The European Starling is a bird species that has many similarities to human beings.   It is aggressive, omnivorous, reproduces prolifically, is very social and very destructive to human interests. For example,  in a single day, a cloud of starlings numbering in the hundreds of thousands can gobble up 20 tons of potatoes.   

Their story in this country began in 1890 when a Shakespeare fan wanted to introduce to America all the birds mentioned by Shakespeare, so he proceeded to release 100 starlings in Central Park. Today it is estimated that there are over 200 million starlings throughout the country, including Alaska.  Click here for a great NY Times article about the story of starlings vs. humans in the United States. 

My outstanding memories of starlings in the city involve seeing one in Forest Park fight a woodpecker over a nest hole; hearing their cacophony coming from the trees and building eaves on the campus of Columbia University; watching them eating chicken wings from a garbage bag left on the curb; watching a large flock of about 500 descend on a lawn in Fort Greene Park during a rain shower to use their beaks to poke through the grass for grubs.  Unlike most birds, their beak muscles are able to apply pressure as they are opening up, instead of when they close down.  You can see this behavior in the video above. The name starling means little star, and the name alludes to the white dots on their feathers which are very visible in the winter. 

Intellectually, I am troubled by the problem of starlings and I wonder what if anything will ever bring their population under control and how many bird species will disappear because of them.  I  often find myself asking the same questions about people.  I am troubled by all species that seem extra aggressive, extra selfish, extra successful in propagating their own at the expense of others, but despite that, or because of this parallel I perceive between starlings and us, I like and respect them.  I am amused by their chutzpah, their vigorous approach to living, their enthusiasm for singing, eating, flying, fighting, and just in general taking up space in this world.  


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