About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Monday, July 4, 2016

How European immigrants of the late 1800s changed American society

Two of the most common birds at our American bird feeders, House Sparrows and European Starlings are reluctant European immigrants.

Juvenile European Starling and female House Sparrow via Wikimedia Commons
In the mid-1800's House Sparrows were released in New York and in the 1870's a few House Sparrows were brought over from England and released in Jackson and Owosso, Michigan to control insect infestations on crops. They quickly multiplied into thousands as they regularly raised three to five broods per year, each brood averaging around five babies.

Today due to these releases of a few House Sparrows across the US, they are the most abundant songbirds in North America and the most widely distributed birds on the planet. And the House Sparrows in your yard may be 200th generation Americans.

And in the 1890’s, 100 starlings were released into New York City’s Central Park. It is said that Eugene Schieffelin wanted all of New York to see the birds mentioned in the plays of William Shakespeare. Schieffelin belonged to the Acclimation Society of North America, a group with the aim of aiding the exchange of plants and animals from one part of the world to another. In the 19th century, such acclimatization societies were fashionable and the effect that non-native species could have on the local ecosystem was not yet realized. His attempts to introduce bullfinches, chaffinches, nightingales, and skylarks were not successful.

Since their introduction into North America, European Starling populations have grown to over 200 million birds and they can now be found coast to coast and in Alaska.

Sparrows and starlings have learned to thrive in close association with people, unlike the many other species that have declined or disappeared as a result of our activities. In fact, they actually owe much of their success directly to us.

Our challenge is to learn to live with them as well as they have learned to live with us by mitigating their impact on our native species, while fully understanding the niche they now occupy in our avian landscape.   

Related Articles:
Close-up look at the seeds wild birds eat http://bit.ly/IET0hP
The strange journey of the sunflower plant http://bit.ly/uFlz65
Basic Instinct: Cardinal Feeds Goldfish http://bit.ly/Kgv2Mi
Starling and sparrow nesting together http://goo.gl/5aQftb

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