blue-flag-thumb2_50x50Our side's flag is a thin, airlight blue, drifting almost unseen against the sky. Our military march is a meadowlark's song among the dandelions. --Ken Kesey, The Real War


Define 'Invasive': A Starling Taught To Speak | Mickey Z.

Photo credit: Mickey Z.

Mickey Z. -- World News Trust

Jan. 7, 2013

“Birds scream at the top of their lungs in horrified hellish rage every morning at daybreak to warn us all of the truth. They know the truth. Screaming bloody murder all over the world in our ears, but sadly we don’t speak bird.”

Kurt Cobain

While sitting in my kitchen, I heard a beautiful and astonishingly complex bird call. Tiptoeing over to the window, I spied a European Starling perched on my sill -- its throat vibrating as it sang its tiny heart out.

After pigeons and sparrows, starlings seem to be the most common birds in New York City but I know so little about them. I remedied that with some quick Web surfing and learned that the song I heard is a combination of "warbling, gurgling, chirruping and clicking noises," and these birds will often imitate many other species (animals as well as birds), along with man-made sounds like car alarms and telephones.

A group of starlings is known by humans as a "constellation" or a "murmuration" or -- tellingly -- a "scourge" or a "filth" or a "vulgarity." Whatever term you may use, starling flocks often number in the tens of thousands of birds.

I also learned that every European Starling in North America "descended from 100 birds released in New York's Central Park in the early 1890s. A group dedicated to introducing America to all the birds mentioned in Shakespeare's works set the birds free."

Thanks to this dimwitted idea, you can now find more than 200 million European Starlings across much of North America… and therein lies the rub.

Finally, I learned that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has named the European Starling an invasive species because it "competes with native species and destroys crops."

Also, critics say, large flocks can "overwhelm buildings and trees with a large scale buildup of feces where the uric acid content causes corrosion to stone, metal, and masonry. Gutters and down pipes clogged with starling nests often become blocked, leading to water damage. Bacteria, fungus, and parasites in the feces pose a health risk."

Q. What might be behind such condemnation? 
A. The usual.

As a site called “Bird Busters” explains, a large quantity of starling droppings can “open a company up to slip and fail liability if not properly cleaned up. Many companies also retain significant clean up and maintenance costs due to starling problems.”

I don't know about you, but I'd like to live in a world where…

  1. A resilient mimic of a bird is valued above stone, metal, and masonry.
  2. Humans are the species correctly labeled "invasive" and a "health risk."


Note: To continue conversations like this, come see Mickey Z. in person Saturday, Jan. 12, in NYC for Occupy the Climate: Hurricane Sandy, Eco-Activism, & the Vegan Option.

Mickey Z. is the author of 11 books, most recently the novel Darker Shade of Green. Until the laws are changed or the power runs out, he can be found on an obscure website called Facebook.

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