Introducing Justice Liu's "My Fantasy Environment: A Narrative Cartography Project"

The Invasion of the European Starling

In the late 19th century, Eugene Scheiffelin, a member of the American Acclimatization Society, and an avid Shakespeare fan made it his mission to introduce every bird mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays to North America. In 1890, he introduced 100 European Starlings into Central Park, New York, and from there the colony thrived and grew. (Mirsky, Steve, 2008) However, little did Scheiffelin know that the small European Starling would grow to be a massive ecological and economical threat, just a few generations later. Eventually, the small starling would land a spot on the Invasive Species Specialist Group’s list of 100 of the World's Worst Invasive Alien Species (Invasive Species Specialist Group, 2008). This map aims to visually show the spread and highlight some of the damage that the European Starling has been responsible for since it is introduction to America.

In creating this map, I used a public domain map outline of the United States as the base for my map. I added two main geographical features, the large mountain ranges, and the major rivers, I did this to add more detail and depth the map, as well as providing a reference to the locations on the map that allow the reader to approximate their location to a higher degree of accuracy. I used several reference images to find the location of the mountains and rivers. I used color-coded arrows to indicate the estimated time frame of the European Starling’s spread across the United States, the colors themselves hold no meaning, and are simply used to differentiate the time periods.

There is a small map of the UK which is off in the top right corner of the map, it is location and size relative to the United States is not to scale and is only used as a visual reference to the origins of the European Starling, and how they were brought to America. I used several tools for creating this map, I used Bing Images to search for maps and references, Paint.NET for image editing and manipulation, and Microsoft PowerPoint for putting all the elements together to create the map.

The reports of Starling damage are states that have reported millions of dollars of damage. (U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2020) and it highlights the sweeping and widespread impact that the European Starling has had in America since its introduction in 1890. For example, a survey showed that in 2012, farmers in California, Michigan, New York, Oregon, and Washington reported damages totaling roughly 189 million dollars, due largely in part to the European Starling. (Linz, G., et al, 2018). And, in 1960, Eastern Airlines Flight 375 collided with a dense flock of starlings soon after it took off, causing the plane to crash into the Boston Harbor as the birds were sucked into the engines. 62 of the 72 people on-board were killed in the crash (Reints, Renae, 2017).

There are more resources, studies, and focus on human’s impact and damage to the environment, and while invasive species are also a big threat to many ecosystems, they do not receive as much attention. And beyond the damages to the American agricultural economy, there are also widespread impacts on the natural ecology and balance on the delicate ecosystems as the spread of Starlings have been linked to the decline of woodpeckers, swallows, and other native birds (Woodward, Susan L., and Joyce A. Quinn, 2011; Global Invasive Species Database, 2010).

The map emphasizes on the migration and spread of the European Starling, from New York in the late 19th century, to now having spread across the entire country, reaching the West Coast in the mid-20th century. It also shows how destruction is left in the Starling’s wake as they made their way across the country, and today, they continue to cause damages to the economy and ecosystem. Although I have found several maps showing the full extent of the spread of the European Starling, there does not appear to be any maps that show the process of the spread of the European Starling. There was one small map from a research paper done in 1928 (Cooke, May Thacher, 1928) but it is severely outdated.

Although it was humans that introduced the European Starling to America, this map addresses the concept of the environment based on the Starling interaction with humans and the environment, rather that human interaction with the environment. This puts the starlings as the focus of the map. The only human feature in this map is New York City, the place where the European Starling was first successfully released on American soil.


- Mirsky, Steve. “Antigravity: Call of the Reviled.” Scientific American, Scientific American, 1 June 2008,

- Invasive Species Specialist Group. “View 100 of the World's Worst Invasive Alien Species.” IUCN/SSC Invasive Species Specialist Group (ISSG), 2008,

- U.S. Department of Agriculture. “Species.” USDA APHIS | Species, 2 June 2020,

- Linz, G., Johnson, R., & Thiele, J. (2018). Chapter 15. In 1083971083 822985824 W. C. Pitt, 1083971084 822985824 J. C. Beasley, & 1083971085 822985824 G. W. Witmer (Authors), Ecology and Management of Terrestrial Vertebrate Invasive Species in the United States (pp. 311-328). Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press. doi:

- Reints, Renae. “Throwback Thursday: The Worst Bird Strike in U.S. History.” Boston Magazine, Boston Magazine, 5 Oct. 2017,

- Woodward, Susan L., and Joyce A. Quinn. "European Starling." Encyclopedia of Invasive Species: From Africanized Honey Bees to Zebra Mussels, vol. 1: Animals, Greenwood, 2011, pp. 237-240. Gale eBooks, Accessed 27 Nov. 2020.

- Global Invasive Species Database. (2010, October 4). Sturnus vulgaris. Retrieved November 27, 2020, from vulgaris

- Cooke, May Thacher. “The Spread of the European Starling in North America.” The Spread of the European Starling in North America, by May Thacher Cooke, 1928,

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