Saturday, April 6, 2013

Starlings. God's free clay pigeons

We have been putting up bird houses. In fact I was just delivered another pile of them.  It would be nice to see some blue birds move in, but we are plagued with starlings. The little buggers will even stick their heads in houses they can't get into & peck the eggs or young of the birds we are trying to attract. A little further down on this page is the story of why we have starlings.  
As they are, as someone pointed out, God's free clay pigeons, I  brought the Browning over and under 12 gauge out of the safe and an assortment of re-loads that I didn't go to the trouble of weighing to see if they contain one, or one & 1/4 ounces of shot. They do the job either way. I should probably use a side by side as it would be more suitable for shooting off of an 1800's farmhouse porch, but I'm a better shot with an O&U.  I have yet to get enough to eat, as when I shoot one flying by, the others don't return for a while and I am too impatient to wait and not really looking forward to cleaning a mess of them.  I guess we are lucky that they are not yet in large flocks here. 
So far it's been kind of fun, except that Daisy the pound-hound is somewhat leery of the sound of gunshots. Something that she must have developed before we adopted her.

Here are some things to do with them:
Broiled starlings on toast:
Cut the breasts in half. Lay inner side down on butter-greased broiler. Tie strip of bacon about each breast with a thread. Broil to a golden brown. Rub with oil or butter. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and a bit of parsley. Serve on buttered toast.

Roast starling:
Dress starlings same as you would quail. Cover with bacon strips. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add a slice of onion. Place in roasting pan. Roast to a light brown. Baste with drippings to which a touch of vegetable oil has been added. Green parsley and water cress make a suitable garnish. Serve with mushroom soup. A dash of red wine won’t hurt. Serve two starlings to a person. they go good with beer.

Starling stew:
Sprinkle with salt and pepper and fry in butter lightly. Dust with flour and add three slices of onion, 1 bay leaf, add a half glass of wine and water to cover. Stew slowly. When tender, set aside in a warm dish and let the stew-broth simmer to thicken. Then strain and serve.
Karatavuk yahnisi. or starling stew with olives:                                                                                         “Fry some chopped turnips and carrots. Add a little stock and a glass of red wine. Place some starlings or other small birds in the pan. Add a thin purée of boiled potatoes mashed with beaten eggs, dry mustard, and some stock and a little beer. Cover with stock and cook for about 30 minutes, adding some ripe olives near the end.”

Or, a recipe I have heard that goes well with wild duck:
Clean the bird; stuff with fruit; & wrap in bacon.
Bake 1 hour @ 500 degrees on an Oak Plank.
Throw out the bird & eat the plank.
John Lienhard wrote the following:
Today, we face a plague of songbirds. The University of Houston's College of Engineering presents this series about the machines that make our civilization run, and the people whose ingenuity created them.
Shakespeare's plays are full of references to birds. In 1890 a drug manufacturer named Eugene Scheiffelin decided that New York should be home to all Shakespeare's songbirds. He brought thrushes and skylarks from England and released them into American skies. They failed to fight their way into our ecology.
But 1990 and 1991 mark the centennial of his third experiment. In 1890 he released 60 starlings into Central Park. A year later he released 40 more. This time his romantic gesture was a success. And what a success it was!
Times correspondent Ted Gup tells what happened next. For six years the starlings stayed in Manhattan. New Yorkers were delighted when they showed up in the eaves of the Museum of Natural History. Then they flew out into America. They reached the Mississippi River by 1928, and California by 1942.
Starlings have powerful Darwinian staying power. Today they're at home in both Alaska and Florida. They reproduce with alarming speed. They drive off bluebirds and woodpeckers.
They also form flocks of as many as a million hungry birds. A flock will eat 20 tons of potatoes and foul what they leave behind. They spread histoplasmosis and other diseases.
In 1960 a Lockheed Electra stirred up 10,000 starlings as it left Boston's airport. The plane went straight into the flock. Its engines strangled on starlings and 62 people died.
Attempts to fight the infestation show the same off-the-wall imagination that brought starlings here in the first place. In 1948 Washington, D.C., tried to run them off with artificial owls. Starlings were too smart for that. When engineers strung electric wires around the Capitol columns, the birds just moved next door. We've tried broadcasting the starlings' alarm call. We've used chemicals, cobalt-60, and even Roman candles. In 1931 the Department of Agriculture even put out a recipe for starling pie.
Nothing has worked. The starling has found a home in America that's much to his liking. And we're left with a message we should be taking to heart by now. It is that we're part of earth's equations. Our actions are always irreversible. Stewardship for the earth means looking much further down the line at the results of our actions.
A century ago, such a small thing as a romantic dream about Shakespeare's world in Central Park brought us this plague. How much more do we do when we burn up underpriced oil, overspray bugs, and destroy whole species! The starling story is just one more reminder of the fragility of our planet.
I'm, at the University of Houston, where we're interested in the way inventive minds work.


  1. At our last place we used to have a real problem with starlings. They used to steal the chicken food and give them red mites. I used to keep an airrifle in the workshop so every time I stopped working I could take a shot. I always found they were top heavy and landed head first! Now we seem to have a problem with jackdaws stealing the chicken food. I've shot about 20 but it's made no odds to their numbers. Yet...
    Don't think I fancy the work invovled with preparing these small birds to bother eating them!

    1. Mitey fine eating some say. I'll pass too.