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European Starlings

European Starlings

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European Starlings

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  1. European Starlings Nominated as among 100 of the “World’s Worst” invaders

  2. Defining Characteristics • Class : Aves Family : Sturnidae • Black feathers which are iridescent in the spring and heavily speckled during the winter • Yellow bill during both the spring and summer, while dark in the winter • Strong, stocky build with powerful legs and bill, with a short tail • Head and body length ~ 7.5 to 8.5 inches Sturnus vulgaris

  3. Habitat • Starlings are known to use a variety of habitats like open country, fields, and trees for nesting • Usually around people in agricultural and urban areas • However, they prefer lowland habitats to more mountainous terrain. • Tend to be secondary cavity nesters, using extant cracks, crevices, and cavities that have been created by other species • Highly adaptable when it comes to selecting nest hollows such as fence posts and roof linings under guttering • There has even been an observation of a nest from within the wool of a live sheep

  4. Foraging Behavior • Broad diet of many kinds of invertebrates, fruits, grains, and garbage • Can make a meal out of almost anything, a key reason why they do so well in most cities in which they are found • Known to eat insects by using a special method known as the “zirkelin method”, an adaptation in the musculature of its beak • These muscles are found on the bill which allows this bird to pry in open grass, loose soil, or leaf litter enabling them to uncover grubs and insect eggs • Another advantage is the formation of its skull; it is particularly pinched and narrow in the front which lets them see the exposed action when the eyes shift forward

  5. Breeding Behavior • Generally thought to be monogamous, but could be polygynous- one male with multiple females • Begins nesting early in the breeding season • Males are the ones that establish territories and choose nest sites, and then began to attract females • Male starts the nest and then the female will finish the job if the female does not approve of what the male has done, removing nesting material • The nest is made out of loose pile of twigs, weeds, grass, feathers, leaves, and other material

  6. Females typically lay 4 to 6 eggs • Both male and female will help incubate the eggs for about 12 days • Females are known to lay eggs in other starlings’ nests • Both help brood the young and bring food to the nest • Young leave the nest three weeks after hatch

  7. The American Acclimatization Society • Had the goal of establishing in the United States every species of bird mentioned in the works of Shakespeare • Vast majority of species did not make it, with a notable exception • All the European Starlings in North America descended from 100 birds released in New York's Central Park in the early 1890s.

  8. Eugene Schieffelin Founder of the American Acclimatization Society

  9. Eugene Schieffelin • An eccentric scion of a New York pharmaceuticals manufacturer • Introduction of thrushes, finches, skylarks, and nightingales were not successful • Played a part in the introduction of the House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) • Ideas were supported by the scientific knowledge and beliefs of that era, as the effect that non-native species could have on the local ecosystem was not yet known

  10. William Shakespeare Quote Page 134: “I’ll have a starling to speak nothing but ‘Mortimer’,” says Hotspur, in Henry IV, part I, after the King forbids him to mention his brother-in-law, a suspected traitor. Life Out of Bounds

  11. Common Names for European Starlings • Since these birds have been able to inhabit different parts of the world including Europe, North America, South Africa and Australia (check the following map). They are referred to by different names: Blackbird (English-USA) Common Starling (English) English Starling (English) Estornino Pinto (Spanish-Spain) EtourneauSansonnet (French-France) Europaischer Star (German) European Starling (English)

  12. World Map of the Range for European Starlings Native: yellow, breeding summer visitor, dark green, resident breeding, blue, wintering Introduced: light yellow, breeding summer visitor, light green, resident breeding

  13. Why were they introduced? • Biological control: Introduced to New Zealand to control local insect populations • Natural dispersal: Spread into Canada and Northern Mexico from the U.S.

  14. Are they spreading further south? • Yes, they are making a move further south into Mexico • It was only until about 10 years ago that it was found out southern Baja California, Mexico was not a hot spot for any nesting sights for European Starlings

  15. A study has confirmed that there are breeding starlings in Baja California as far south as Catavina Here, they are now occupying virtually all the suitable habitat in the northern peninsula There have even been some winter sightings and recordings It was probably the only undisturbed area left until now

  16. Human activity did not pick up until the 1950s, and many of these changes may have helped to benefit the colonization for the starlings First nesting records were in the Cape region, the southernmost record in Baja California This study had shown that the numbers were greater within areas of human-transformed area then in remote areas with natural vegetation

  17. The increased incidences of starlings in southern Baja California may be correlated with the increase of the agricultural and cattle-raising activities within the area • European Starlings are considered to be the main cause of declines within some bird species in North America • Competition against native species seems to be more intense in areas where nest sites are limited Information from Wilson Bull, 109(3), 1997, pp532-535 European Starlings nesting in southern Baja California, Mexico

  18. Conservation Status • One of the biggest problems here in the US • Have a strong negative impact on many of the cavity-nesting birds, like Western Bluebirds, Lewis’s Woodpeckers, and Purple Martins • So far, there are many efforts in controlling the problem, including attempts to reduce numbers or even to scare them from areas where the damage has been extreme • Scaring only provides local, temporary relief and causes problems when moving them from one place to another • Most cost effective, long-term solution seems to be to alter buildings and bridges that provide habitat- usually not practical