Friday, May 12, 2006

Starling Villainy

Flicker excavating nest hole - 5/11/06
Photo by Lloyd Spitalnik
For the last few days Central Park birdwatchers have been watching a pair of flickers, [beautiful members of the Woodpecker family] excavating a nest hole in the Shakespeare Garden. Also noted, a pair of starlings on a nearby branch, quietly observing the hard-working flickers. We have seen the same drama many times in the past, but it is always heartbreaking. At the moment the excavation is completed, the native bird, ill-equipped by evolution to deal with this exotic newcomer [starlings were introduced to North America only a hundred or so years ago], faces a solid attack by the much-more agressive, sharp-billed starlings.

Every year birdwatchers are hopeful. But alas, this morning the starlings won the battle. The flickers, about to begin egg-laying, were fiercely attacked, and evicted, by the starling pair. It is now a starling nest in the Shakespeare Garden.

Note: The white spots in the photograph are bits of sawdust being flung out of the hole by the excavating bird. This is a rare photograph!