Concern for Starlings?

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Jan 30, 2009 | by Adrian Binns

The much maligned European Starling was introduced to Central Park, New York City in 1890, as part of The American Acclimatization Societies goal of establishing in the United States every species mentioned in Shakespeare’s works! This may not come as a complete shock, but by the mid-1920’s it was one of our most abundant birds!

As most of us are aware in winter, black birds, these being cowbirds, grackles, blackbirds and starlings, rove around usually in mixed company in search of food. Sometimes we even see a gigantic flock numbering in the thousands. For those that have not seen this phenomenon it is an avian spectacle well worth witnessing, as they twist, turn and swirl around in the late afternoon sky before going to roost.

This week we learnt of an effort by the USDA to eradicate flocks of starlings in Franklin Township, New Jersey by intentionally poisoning them using DRC-1139 (starlicide). Supposedly starlings spread livestock diseases. Are there far more starlings in Franklin Township than anywhere else? A controversial program to say the least, especially as it seems as though the township was unaware of the program until residents reported carcasses strewn all over lawns and streets! Wasn’t it last year that they went after “big black birds”, crows, in Lancaster County, PA with the same avicide?

Though the label on this toxic pellet bait clearly spells out the target species, the “black birds”, what is it to say that it is so selective to just be effective on those 5 species? And what of secondary poisoning, is this not a concern? Surely there is a creature, bird or mammal, that may well pick up or eat a poisoned bird. What becomes of them? Many questions and few answers. One forgets we were the initial problem introducing an alien species, and a century later, we still continue to meddle with nature. When will we ever learn?

photos © adrian and jane binns


  1. giggles on January 31, 2009 at 10:19 AM

    Huuummmm.. Very serious concerns and truths to be told here…..

    ….But, does that mean I should not be unhappy that it is the starlings pecking at my suet cakes meant for the woodpeckers and other more “desirable” beauties?!

  2. Adrian Binns on January 31, 2009 at 8:30 PM

    I do not have a problem with starlings. In fact it is an absolutely gorgeous family with many iridescent species. It is just that they are not native to our fauna here in North America. Consequently they have taken over nesting sites of many of our cavity nesters and being gregarious they are considered a pest!

  3. Stephen M. Vantassel on January 25, 2010 at 2:27 PM

    I would suggest you read up on the product research as it poses very little risk of secondary poisoning. By that I mean, winning the lottery kind of low risk. Visit the National Wildlife Research Center at Fort Collins. I think it is important to be informed.

    Stephen M. Vantassel, CWCP, ACP

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