Starlings Not Welcome Here

european-starling_lincolncityor_20090922_lah_1634Birders in the U.S. are supposed to hate European Starlings (Sturnus vulgaris), and there are plenty of reasons to do so.

The species originated in Europe, North Africa, and western-to-central Asia. While mostly abundant there as well, the species has been red-listed in England after populations plummeted by more than 80% over the last 40 years [1]. Other northern European countries have witnessed a similar decline [2]. We can only wish that would happen here.

North American populations have exploded since their introduction in the early 1890s. According to the USDA, starlings cost our country $1.5 million in damage to agricultural crops, the consumption of feed intended for livestock, and in property damage. In one winter, a million starlings can down 27,500 tons of livestock feed, not to mention what is ruined by their accumulated droppings—and latest estimates put the US population at over 200 million birds.

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Donating to Save Oiled Birds?

donateoilspillrecovery_160x130bWith the Gulf oil spill continuing to dominate the news, many conservation organizations are soliciting funds, ostensibly to help wild birds caught up in the environmental disaster. That is certainly implied by the (extremely misleading) picture to the left, gleaned from a well-known non-profit’s website. However, if you read the fine print on the donation page, it becomes clear that rather than being specifically targeted to the rescue of oiled birds, all these donations are simply being added to an organization’s general fund. As another website truthfully states:

BP has committed to paying for the clean-up and wildlife rescue efforts in the Gulf of Mexico following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. While your donations cannot be used to fund bird rescue operations in the Gulf of Mexico spill, [the organization] welcomes support for our ongoing programs and to cover the cost of future rescue efforts.

I don’t want to discourage anyone from supporting these organizations in general. Donating to various environmental groups is a worthwhile gesture. One would hope that  all donations go to help conserve our natural resources, including birds and other wildlife. Just make sure to do enough research that you know how your donation will be used.