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Home :: Archive :: 2009 :: September ::
Thanks to Shakespeare
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 20.0482  Tuesday, 8 September 2009

From:       Hardy M. Cook <
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Date:       Tuesday, September 08, 2009
Subject:    Thanks to Shakespeare

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/09/06/AR2009090602008.html

Once Worthy of Shakespeare, The Starling Becomes a U.S. Pest

By Mike Stark
Associated Press
Monday, September 7, 2009

SALT LAKE CITY -- The next time the sky darkens with a flock of noisy, 
unwelcome starlings, blame Shakespeare -- or, better yet, a few of his 
strangest fans.  Had the Bard not mentioned the starling in the third 
scene of "Henry IV," arguably the most hated bird in North America might 
never have arrived. In the early 1890s, about 100 European starlings 
were released in New York City's Central Park by a group dedicated to 
bringing to America every bird ever mentioned by Shakespeare.

Today, it's more like Hitchcock.

About 200 million shiny black European starlings crowd North America, 
from the cool climes of Alaska to the balmy reaches of Mexico's Baja 
Peninsula. The enormous flocks endanger air travel, mob cattle 
operations, chase off native songbirds and roost on city blocks, leaving 
behind corrosive, foul-smelling droppings and hundreds of millions of 
dollars in damage each year.  And getting rid of them is near impossible.

[ . . . ]

After the starlings' introduction, they quickly expanded west, taking 
advantage of vast tracts of forested land opening up to agriculture and 
human development, Dolbeer said. By the 1950s, they had reached 
California and nearly all parts in between. Today, the starling is one 
of the most common birds in the United States.

Starlings are also responsible for the deadliest bird strikes in 
aviation: a 1960 civilian crash in Boston that killed 62 people and a 
1996 military cargo plane crash that killed 34 in the Netherlands. Since 
then, there have been close calls, including a Boeing 747 that ran into 
a flock in Rome last fall. No one on board was killed, but the badly 
damaged plane had a rough landing.

Those kinds of scenarios are why wildlife biologist Mike Smith has been 
tweaking a series of traps used at Salt Lake City International Airport, 
where there have been 19 reported starling strikes since 1990. The traps 
use dog food to attract a starling or two. Hundreds more soon follow, 
driven by their innate desire to flock with each other. He once caught 
800 in a single day.


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