So the other day a friend of mine (Jeff, the judge) enigmatically posted on Facebook “Despite all the snow this winter, my annual battle against starlings has been a complete victory for me!”
Battle? Victory? That sounded deliciously violent so I asked what he was talking about. (It’s always the quiet ones, isn’t it?) He said it was Just Too Much to explain in a simple Facebook post. A few days later I received the following in my email inbox. I will share it with you:
One of the things my father instilled in me is a love of songbirds. He taught me to set out nesting boxes in the summer and feeders in the winter. He taught me to identify songbirds and to track visitors to bird houses and feeders. But he also taught me to be a bird snob.
You see, I only care for certain birds, and I don’t cater to the rest. In fact, I actively discourage them. I chase sparrows out of bluebird boxes and destroy their nests. I put up wren houses knowing the holes are too small for any other bird. I don’t feed non-native birds, bullying birds, or squirrels. In particular, I do not like starlings.
You’ve seen starlings, although you may not know it. These ugly, unkempt birds have dark gray-brown feathers speckled with white. They perch by the dozens cheek-to-jowl on power lines and incessantly poop on anything passing beneath them. They send out scouts in search of feeders and, when they find one, they invite the entire flock to devour and scatter food while chasing away other birds. They hog the feeders, chase away other birds, and chow down until the food is gone. Starlings are a nuisance and I am proud to contribute to their starvation and eradication.
Starlings, which are native to wide areas of Europe and western Asia, were introduced to New York City in 1890. Why? Because Shakespeare enthusiasts wanted to introduce into North America all of the types of birds mentioned in the Bard’s works (Henry IV, Part I). See http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=call-of-the-reviled. Does that make any sense to anybody? It’s just another in a long list of British imports for which I am not thankful. The Redcoats, haggis, and incessant U.S. media coverage of the Royal Family also top the list. What good have the British given us anyway? Charles Dickens, Narnia, Middle Earth, 80’s pop bands, Martin Freeman, Downton Abbey, and … well … that’s about it. Now, thanks to Shakespeare groupies, I can’t park my car at the curb without it getting splattered with starling droppings. Thanks to a bunch of radical bibliophiles, I have to wage war with starlings to attract the actual native American birds like cardinals, finches, juncos, mourning doves, chickadees, nuthatches, tufted titmice, or woodpeckers. The conspiracy theorist in me believes that Shakespeare was a ruse to cover up a revenge plot by bitter Brits who can’t get past the loss of their colonies. Get over it! We won. You lost. Keep your stupid birds.
After years of trial and error, my yard is now nearly a starling-free zone. Each of my feeders was selected for the sole purpose of feeding songbirds while thwarting starlings. I have a multi-port tube feeder with an exterior sleeve that drops and closes the feeding ports if the weight on the perches gets too heavy. Six songbirds can feed at once, but a couple of starlings are too heavy. Plus, the perches are small enough that starlings can’t sit on the perches and pick seed out of the ports. I have a wire mesh feeder from which starlings don’t even attempt to feed. I put out suet, which starlings love, but my suet cakes are enclosed in a cage that permits small birds to enter but keeps out the larger starlings. I recently learned that although starlings enjoy peanuts their beaks are too soft to peck through the shells. I’m experimenting with a whole-peanut feeder now.
The more soft-hearted among you may lament the fate of starlings. Not me. When I see starlings straining desperately but unsuccessfully to reach the seed and suet, both important energy sources for birds during winter, I feel a deep sense of satisfaction. I have won. I have saved the food and suet for birds that matter; birds that trace their lineage to the earliest days of our country; birds that bleed red, white and blue; birds that raise their young on American values; birds that love baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet; birds that stand up next to you and defend her till the end because there ain’t no doubt they love this land. God bless the U-S-A!
You can call me a radical, geo-centric isolationist if you want to, but I’m right. And you would agree with me if you ever stopped to look into the eyes of a starving chickadee denied access to feeders by starling bullies. I’m not stopping with starling-resistant feeders, by the way. I propose that we build a fence to prevent more starlings from crossing our borders and consuming vital limited resources. We should arm border patrol agents to patrol that fence. And we should toughen our bird immigration policies. Don’t mention immigrant bird amnesty to me. We’ll talk about immigration reform after you clean the starling poop off my car!
It’s time for American patriots to rise up and resist the scourge that is the starling! To paraphrase Thomas Jefferson, “when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce [native songbirds] under absolute despotism, it is [our] right, it is [our] duty, to throw off such [starlings], and to provide new guards for [songbirds’] future security.” Huzzah! Huzzah! Huzzah!