Sections

Weather Forecast

Close

Klemek column: Some 'non-native' birds have been here 150 years

A Eurasian collared dove peers around. Flickr photo by M.Shattock 1 / 2
Outdoors Columnist Blane Klemek2 / 2

For the past few weeks I've spent a lot of time at my parent's home in Eagle Bend, which is a small town about 50 miles south of Park Rapids along Highway 71. Intent on keeping their bird feeding station chock-full of seed, and then some, I've taken it upon myself to purchase a tube-style feeder and hung it on their double-hooked cast iron shepherd's hook, so now the affair has two feeders — the tube feeder and a hanging fly-through style feeder.

I also purchased for them a 20-gallon metal trash can with a lid (to keep out any possible mice and other rodents out) and filled it with a mixture of black-oil sunflower seed and mixed-seed for the diversity and possibly attracting a wider variety of wild birds for their viewing pleasure. The approach seems to have worked. Next up on the list will be for me to purchase a few suet balls, the kind that are wrapped in plastic mesh that one can hang from a hook or nail.

So far the bird feeding station has attracted quite the array of feathered friends, for "town birds" anyway. Flocks of American goldfinches have descended upon the feeders en masse, as have smaller groups of common redpolls. Other birds include blue jays, black-capped chickadees, and white-breasted nuthatches.

And two fat gray squirrels plant themselves daily beneath the feeders to forage on the ground for residual seed while no doubt discouraged that their route up the pole to the actual feeders are effectively blocked by the strategically placed metal predator guard.

Additionally, two species of non-native birds are frequent visitors to my parent's feeders, too — a pair of Eurasian collared doves and bands of house sparrows. Neither of the latter two species visit my feeders at my Lake Assawa home two hours to the north, and to tell you the truth, I don't mind feeding and observing these Old World species of birds here in west central Minnesota.

The Eurasian collared dove is a near look-alike to the native mourning dove prevalent in North America and throughout Minnesota, but is noticeably larger in size than mourning doves are. And as its name suggests, the Eurasian variety of dove has a conspicuous black band around half its neck that is often described as a "black crescent around the back of the neck." Their call, which is unmistakably dove-like sounding, is louder than the vocalizations of mourning doves.

These doves, relative newcomers to North America, were first introduced in Florida in the early 1980s. Since then, Eurasian collared doves have "... spread rapidly and now occur throughout much of the United States ... (with) a global breeding population of eight million, with 5 percent living in the U.S.," according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's website.

On the other hand, non-native house sparrows have inhabited North America for well over 150 years now.

First introduced to Brooklyn, New York in 1851, house sparrows are the most widespread, adaptable, and abundant of all our so called non-native wild birds. By the year 1900, house sparrows had spread as far west as the Rocky Mountains.

And also according to Cornell, "two more introductions in the early 1870s, in San Francisco and Salt Lake City, aided the bird's spread throughout the West." Today, house Sparrows are common almost everywhere in North America, except Alaska and the Canadian far north.

I might be an outlier here. Though birds such as Eurasian collared doves, house sparrows, European starlings, and even the ring-necked pheasant, are indeed "non-native," one needs to possibly ask the question: "At what point do these immigrants become native?" After all, save for the fairly newly arrived Eurasian collared dove, the house sparrow, European starling, and ring-necked pheasant have been in North America a good long time, and, as far I'm concerned, are bona fide citizens.

Indeed, the Eurasian collared dove and house sparrow, as well as a handful of other non-native species of wild birds, are here to stay as we get out and enjoy the great outdoors.