Concern for Starlings?
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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?