feral pigeon, european starling, and house sparrow

3 non-native birds that are not federally protected

Non-Native Pest Birds Not Federally ProtectedAccording to Kim Lewis, bird division manager at Ehrlich, “There are only three birds that are not federally protected: Feral pigeons, European starlings and House sparrows.”

Birds, unlike insects, are universally loved. One only needs to take a stroll through one of those two “super-sized” hardware stores for evidence of man’s love affair with all things feathered. Birdbath bowls, bird feeders, bird feed, bird watching books and binoculars are but a few items of interest for the bird-loving enthusiast.

But the “big three” are nothing short of formidable. The European starling, a non-native bird species, was brought to the United States in 1890, to Central Park in New York City because a group of Shakespeare enthusiasts were determined to introduce every bird ever mentioned- in a Shakespeare publication or play- to the land of the free. 

Since then the European starling population has grown to 200 million-plus throughout North America, constituting one-third of the world’s starling population.   Despite the fact that 10 percent of starlings are killed off by other starlings in turf wars, they are nearly impossible to control.

bird droppings on a statue

The health and financial costs of birds

Starlings are omnivorous preferring a myriad of insects. But will also feed on fruit and dairy farm feed intended for cattle, as much as 4 oz. of feed per day. A group of 10,000 starlings commonly consume as much as 1.25 tons of cattle feed per day. It is estimated that overall bird populations cause an annual loss of $100 million to U.S. agriculture.

Starlings also carry and transmit diseases which include meningitis, as well as seven different forms of encephalitis; bacterial diseases such as erysipeloid, salmonellosis, parathyroid, pasteurellosis, and listeriosis; mycotic (fungal) diseases like aspergillosis, blastomycosis among others. It is estimated that there are as many as 65 different diseases transmittable to humans or domestic animals by European starlings, House sparrows and Feral pigeons.

European starlings, pigeons and sparrows routinely damage structures on private and public property with fecal contamination. Corrosion damage to metal structures and painted finishes, such as those on automobiles, occurs because of uric acid from bird droppings. Electrical utility companies frequently have problems with birds causing power outages by shorting out transformers and substations.

Pigeon, starling and sparrow fecal matter defaces and accelerates the deterioration of aircraft in hangars. Accumulation of fecal droppings on planes, maintenance equipment, helicopters and hangar floors results in unscheduled maintenance to clean aircraft and buildings in order to protect painted surfaces from acidic fecal droppings and maintain sanitary work environments. The birds also build nests in engines of idle aircraft which may cause engine fire or other damage.

birds near an airplane

Bird-induced aircraft accidents

The risk that European starlings pose to aircraft is well documented.

  • In Boston, in 1960, 62 people were killed in a plane crash that collided with a flock of European starlings.
  • In 1999, a Boeing 757 struck a flock of European starlings at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport and was forced to abort the flight. Damages were assessed at more than $500,000 dollars by airport officials.
  • In 2003, a B737-300 departing from the Greater Rochester International Airport, in Rochester New York struck a flock of European starlings, causing substantial damage. All the fan blades were replaced and the engine was serviced, costing approximately $200,000 dollars.

Starlings and blackbirds are particularly dangerous, in airports, because of their high body density and tendency to travel in large flocks of hundreds to thousands of birds. They tend to intersect aircraft flight lines upon entering or exiting a winter roost, presenting a significant threat to incoming and outgoing flights.

Starlings, sparrows and pigeons are a significant threat to the fiscal and biological health of humans as well as other animals. It is likely that managing the consequences of these non-native birds species will continue to be as daunting as it is costly so it is best to enlist the expertise of the professional bird control specialists at jcehrlich.com.

Stephen E. Doyle

I am a Professional Writing major at Penn State University (Berks Campus). I will graduate in May 2014. I have finally decided to pursue my lifelong love of writing via a career change. I am a fulltime college student, fulltime father of two wonderful boys- 8 years and 5 months- and an avid reader of noir fiction, historical fiction and enjoy the occasional biography. I am also a freelance writer enjoying my summer internship with Rentokil (Ehrlich) in Reading, Pennsylvania as a marketing intern primarily writing for the blog sites for Rentokil and Ambius as well as content for the Rentokil (Ehrlich) website. I freelance for The Reading Eagle newspaper (Berks County, Pa) and I write for the Home Builders Association's award winning bi-monthly magazine, 'At Home In Berks'. A few of my hobbies are writing, watching and playing soccer with my 8 year-old son, watching my 8 year-old son play soccer, reading, watching old films (Kurosawa, Melville, Dasin, Wim Wenders, etc.), cooking and weekend jaunts to New York City.

1 Comment

  1. Dwayne

    I now live in NWA (North Western Arkansas) North of I-40. I recently discovered what a starling was about 6 years ago when I moved to Russellville, AR. My Grandmother used to describe a starling as “A ‘nasty bird ‘that should be ‘shot on sight’”. I was shocked that she should say such a thing about bird! She loved all the birds that came to her feeders!
    But first some back story…
    She loved her birds!… My Grandmother who lived in (Pearcy, AR) {2007- 2009-time frame} had MANY varieties of birds coming to her feeders, and more than handful of feeders to feed them, and more than one way to feed them… From normal post type feeders, to hanging feeders, to putting bird food on “shelves” attached to trees, to scattering food on the ground. She fed them all sorts of things to include: stale bread (ripped up and thrown on the ground), expired corn meal (scattered on the ground), sun flower seeds, normal store-bought wild bird food/seed that included just every seed a bird could eat…
    Often, she would look outside, point out her window at a bird, and name its species and sex “blue bunting”, “blue-jay”, “mocking bird”, “cardinal”, and hand full of “wood pecker”, and hand full of “warblers”, “chickadee”, “tit mouse”, “canary”; just to name a few…
    Also, my own mother who lived in same local area (Royal, AR) fed birds. She also had numerous different species of birds coming to her feeders… She also feeds her birds well… And also, can see a WIDE variety of “native birds” … My mother also feeds humming birds as well, and name the species..
    All those above-named bird species above are thriving in most of Garland, Arkansas and counties south of there (well south of I-40 in Central AR as I know it).
    My own “eye opening” upon my “bird loving” Grandmother’s idea of a bird that she thought of as “A ‘nasty bird ‘that should be ‘shot on sight’”
    Latter I moved to Russellville, Arkansas (AR)… Russellville, AR is joining to extends just south of I-40 in AR. When I moved there, I was dumb founded… I saw almost none of the birds I did at my Grandmother’, nor Mother’s place yes than 1.5-2hrs due south!
    I recently took a trip from Rogers, AR to Russellville, AR and spent the night and the next day in Russellville, AR. On my trip down an and stray there (not my trip back as well) I decided to count to the number of birds and there species, as I saw from the interstates (I-49S {about exit 82 to exit 20} and I-40W (from {exit 12 to about exit 81})… Granted I used my new knowledge based on over 6 years of seeing starlings every-where and my old knowledge of seeing so many different birds south of I-40…
    On this trip I saw over 50 birds…. 4 mocking birds, 3 scissor tail, 2 hawks (not sure what kind for each), 8 sparrows, about 15 vultures, and more than 50 Starlings!!! In addition, I did see 1 large bird ({hawk/crow to eagle sized} being chased by 1 smaller bird {they were in the distance over 100yrds way.… And I was driving about 70Miph… Not a good time to break out the binoculars!) …



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