February 9, 1999
I feel it is absolutely my bounden duty to present these annual tirades against starlings, or whatever they are. I speak of those pesky birds that gather in huge swarms during the early morning hours after nesting overnight in groves around this city, then fly out in dense clouds of oily feathers and the usual droppings en route to the first of several feeding grounds. The target may be your yard or the beautiful downtown courthouse park. Besides the nasty calling cards they leave, they quickly devour every palatable bit of protein in sight and thereby deny nutritious meals for the more beloved songbirds and other desirable species. I feel compelled to cry out against them. If I don't raise objections to their behavior, who is there to do it?
We have a bird feeder just off the patio on the backside of our house. It is loaded with sunflower seed to attract some of the smaller, more welcome birds, like goldfinches, juncos, chickadees and a few others, including even the occasional male cardinal with his splendid markings. We've been told that starlings, in particular, will not eat sunflower seed, and indeed they do spurn our daily offering to the birds we like. Even so, small herds of starlings make occasional exploratory landings in our yard to peck at insects or whatever else it is that they find there. A sharp handclap usually dispatches them, but sometimes it takes two claps or more.
I'm normally more aware of these pests when warmer weather arrives with the early spring, but as you have noticed our winter thus far has had quite a few unusually mild days and I think the starlings are as confused by that as we are. I believe they are wintering here instead of heading south, and I also do believe they have multiplied quite a bit during the past few months. The overhead flocks at morning and in the evening when they return to their trees are just unbelievably dense. How do they keep from running into each other in such tight formations? Some kind of birdland radar?
Starlings indeed are prolific. All the starlings in the U.S. are descended from a flock of 100 that were released in 1890 in New York City's Central Park. They thrived so successfully that hundreds of thousands of them are now found on this continent, according to my encyclopedia.
I know some places have declared these little creatures to be public nuisances and dramatic steps have been taken to be rid of them. Our problem has been growing more serious as time goes by, and we already have allowed them too much time to produce new generations of reinforcements. They easily outnumber any other variety of our feathered friends in this community. They are such thugs and bullies that the other kinds choose not to associate with them so the thing that worries me is that they may someday be the only kind of bird we have. In the end they may have to deal with the bluejays, woodpeckers and mocking birds, who don't seem to be easily intimidated, but by then all the kinder and gentler types will have relocated. I don't like to think about Perry becoming a battleground, a sort of Armageddon for good birds vs. bad birds. That is why I make this annual appeal: Let's do something to reduce the starling infestation in our midst before it's too late!