Starlings can be beautiful when you gaze at them far away, watching their incredible aerial acrobatics. Up close is another story—especially when they take shelter in trees on your property. The birds are noisy, and their waste make your lawn and car smell like a bat cave for months. A group of starlings is a murmuration, and several in the mumuration die every day. Having them visit requires a hazmat suit to dodge droppings and pick up carcasses. North Americans have Eugene Schieffelin to blame for this, or maybe William Shakespeare. Schieffelin wanted the U.S. to be home to all the birds mentioned in the bard’s plays. Schieffelin died in 1906 and I can only hope it was from being pecked to death by the flying rats he introduced.
Some newcomers are just not welcome. Starlings are not the only invaders. Meet the starling’s finned equivalent, the carp. “Arriving in the United States during the mid-1800s, increasing waves of immigrants could scarcely believe that this vast new land had no carp as it had been a cultivated food source, garden element, and symbol of strength and courage in Asia for over 4,000 years, and similarly esteemed in Europe for nearly 2,000!” (source: https://www.nps.gov/miss/learn/nature/carphist.htm). New Americans may have brought the fish with them to have a taste of home but attempts to establish commercial enterprise are also blamed for their introduction. The government also bears fault—in 1885 the U.S. Fish Commission began dumping railroad tank cars of the fish into streams (source: http://nas.er.usgu.gov/queries/factsheet.aspx?speciesID=4). This practice continued up to the 1950’s!
Carp are a problem in the U.S. and Harney County is not immune. They have been found in several bodies of water here. The refuge has been particularly infested. The fish are considered a pest because they destroy native fish and waterfowl habitat. Carp eat the eggs of other fish. They feed on the bottom of a lake or stream, rooting like pigs as they go through an area, destroying plants and stirring up silt. The plant matter they do eat isn’t fully digested, which means it rots after excretion and promotes algae growth. (source: https://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/animals/stories/10-most-invasive-fish-species-world ) . Turbidity is increased. Turbidity means what might be a relatively clear body of water where sunlight can penetrate into lower depths is now disturbed and murky. It is estimated that carp populations have reduced “migratory bird productivity 2 to 7%”. The Great Basin Red Band Trout is threatened through carp infestation. The High Desert Partnership and Harney Basin Wetlands Initiative produced this video, which shows the danger: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RCxR7VD10Gw&app=desktop
So, what should be done about invasive carp? Kill them. Kill them all. Last August the Friends of the Malheur hosted an annual carp derby. Plan now to attend and fish in 2020. The derby was free and open to all. If you are fishing trout and accidentally hook a carp, do not throw it back. Kill it. Removing one carp can prevent thousands of eggs from being fertilized and grow into the equivalent of underwater starlings.