European starlings were introduced to New York’s Central Park in 1890.
It was an intentional introduction.
In the nineteenth century, introducing species was actually deemed a virtue.
The French zoologist Isidore Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire wrote a book on how wonderful an idea it was for different species to be introduced across the world.
He founded a society in Paris in 1854 called La Societé Zoologique d’Acclimatation, and its sole purpose was to breed and introduce foreign species to France.
A similar society was founded in New York in 1871, and one of its prominent members was Eugene Schieffelin. A pharmacist by trade and an amateur naturalist and Shakespeare buff, Schiefflin thought it would be a grand idea to introduce European birds that had been mentioned in Shakespeare’s works to the United States.
Although he tried to introduce nightingales, bullfinches, chaffinches, and skylarks to the, only his release 100 starlings proved successful. He turned out 60 birds into Central Park in 1890, and then he released an additional 40 the following year.
It’s possible that all starlings in North America derive from these 100, but I would like to see some DNA analysis of some sort to confirm it.
The starling is unbelievably common in most of North America now. It now competes with all the native birds that nest in holes in trees, and it has implicated in the recent decline in purple martins in this part of the continent. When I was a child, it was not unusual to see intricately designed martin boxes in backyards, but it didn’t take long before they became starling boxes.
So now the horde feeds in the snow.
In the spring, they will expand.
And conquer more.