Musings on Migration

Photo courtesy of Reddit
By Joan Butler
The Cedar Waxwings have moved on now, continuing their journey south to their wintering grounds. My gardens have been a stopover point in their migration for many years, and I’m sure my huge aged cedar is the big draw. I love to see the waxwings fluttering among the branches, picking the berries that they literally toss down their throats. This year, the cedar produced a bumper crop of frosty blue berries – a nutritious meal to fuel migration.

The waxwings also dined on the fruits of my crabapples and winterberry shrubs. And I read that they are one of the few songbirds that catch insects in mid-flight, which explains some of the mid-air acrobatics that I have witnessed. Now they are heading south, and I won’t see them again until late winter when they travel north to their summer breeding grounds.

So easy to love Cedar Waxwings! But are there any birds that people actually hate? Well, yes, there are some, and European Starlings probably top the list. An Audubon Society article postulated that there are probably more European Starlings in the United States than any other bird species. And we know exactly when they arrived here.
Sixty caged starlings imported from Europe were released in Central Park on March 6, 1890 by Eugene Schieffelin, a Shakespeare aficionado who decided to honor the Bard by introducing to America every bird mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays. Schieffelin was a member of the American Acclimatization Society, a group in NYC dedicated to the mission of introducing European animals and plants to the United States. It’s a concept that sounds unbelievably misguided to us today.

European starlings were very successful: within two decades they had spread to the Mississippi River, and after fifty years they could be found in every state. Communities across the country have battled the intruders, with little to no success. The Federal government, in the 1930s, even tried to convince Americans to eat starlings, and offered meat-pie recipes.
Today, their huge flocks cause millions of dollars of damage to crops and livestock every year, especially during migration. They carry diseases that are life-threatening to humans and animals, jeopardize aircraft safety and displace native bird species.

Photo courtesy of The Atlantic
Migrating starling flocks are called murmurations. These flocks are incredibly large, containing hundreds to thousands of birds. They move in sinuous motions (likes schools of fish) when threatened by predators such as Peregrine falcons, both in the US and Europe. Nick Dunlop has spent years photographing murmurations in California, and has created a compilation set to music, “The Starling and Falcon Dance”.
It is difficult to reconcile the destructiveness of invasive starlings with their magnificence in flight. There is no ambiguity with Cedar Waxwings. Photo courtesy of Reddit
By Joan Butler
The Cedar Waxwings have moved on now, continuing their journey south to their wintering grounds. My gardens have been a stopover point in their migration for many years, and I’m sure my huge aged cedar is the big draw. I love to see the waxwings fluttering among the branches, picking the berries that they literally toss down their throats. This year, the cedar produced a bumper crop of frosty blue berries – a nutritious meal to fuel migration.

The waxwings also dined on the fruits of my crabapples and winterberry shrubs. And I read that they are one of the few songbirds that catch insects in mid-flight, which explains some of the mid-air acrobatics that I have witnessed. Now they are heading south, and I won’t see them again until late winter when they travel north to their summer breeding grounds.

So easy to love Cedar Waxwings! But are there any birds that people actually hate? Well, yes, there are some, and European Starlings probably top the list. An Audubon Society article postulated that there are probably more European Starlings in the United States than any other bird species. And we know exactly when they arrived here.
Sixty caged starlings imported from Europe were released in Central Park on March 6, 1890 by Eugene Schieffelin, a Shakespeare aficionado who decided to honor the Bard by introducing to America every bird mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays. Schieffelin was a member of the American Acclimatization Society, a group in NYC dedicated to the mission of introducing European animals and plants to the United States. It’s a concept that sounds unbelievably misguided to us today.

European starlings were very successful: within two decades they had spread to the Mississippi River, and after fifty years they could be found in every state. Communities across the country have battled the intruders, with little to no success. The Federal government, in the 1930s, even tried to convince Americans to eat starlings, and offered meat-pie recipes.
Today, their huge flocks cause millions of dollars of damage to crops and livestock every year, especially during migration. They carry diseases that are life-threatening to humans and animals, jeopardize aircraft safety and displace native bird species.

Photo courtesy of The Atlantic
Migrating starling flocks are called murmurations. These flocks are incredibly large, containing hundreds to thousands of birds. They move in sinuous motions (likes schools of fish) when threatened by predators such as Peregrine falcons, both in the US and Europe. Nick Dunlop has spent years photographing murmurations in California, and has created a compilation set to music, “The Starling and Falcon Dance”.
It is difficult to reconcile the destructiveness of invasive starlings with their magnificence in flight. There is no ambiguity with Cedar Waxwings. 

Photo courtesy of Reddit
Photo courtesy of Reddit

By Joan Butler

The Cedar Waxwings have moved on now, continuing their journey south to their wintering grounds. My gardens have been a stopover point in their migration for many years, and I’m sure my huge aged cedar is the big draw. I love to see the waxwings fluttering among the branches, picking the berries that they literally toss down their throats. This year, the cedar produced a bumper crop of frosty blue berries – a nutritious meal to fuel migration.

1200px-Cedar_Waxwing_August_14_2012_Newfoundland_PA.jpg

The waxwings also dined on the fruits of my crabapples and winterberry shrubs. And I read that they are one of the few songbirds that catch insects in mid-flight, which explains some of the mid-air acrobatics that I have witnessed. Now they are heading south, and I won’t see them again until late winter when they travel north to their summer breeding grounds.

1b0ee2855afcb25578b04682918199d5.jpg

So easy to love Cedar Waxwings! But are there any birds that people actually hate? Well, yes, there are some, and European Starlings probably top the list. An Audubon Society article postulated that there are probably more European Starlings in the United States than any other bird species. And we know exactly when they arrived here.

Sixty caged starlings imported from Europe were released in Central Park on March 6, 1890 by Eugene Schieffelin, a Shakespeare aficionado who decided to honor the Bard by introducing to America every bird mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays. Schieffelin was a member of the American Acclimatization Society, a group in NYC dedicated to the mission of introducing European animals and plants to the United States. It’s a concept that sounds unbelievably misguided to us today.

Starling.jpg

European starlings were very successful: within two decades they had spread to the Mississippi River, and after fifty years they could be found in every state. Communities across the country have battled the intruders, with little to no success. The Federal government, in the 1930s, even tried to convince Americans to eat starlings, and offered meat-pie recipes.

Today, their huge flocks cause millions of dollars of damage to crops and livestock every year, especially during migration. They carry diseases that are life-threatening to humans and animals, jeopardize aircraft safety and displace native bird species.

6c3de2e6c6b81f0b8a82d8c0938c294a.jpg
Photo courtesy of The Atlantic
Photo courtesy of The Atlantic

Migrating starling flocks are called murmurations. These flocks are incredibly large, containing hundreds to thousands of birds. They move in sinuous motions (likes schools of fish) when threatened by predators such as Peregrine falcons, both in the US and Europe. Nick Dunlop has spent years photographing murmurations in California, and has created a compilation set to music, “The Starling and Falcon Dance”.

It is difficult to reconcile the destructiveness of invasive starlings with their magnificence in flight. There is no ambiguity with Cedar Waxwings. 

unnamed.jpg
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