Article and photos by Kathryn Mann
Shakespeare's Hamlet says the question is, "to be or not to be", but the answer for most of us about the European Starling is "not to be." This is a bird that we can actually blame Shakespeare for. It was American Shakespeare fanatic Eugene Scheiffelin, who had the terrible idea of introducing the European Starling to the United States because it was mentioned in Shakespeare's play Henry IV. Scheiffliein had 16 pairs of European Starlings released in New York City's Central Park in 1890, and their offspring have now increased to over 160 million and spread to every state except for Hawaii.
The European Starling - a beautiful bird that we wish would go back to where it came from
European Starlings are about 9 1/2 inches in length. They are a short-tailed black bird with greenish and purple iridescence. They have a long pointed bill and cream-tipped feathers that look like they were painted by Gustav Klimt.
European Starling enjoying an Oklahoma afternoon
European Starlings are disliked for many reasons. They often take over the nesting area of many native birds including Eastern Bluebirds, woodpeckers, and Purple Martins. Fruit growers hate them because they consume large amounts of grapes, peaches, blueberries, strawberries, figs, apples, and cherries. Corn farmers want to get rid of them because they eat ripening corn on the stalk. They also destroy large amounts of wheat.
The elegantly attired European Starling
Some European Starlings have lived as long as 20 years.
European Starlings often mimic the songs of other Oklahoma birds including the Killdeer and the Eastern Meadowlark.