Other Birds - Sounds Wild
European starlings invade


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European starlings invade

On a cool fall morning a flock of black birds is feeding in a mountain ash tree. They're European starlings, and as I stop to take a look, the flock takes off in a sudden rush, circling overhead in a tight formation. Starlings are not native to Alaska, or even to America, they are an invasive species.

In 1890, in a weird, misguided tribute, a fan of William Shakespeare decided to bring to America every bird species mentioned in Shakespeare's plays and sonnets. Eugene Schieffelin was president of The American Acclimatization Society, a group founded in New York City in 1871 and dedicated to introducing European flora and fauna to America. In 1890 Schieffelin released 60 European starlings in New York's Central Park. The population of these adaptable omnivores grew and expanded westward, and within 50 years they were established on the west coast. They were documented in Portland, Oregon, in 1940.

Starlings were first recorded in Alaska in 1960 in Fairbanks - 5,000 miles from New York. They were established in Anchorage by the early 2000s. In just over 100 years, the original 60 birds morphed into 150 million starlings across the North American continent.