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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Saturday - September 26, 2009

From: Westland, MI
Region: Midwest
Topic: Trees
Title: Birds swarming around Sugar Maple trees in Westland MI
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I just read in the native plant database that Sugar Maple trees attract birds. I've notice especially now towards Autumn there is an abundance of birds that flock to this tree at 6:30 pm. There are feathers, and bird poop everywhere on the leaves and sidewalk in front of my house. Also the constant chirping with all of these in the trees is so annoying. This tree is on your parkway in front of our house. We cannot even open the windows for 2 hours each night now. What can be done?

ANSWER:

We're not sure where in our Native Plant Database you found the statement that the Acer saccharum (sugar maple) attracted birds; however, it is true that any large tree like that will provide nesting spots, cover and, in some cases, food for birds.  The sugar maple is native to the area of Wayne County in the southeastern corner of Michigan; apparently it is being used as an urban tree, in parkway plantings. We can understand your being disturbed by the bird swarms, but don't blame the tree. We believe you have European starlings. They are boisterous and loud, they travel in large groups, often accompanied by blackbirds and grackles.

Sixty to 100 starlings were introduced into Central Park in New York in 1890 and 1891; there are estimated to be over 200 million in North America at this time. Also introduced at about the same time were English sparrows; 200 years ago there were no English sparrows in North America. Their numbers are now estimated at over 150 million.The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is dedicated to the use, care and propagation of plants native to North America, and discourage the use of plants native to other areas than where they are being used.  That is where our expertise ends, we don't know much about non-native invasive species of birds.  We do know there have been many efforts, on local, Federal and state levels, to rid areas of these birds, and they just come back.

To help you understand more about these birds, here are several websites from people who do know about non-native invasive species of birds.

From the USDA Invasive Species-European Starling

From YouTube, watch this video on Starlings at Oxmoor.  This video was made in England, is well narrated; the flights of the birds is beautiful, but not when they are in your yard. 

Sialis.org All About Starlings

From the Associated Press, by Mike Stark September 6, 2009 Shock and Caw. Pesky Starlings Still Overcome. 

 

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