The changing natural world at our doorsteps | Illustration and text by Patterson Clark
November 17, 2009
Surges in Web searches for starlings
At sunset, Washington commuters can often look up to see a surprising swarm: huge flocks of starlings, swirling over office buildings and into trees. Apparently, many of these commuters go online when they get home and investigate. The Googling public's interest in European starlings seems to peak when the birds are breeding in the spring and flocking in the autumn. This fall's record of searches reveals a sharp spike in human interest.*
Introduced from Europe in 1890, starlings have advanced across North America, out-competing native birds for nest cavities and causing $800 million a year in agricultural damage. Studies by the USDA indicate that starlings are capable of spreading a host of diseases to livestock and humans.
SOURCES: Google Insights for Search; USDA; Keith L. Pardieck, Patuxent Wildlife Research Center; British Trust for Ornithology