Friday, March 11, 2016

Urban Bird Shoot

The camera was in the truck this morning, so I took it with me and walked up to the local park for a few birds shots. 

Just a Starling, but a short bit of practice for me in focusing the camera, and downloading the picture to my cell phone using the Nikon P610's own Wifi signal. 

Believe it or not, the more than 200 million European Starlings found in North America today are direct descendants of approximately 100 birds introduced into New York City's Central Park sometime in the early 1890s.

Sturnus vulgaris owes its presence in this hemisphere to an odd little New York City group called the "American Acclimatization Society" which was dedicated to introducing all of the birds mentioned in William Shakespeare's works into Central Park. Previous attempts to introduce Starlings in the Northeast, Midwest, and on the West Coast had failed, but the 1890 release was spectacularly successful, as today's massive winter flocks attest.

You rarely see massive flocks of starlings in the Spring and Summer. During these times of year Starlings are far more solitary, seeking out hollow trees, ledges and building eaves in which to construct their nests.

As a general rule Starlings avoid woodlands, deserts and open grassland, preferring man-altered environments such as cities, suburbs, and grassy freeway medians where they can forage for bugs, seeds, berries, and insects.

In Europe the Starling is a migratory bird that forms large winter flocks bound for North Africa. When transported to the U.S., however, the Starling seems to have lost its bearings. Where, exactly, is is supposed to be migrating to? It does not know.

On the East Coast of the U.S., Starlings form winter flocks of up to a hundred-thousand birds, but these flocks often travel just 50 to 200 miles before settling back down again. No climate improvement is achieved over such a short distance, but a vague genetic itch has been scratched, and the birds seem to be no worse the wear for overwintering close to home.

Starlings in the Midwest migrate much farther south than those on the East Coast, probably because some individuals were blown farther south during winter storms, and learned a migration routes back north by following blackbirds up from Louisiana and Mississippi in the Spring.


Victoria Gorny said...

It would be interesting to transport some of these Americanized birds back to England and see if their migration instinct kicks in. Of course they would probably just follow the home crowd wherever.

terriergal said...

They are also great talkers and considered to be invasive pests with little protection from the wildlife services in most states. They take over housing of native species like Purple martins bluebirds and swallows. They along with the introduction of House Sparrows are one of the worst mistakes ever made (biologically speaking) in the world of ornithology. But House Sparrows are far more aggressive and even kill other birds larger than them, as well as chicks, in the nest if they want to use the nest box.