Saturday, November 27, 2010

Look-alikes of the House Sparrow

These little guys are also natives of Europe, but just by looking at their innocent expressions, you can tell they never do much damage, and they're also protected. One way to tell the Eurasian Tree Sparrow from the male H. Sparrow is its smaller size (H. Sparrow = 5 1/4", E.T. Sparrow = 5"). Both the House Finch female and the E.Tree Sparrow are slimmer than the House Sparrow, except in desert regions, where it has adapted more efficiently to a slimmer size. Other diferences are marked under the photos.

Typical slim adult Eurasian Tree Sparrow: note brown cap, black cheek spot, absence of wide wing bar.
  Here's a plump-looking specimen, fluffed up 'cause of the colder weather: note finer bill, absence of black bib, but black mask like H. Sparrow male. Same abcense of wing bars as above photo
                          Illustrating the obvious innocence of these little ones: not cute expression! 
Adult female House Finch: Though the bill is the same size as female H. Sparrows, note belly streaks and lack of eye stripe

               Both male and female House Sparrows: note females faint wing bars like female H. Sparrows

House Sparrows

Note the evil expressions!

             Adult male House Sparrow: note masked face, grey cap, black bib, & wide white wing bar
What a greedy lump!
Female House Sparrow: note plain belly, buff wing bar and eye stripe

Rules and regulations (you can't get away from them!)

Although Starlings and House Sparrows are not protected nationwide, specific states and counties have their own book of rules, so its always a good idea to review these first! As I mentioned earlier, Rock Doves (Pigeons) are protected in a few states. If you are allowed to shoot on your property, there are most probably some rules on this too, such as a minimum of an acre of land etc. In my case, we have 3/4 of an acre, but our neighbors have a full acre, and allow our family to use their property, so I'm o.k. on this end. According to a man I talked to from the MO Department of Conservation, you can hunt on public hunting property in MO, but need a hunting license to do so, and must follow specific rules of the property. Also according to him, a license is not required for public land that you have permission to use. Any one can trap these birds on their own, as well as permissioned property, and I'll have photos later on of what traps I use.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

An Introduction to Starling Hunting

Thanksgiving is a great time for me to introduce to you to a more possible subject to pursue than the Turkey,....the European Starling! (Sorry, you can't eat this type). This bird was introduced to the U.S. in 1890 by a group of Shakespeare fanatics in New York, (the Acclimation Society of North America) whose main idea was to have all the birds present in his plays also present in North America. As you guessed, Shakespeare just happened to mention a Sturnus Vulgaris (latin name for our bird) in a play, and Eugene Schiefflen, one of ASNA's members, released 60 birds in N.Y.s Central Park in '90, and again in '91. Looking for decendants of these guys shouldn't be too difficult to find, as N.A.'s Starling population is estimated at over 200 millon birds! This fast spread is due to the fact that they are very agressive, hardy birds, adapting to habitats like cities to deserts. Their beaks design allows them to pry open hard nuts and seeds to survive harsh winters. Some of the problems they cause include: Ruining over $800 million in crop damage, competing with native birds for nesting cavities, and spreading diseases through their droppings that they are immune to. The good thing about this disturbing news is that the Migratory Bird Treaty Act does not protect this species, and a permit is not needed to hunt them on private property. Another invasive Species, the House Sparrow, also a species sponsered by Eugene, is not protected. This little guy causes problems similar to the Starlings. It was introduced from Europe to keep down problem bugs, but it took only a few years to show how much the bird turned the tables. Rock doves from Europe are not protected in some states, including here in Missouri. They are mostly a nuisance in cities, where they nest and roost on buildings. The Photos above are both Starlings. The shape in flight can be easy to recognize. The other is one in full summer plumage (in winter, they become a duller brown, and the bill is grey instead of yellow).