We often see scarecrow standing in the middle of the farm to scare away the birds from the field. Birds have the nasty habit of attacking our agriculture crops and damaging them. Scarecrows in the field try their level best to protect our farms but are generally unsuccessful in discouraging the birds from eating the crops. Birds are responsible for loss of millions of dollars as they damage the farm produce. Birds like crows, pigeons, magpie, black bird and many more contribute to this loss of amounting to millions of dollars in damage. European Starlings is one among these birds and they try to give a strong competition to their fellow birds in damaging human belongings.
The Common Starling is known as the European Starling or in the British Isles just the Starling. Starlings are medium-sized birds, growing to about 8 inches long. They have short tails and are somewhat chunky. Their color is mostly black, with a bill that is yellow in summer and black in winter. Starling feathers are often iridescent, meaning they have a greenish-purple shine to them when light hits them just right. Juvenile is uniform dull gray with dark bill.
Starlings have about a dozen subspecies breeding in open habitats across its native range in temperate Europe and western Asia. They have been introduced to Australia, New Zealand, North America, South Africa and elsewhere. This bird is present in southern and Western Europe and south western Asia, while north eastern populations migrate south and west in winter within the breeding range and also further south to Iberia and North Africa.
This bird has been introduced in America in 1890’s from Europe and now has become a common sight in America. A wealthy drug manufacturer and Shakespeare lover, Eugene Scheifflen, decided he would attempt to bring every bird mentioned by Shakespeare to the United States, starting with starlings. The first flocks were located in Central Park. By 1910 the birds were well-established on the East Coast south to Virginia. By 1942 they had spread the width of the United States to California. The Common Starling was originally introduced to Australia in order to decrease the population of crop pests—insects which the starlings were known to eat. Early settlers looked forward to the bird’s arrival, believing that starlings were also important to the pollination of flax, an important crop. Nest-boxes for the newly released species were placed on farms and near crops. The Common Starling was introduced to Melbourne in 1857 then Sydney in 1880. By the 1880s, established populations were present in the southeast, thanks to the work of acclimatization committees. By the 1920s, starlings were widespread through Victoria, Queensland, and New South Wales, but they were now recognized as pests and Western Australia banned their import in 1895.
Problems are typically associated with massive gatherings of roosting and nesting starlings including damage to trees, buildings, and crops. Droppings can quickly accumulate causing unsanitary, unsightly and unsafe conditions. Bird droppings are corrosive and can damage stone, metal, car finishes and masonry. Nests built in machinery; drainage pipes and other available building spaces can damage property, create fire hazards and spread unsanitary nesting materials. In agricultural areas, flocks of starlings cause significant damage to crops harvesting seeds and young plants. They will also take advantage of feed lots and can actually cause significant depletion of feed supplies. Large flocks can also be a danger to aircraft when active near airport.
Invasive European starlings were reported to the USDA’s Wildlife Services program as causing damage in every state except North Dakota and Alaska. In the Great Plains, starlings often migrate and roost with blackbirds. Consequently, the birds may not have been accounted for in every geographic location due to their mixing with blackbirds. Over the 8-year period, 1990-1997, starlings accounted for more than $13.5 million in damage to all resources, ranging from $235,067 to $4, 137119 with an average of $1,694,170 and a median of $1,457,014 per year. Pimental et al. (2000) estimated that yearly starling damage to agriculture was $800 million in damages per year to agriculture crops based on a figure of $5/ha. The Wildlife Service’s-reported damage, attributable to starlings, comprised only 1.7% of this total. This does not account for the 25 diseases that may be transmitted to humans (Weber 1979) where a monetary value cannot be readily derived. It is also difficult to derive a monetary value for environmental damage caused by starlings, such as displacing native birds from nesting cavities. (Bergman 2002).
Starlings, like blackbirds and many other pest birds, form communal roosts. These roosts can be home to 10,000 or more birds. The combined weight of large numbers of birds may break small branches and new shoots of trees, causing disfiguration. The accumulations of droppings, which may exceed 1 ft in depth, are phytotoxic and can kill mature trees. Roosts near airports are a potential safety hazard. Airborne starlings can be sucked into plane engines causing extensive damage or downing the plane. Filth, noise and odors from roosts near or in urban areas disturb nearby residents. Starling depredations impact numerous agricultural crops including cherries, grapes, peaches, blueberries, strawberries, figs, apples, and ripening corn. Cattle feedlots suffer most from wintertime flocks which can reach as high as 100,000 or more per day. Individual starlings, which weigh approximately 3 ounces, can each eat up to 1 ounce of food per day. A million starlings can consume 27,500 tons of livestock feed during winter months and despoil more feed with their droppings.
