Starlings are uninvited guests. They’re an introduced species that has grown from a flock of 60 to 150 million birds in the United States, and they compete with native species for food.
Their plumage can be very pretty, but they are, frankly, garbage birds.
After two failed attempts, about 60 common starlings were released in 1890 into New York’s Central Park by Eugene Schieffelin. He was president of the American Acclimatization Society, which reportedly tried to introduce every bird species mentioned in the works of William Shakespeare into North America, although this has been disputed. About the same date, the Portland Song Bird Club released 35 pairs of common starlings in Portland, Oregon. These birds became established but disappeared around 1902. Common starlings reappeared in the Pacific Northwest in the mid-1940s and these birds were probably descendants of the 1890 Central Park introduction. The original 60 birds have since swelled in number to 150 million, occupying an area extending from southern Canada and Alaska to Central America.
The very first episode of Omnibus, one of my favorite podcasts, is about this very subject. I highly recommend it, and not only because I feel bad about how I very smugly predicting Ken’s loss on Jeopardy! 16 years ago.
I also posted a version of this on Instagram.