Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Why Eugene Schieffelin was a jerk


It's November and as the leaves fall from the Harlequin glorybower tree in our garden, the bright magenta calyxes and vivid turquoise berries become more apparent against the grey sky. They're pretty, but only stay so long now that the starlings have found them.

Flocks of these invasive dirty birds descend upon the tree, gobbling up their fading fall beauty, the last show of color in the garden for the year. I raise the window to shoo them off, hoping to keep the starlings at bay for a few days.

I usually welcome birds to the garden, putting out food and nectar to feed and attract songbird and hummingbirds. I've seen bright yellow chickadees, red breasted robins, Northern flickers and the resident blue jays, to name but a few.

The European Starlings are nasty, brutal birds, known to snatch songbirds and their babies, like cannibals and to bully birds out of their nests in hostile nest takeovers. Not native to the United States, starlings were brought here by Eugene Schieffelin when he released sixty of them in New York City's Central Park. It was part of his effort to introduce all of the birds mentioned in the plays of Shakespeare to the United States.

When I see the starlings devastating the beauty of my Harlequin glorybower tree, I throw up the windows and shout "dirty, dirty birds" and they fly away. What I should be shouting is "thanks for nothing, Eugene Schieffelin."

I've written a lot about these trees over the years. You can read more here and here and here too.  
You can read more about jerkface Shieffelin here

2 comments:

flutterandhum said...

Whoa - I had no idea that is how Starlings got here! I know they are non grata, and that they are rather beastly creatures, but now I also know we can blame it on some overly literal recreation of the world of Shakespeare. Who would have thunk...?

e said...

I remember reading that it took him three tries to establish a successfully breeding flock. Dammit! Curse you, Eugene Schieffelin!