Let’s take a look at the following articles which reports the nuisance caused by pesky little pest;
Pesky starlings endanger planes, damage crops
Mike Stark, Associated Press, September 20, 2009
The next time the sky darkens with a flock of noisy unwelcome starlings, blame Shakespeare – or, better yet, a few of his strangest fans.
Had the Bard not mentioned the starling in the third scene of “Henry IV,” arguably the most hated bird in North America might never have arrived. In the early 1890s, about 100 European starlings were released in New York City’s Central Park by a group dedicated to bringing to America every bird ever mentioned by Shakespeare.
Today, it’s more like Hitchcock.
Some 200 million shiny black European starlings crowd North America, from the cool climes of Alaska to the balmy reaches of Mexico’s Baja peninsula. The enormous flocks endanger air travel, mob cattle operations, chase off native songbirds, and roost on city blocks, leaving behind corrosive, foul-smelling droppings and hundreds of millions of dollars of damage each year.
And getting rid of them is near impossible.
Last year U.S. government agents poisoned, shot and trapped 1.7 million starlings, more than any other nuisance species, according to new figures, only to see them roaring back again.
“It’s sort of like bailing the ocean with a thimble,” said Richard Dolbeer, a retired Wildlife Services researcher in Sandusky, Ohio who spent years trying to figure out ways to keep starlings – which he calls “flying bullets” – and other birds from causing problems at airports. Federal aviation officials say they have caused $4 million in damage since 1990.
After the starlings’ introduction, they quickly expanded west, taking advantage of vast tracts of forested land opening up to agriculture and human development, Dolbeer said. By the 1950s, starlings had reached California and nearly all parts in between. Today, it’s one of the most common birds in the U.S.
Their prodigious presence is no mystery. Starlings breed like crazy, eat almost anything, are highly mobile and operate in overwhelming numbers. They’re also expert at nesting in protected nooks and making an intimidating statement as they swirl in vast clouds called “murmurations.”
They’re also responsible for the most deadly bird strikes in aviation: a 1960 civilian crash in Boston that killed 62 and a 1996 military cargo plane crash that killed 34 in the Netherlands. Since then, there have been close calls, including a Boeing 747 that ran into a flock in Rome last fall. No one was killed but the badly damaged plane had a rough landing.
Those kinds of scenarios are why wildlife biologist Mike Smith has been tweaking a series of traps used at Salt Lake City International Airport, where there have been 19 reported starling strikes since 1990. The traps use dog food to attract a starling or two. Hundreds more soon follow, driven by their innate desire to flock with each other. He once caught 800 in a single day.
The most popular lethal tactic is a poison called DRC-1339, which is often sprinkled on french fries, a favorite starlings snack. Within a day or two, starlings keel over from organ failure.
No other state poisoned more starlings last year than Washington. Starlings there caused $9 million in damages to agricultural operations over five years. Nationwide, starlings cause $800 million in damage to agricultural operations each year, according to a Cornell University estimate.
At one feed lot, some 200,000 starlings gathered each day, lining fence tops, wires, water troughs and even perching on top of cows. They’ve learned to steal the most nutritious morsels from the cattle troughs and pose an ever-present threat of moving disease from one ranch to another, said Roger Woodruff, director of Wildlife Services in Washington.
Nearly 650,000 starlings were poisoned last year in the state, an all-time record, he said.
When killing’s not an option, agents often turn to harassment campaigns.
In downtown Indianapolis, flocks as large as 40,000 show up around dusk in the winter to hang out, find food and keep warm. They quickly wear out their welcome with their noise and their mess. Crews are deployed nearly every night to scare them off with lasers, pyrotechnic explosions and noise devices with names like “screamers” and “bangers.”
Like other urban areas, they’ve had some success shooing them out of downtown and onto undeveloped land, said Judy Loven, director of Wildlife Services in Indiana, but it’s likely going to be an ongoing battle.
“They’re pretty much wise to our ways and pass that information along,” said Jeff Homan, a wildlife researcher in Bismarck, N.D., who’s part of a team focusing on starlings and blackbirds.
It’s unlikely those who engineered the starlings’ release in Central Park – including its leader, New York drug manufacturer named Eugene Schieffelin – could have fully imagined the consequences of their experiment, said author Kim Todd, who wrote about the introduction in her 2001 book “Tinkering With Eden: A Natural History of Exotic Species in America.”
“It’s sad but true that we often only see a creature’s beauty when it is out-of-reach or rare,” Todd said in an e-mail. “I can’t imagine that Schieffelin, who appreciated starlings on the page and in small groups, would have the same affection for them in their enormous, pesky flocks.”
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