Outdoors: Shakespeare's starlings

Nov 4, 2020

Eugene Schieffelin loved the plays of William Shakespeare, and he also loved birds.

I get that. But I just watch them - the plays and the birds.

Schieffelin had a grand plan to pay tribute to the Bard by bringing every bird mentioned in the Shakespearean plays to the Americas.

In just one line, in just one play - "Henry IV" - Shakespeare mentioned starlings.

According to the story, on March 6, 1890, Schieffelin and his servants carried cages holding 60 imported starlings into New York's Central Park and released them. The next year, he released 40 more.

Like human European immigrants, starlings went forth and multiplied. An estimated 200 million of their descendants are now found throughout the continent, and they cause significant damage.

Around here, starlings eat cherries, but they're not picky about what crops they destroy.

They also spread tick- and foodborne diseases. 

Flocks of starlings have caused airplane crashes.

This introduced species has been able to out-compete native birds. Starlings are part of the reason for the precipitous decline in songbird populations.

Like the brotherhood of man, starlings instinctively know "how to succeed in business without really trying."