without allowance from the customs officer! They are not welcome, since the farmers are afraid if they might spread some disease among their pigs. Cause for discussion!

Starling at Klostermølle
It's of course worse if someone place a foreign animal in nature like some people did, when they got tired of nursing their  little pond tortoises. Suddenly there were pond tortoises in a lake in Mid Jutland. Or if they get tired of their snake! Fortunately the tropical snake cannot survive in Denmark's winter, but if our climate gets warmer, then what? Some scientists talk about indroducing wolves, because they lived in Denmark once. I would not like that. Denmark is such a small country, and I don't imagine there is place for both wolves and me!  Bisons have been introduced now in some nature areas, (like in the Gudenå-project near Randers), but this is much controlled. There are wild horses and aur-ochses in the National park in Lille Vildmose etc. , but also this is much controlled. 

Well,back to the little starling-immigrant in North America:
Wikipedia: Eugene Schieffelin (1827-1906, belonged to the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society and the New York Zoological Society. He was responsible for introducing the starling (Sturnus vulgaris) to North America - so now the European starling has become a serious pest there. Mr. Schieffelin released in 1890 60 starlings into New York City’s Central Park - and  did the same with another 60 birds in 1891. It is said (though there is no evidence to support this) that his motivation was to allow New Yorkers to see all the birds mentioned in the plays of William Shakespeare, more likely he was merely trying to control the same pests that had been annoying him thirty years earlier, when he sponsored the introduction of the House Sparrow to North America.

In 1890 were starlings not native to North America. Schieffelin imported the starlings from England. Scientists estimate that descendants from those two original released flocks now number at more than 200 million residing in the United States. The starling's wildly successful spread is believed to have come at the expense of many native birds that compete with the starling for nest holes in trees.

Compared to contemporary scientific thought, Schieffelin’s 19th century actions may now seem naïve and even foolish. In the politically charged arena of genetically modified organism , Schieffelin’s actions are cited by opponents of GMO’s as an example of what can go wrong if an experimental organism escapes from a laboratory and radiates throughout the environment. (Finish Wikipedia).

Well, this can go really wrong to do a thing like that, and there are many stories about, how various invasive species have arrived to a country, caused by human interference. But if Mother Nature herself is interfering then it is something else. Considering the climate changes invasive species will arrive in our countries, and the flora and fauna will change, gradually, but radically.

Starling in Sønderjylland
Animals will have to adjust, and this is not always a pretty sight for us to see. We have seen the photos of the polar bear standing upon an ice floe, floating for days and days, unable to reach land or find food. And this is not just one rare example.

When I'm out in the Danish nature, there are signs of change, but what I have noticed recently has something to do with farming. Most of the fallow- fields have been removed - ( since the farmers were allowed to cultivate them) - and this meant that butterflies and bees and other insects miss the flower-fields which were among their needed habitats. Especially the butterflies are in danger. If there is too long distance from one flower-field to another, they simply cannot find the fields, and a butterfly species or several butterfly species die out. And they do not come back. I feel very sad about this.

But the little starling cannot help all this. It is singing and whistling both in Europe and North America, and it really does not worry about, if it's welcome or not. And it such a sweet little bird, after all, isn't it? 
Source: Wikipedia and myself:

                                               Please read corrections below:
Starling in the park, Århus.

I've got some information about invasive arts  from a nature scientist:

Fx: The wild boar is not an invasive art in Denmark, since it immigrates itself. 

Plants and animals, which have been moved to the area by humans, are invasive arts and have a negative effect on the environment.

The plants and animals which come to the country because of the climate are just new species, although the climate has changed because of humans. These new species might be a problem to us or to our plants and animals, but this is something else. 

We can remove the invasive species with coolness, but if the plants and animals come to the country by themselves then it is difficult, and we'll have to secure that we are not in conflict with international nature- protection. 

If the wolf comes to Denmark by itself then it is protected by international law.

The ochsen in Lille Vildmose are not aur-ochsen. They are much alike the aur-ochs, but not genetically. Aur-ochsen exist no more, but they might be created genetically. 

photo: grethe bachmann


Wanda..... said...

Enjoyed the post, Grethe. Several years ago we stopped mowing part of our field and so many varieties of wildflowers flourish there now, it amazes me. Bees and butterflies can be found there all day in the summer. Everytime I see the Starling, I will think of you, Grethe! I love his iridescent coloring.

Teresa Evangeline said...

What a great post, Grethe! I love your comment about the wild boar not paying the customs officer. I worry, too, about the butterflies and polar bears. We humans have been altogether too interfering.

I used to be annoyed by the way starlings would take over my bird feeder. Where I live now it's the blue jays and squirrels. I gave up and just feed whomever shows up. It's better that way, saves me frustration, and who am I to decide who eats and who doesn't? :)

Thank you for an interesting post.

Joan said...

Grethe there are starlings around my house here in New Zealand too. When Europeans arrived in NZ they chopped down the virgin forests to create farms and the beautiful native birds that were forest birds kept to the remaing forests. Birds like starlings were brought in to help control the insects on the farms. Starlings help control the grassgrub. Nowadays we are trying to save the native birds who were left homeless. NZ had no mammals had been a land of birds.

Thyra said...

Hello Wanda, Teresa and Joan!
Thank you for your kind commments. Please read my correction. I asked a nature scientist to check my text. It's more complicated than I thought, but it was necessary to do a correction.

Wanda, it's lovely that you have attracted butterflies and bees in your field. It is so important.

Teresa, I'm concerned too about what is happening to the Polar bear and the other endangered animals. It's like an avalanche has started.

Joan, there are some problems in New Zealand caused by the Europeans when they arrived, and the scientist has told me about what you describe here. I hope you can save some of your beautiful birds. I think much about you in these sad days for New Zealand with all those people killed in the earthquake and the problems that follow.

Best wishes to all of you
Grethe `)