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The Starling

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« on: March 19, 2009, 04:58:58 pm »

BrokenWing Chronicles
The Starling
Starlings are small to medium-sized passerine birds in the family Sturnidae. The name "Sturnidae" comes from the Latin word for Starling, sturnus. Starlings occur naturally in the Old World, from Europe, Asia and Africa, to northern Australia and the islands of the tropical Pacific. Several European and Asian species have been introduced to these areas as well as North America, Hawaii and New Zealand.
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Website Purpose
The purpose of Starling Talk is to give assistance to people who have found an injured or orphaned European Starling (Sturnus Vulgaris) or House Sparrow (Passer domesticus). My name is Jackie Collins, and I am a former Federal and State permitted wildlife rehabilitator. I created this website several years ago after it became apparent that many wildlife rehabilitators were refusing to accept European Starlings. I felt there was a need to provide basic information to people who found Starlings and House Sparrows that were in need of help, and were unable to find a wildlife facility that would take them.
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The European Starling has a glossy black plumage with greenish and purple iridescence. White tips predominate on the contour feathers following their annual molt. These white tips gradually wear off by the following spring, giving the bird an overall glossy black look. Starlings are 7.5 to 8.7 inches long with a wingspan of 15.5 inches. Weights range from 2.5 to 3 ounces.
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Great Talkers

The "American Acclimatization Society" for European settlers introduced 60 European Starlings in New York City's Central Park in 1890 and 40 more in 1891. The chief champion of these introductions was Eugene Scheiffelin, who desired to introduce all birds ever mentioned in the works of William Shakespeare to the United States. Shakespeare's play "Henry IV", the quote “The king forbade my tongue to speak of Mortimer. But I will find him when he is asleep, and in his ear I’ll holler ‘Mortimer!’ Nay I’ll have a starling shall be taught to speak nothing but Mortimer, and give it to him to keep his anger still in motion” was the only line that provoked such a reckless act. The entire population of starlings now inhabiting the United States are from the original 16 pairs that survived those first two winters. Post-breeding wanderers reached California by 1939 and breeding was established in the state by the 1950's. Starlings within the state now number in the millions.
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Among the birds that are common here in wintertime, particularly in
cities and towns, is the Starling. Most of them migrate but many remain.
Like the English sparrow, it is an immigrant, native to Europe and Asia
where it migrates as far as Africa. In 1890, sixty starlings were released
in Central Park, New York City. From there the bird has multiplied and
spread until it is found in southern Canada, northern Mexico, and most
of the United States, including California. Like English sparrows, they
have multiplied very fast. The female lays from 4 to 8 pale blue eggs at
each nesting period and raises two, often three, broods per year.
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Sky turns black as thousands of starlings flock into Gretna Green
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At livestock facilities, starlings consume feed and contaminate the feed and water with their droppings. Where high protein supplements are added to feeds such as cattle feeds, starlings may selectively eat the high-protein portion.

Starlings may also transfer disease among livestock facilities, a problem that particularly concerns swine producers. For example, TGE (transmissible gastroenteritis) virus can pass through the digestive tract of starlings and be infectious in the starling feces. However, researchers have found healthy swine in lots with infected starlings. Thus, even infected starlings may not always transmit the disease, especially if starling interaction with pigs is minimized. TGE may also be transmitted on boots or vehicles, by stray animals, or by infected swine added to the herd.

Starlings cause other agricultural damage by eating cultivated fruits such as grapes and cherries. In some areas they pull sprouting wheat and other grains and eat the planted seed. Starling roosts in rural and urban sites cause health, filth, noise, and odor problems. Their droppings damage and deface equipment and vehicles. In addition, starlings compete for nest sites with native hole-nesting birds such as blue-birds, flickers, woodpeckers, and purple martins.

On the beneficial side, starlings eat insects and other invertebrate pests such as lawn or pasture grubs. However, this benefit is partially offset by the fact that starlings often take over nest cavities of native insect-eating birds.

As trends move toward urban and rural sustainable landscapes, starlings and other birds may become more important in biological and integrated pest control systems.
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The Spread of the European Starling
in North America (to 1928)

by May Thacher Cooke (1928)
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