Introduced birds.

No, not Ms. Meadowlark, may I present Mr. Sage grouse. Not at all. Introduced birds are species that man has deliberately released in North America for some purpose or reason (or whim) and that have become established as a successfully reproductive "wild" species. Familiar examples are the house sparrow, starling, pigeon (rock dove) and pheasant.

The house sparrow, or English sparrow, was introduced in the U.S. and Canada more than 100 times around 150 years ago. It was supposed to control moths threatening shade trees in the Northeast, and they helped to. But they spread rapidly, displacing some native bird species that had been controlling other damaging insects. Result: worse overall effects. Trees weren't helped and a continent of grain- and fruit-eating sparrows occupied niches no longer available to some native species.

The starling is supposed to have been brought to the New World by a lover of Shakespeare intent on introducing every bird Bill ever wrote about over here. Good story, but there apparently were numerous attempts late in the 1800s. Hole-nesters, starlings make serious competition for bluebirds and other native birds and when in great numbers, starlings cause discomfort to persons.

The city pigeon, the rock dove, originally from Europe and North Africa, is now all over North America, especially where there are people. Considered a pest in most situations.

The pheasant was introduced to provide a hunting opportunity. It is successfully established in many parts of farmlands in North America, although in some places where hunting pressure is intense, yearly releases of artificially raised pheasants are still made.

Oh, there are numerous other examples of man fooling around with bird and other animal, plant, insect introductions. The Eurasian collared dove seems to have made it on its own - from its most recent offshore colony, Bermuda, where it had apparently been man-introduced. The Eurasian collared dove has become the latest animal we can watch, literally before our eyes, pioneer its way across all of North America. Pretty much wherever you live, wherever you are.

The Eurasian collared dove is a pretty big bird, not shy, and adapted to human habitation and environs. You may need a recent field guide or to go to one of those e-things to see a picture or painting of the bird. It's bigger than a mourning dove, about 13 inches, and a pale gray. Has a long tail, but not pointed. When it flies off from the ground or a perch, there's no wing whistle. A cooing song, like that of a mourning dove, but deeper.

Eurasian collared doves are spreading widely, and rapidly. And to some extent, surreptitiously. Look for them in your neighborhood - all year long, even in the Rockies - and jot down their behavior: where they roost, nest or forage. How many broods per year, how many young? Have they displaced mourning doves or other species?

Don't know anybody who wanted to see North America populated with Eurasian collared doves, but these birds are here. Without a formal introduction, but nevertheless here with us. Your observations are beyond useful to essential with respect to any critter. Can't have too many eyes and ears. A chance to discover basic behavior and any impacts.

Field Notes: Can you believe a wild time in Jackson Hole? Imagine. And in the natural world, at that! Inclement, cool weather and storms almost everywhere about have prolonged local bird migration and apparently scattered some of those migrants. Some of the scattered migrants have apparently as a  result shown up in the valley.

Examples: Keith Benefiel reports a black-throated gray warbler in Wilson on May 27. Roger Smith noticed six lark buntings together in South Park on May 23. Ann Keller spotted what she identified as two whooping canes; over Jackson on or about May 9. That's the third whooper report this spring, one of two birds in Star Valley and the other a single crane in Grand Teton National Park.

Ann Keller also reported a Blackburnian warbler in South Park on Thursday. Then, to top it off (as of this scribbling, anyhow), Dave Browne called to report a red-faced warbler in South Park on Thursday.

If you will check your splendid new (free) Birds of Jackson Hole checklist, you will find that Blackburnian and black-throated gray warblers have been record as accidental before, but red-faced warbler has not. A distinctively marked bird, it is far out of its usual Southwestern habitat to be here.

Biologists would welcome written documentation and, of course, any photographs of unusual sightings. They all help to flesh out Wyoming's rich animal heritage and life.

Many individual birds presently in the Hole, and many observers enjoying western tanagers. Bullocks' orioles, black-headed grosbeaks, Cassin's finches, several hummingbirds, goldfinches, lazuli buntings - and who knows what all (Leine Stikkel, Valerie Schram, Steve Bock, Amy Unfried, Mary Lohuis, Kathy Harrington, Wes Timmerman, many others).

Enjoy them. Soon they'll thin out, going about their nesting and raising young.

The Jackson Hole Bird Club will meet at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday on the Bert Walk at the Visitor Center on North Cache. Susan Marsh will discuss the plants growing in the wetlands. Free and entertaining.

© Bert Raynes 2008


Bert Raynes writes weekly on whatever suits his fancy with a dash of news on nature and its many ways.

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