This section is from the book "The Balance Of Nature And Modern Conditions Of Cultivation", by George Abbey. Also available from Amazon: The Balance Of Nature And Modern Conditions Of Cultivation.
Excellent services are rendered by this bird in woods, only when they make roosting places of young plantations they, by their excrementations, ruin the trees, especially belts of conifers. The same remark applies to rooks in their breeding and also roosting places as regards the under-cover, nothing being so unsightly as the bespattering of the leafage and so detrimental to underwood growth, besides surcharging the atmosphere with unhealthy ammonia emanations. Grass, and even arable land farmers, park and pleasure ground proprietors, derive great benefit from the starlings feeding on wireworms, leather-jackets, woodlice, millipedes, ground insects and their larvae, while urban and suburban dwellers owe much to the verdure of their lawns and relative freeness of their gardens from ground pests to the starlings they will not allow to make nesting-places in roofs; yet so convinced are urban and suburban dwellers of the good influence of these birds that some provide nesting-boxes, pigeon-cote fashion, on poles, or affixed to a tree so as to resemble a broken-off branch and hole.
To the cherry-grower no worse pest exists. Only the gun can keep the crop from destruction by starlings, and that means expert shots and four of such to the acre. Count the cost of this preven tion and see what profit is left to the grower, when possibly the vision may clear so that reason may appear on the side of preventing undue increase. That starlings have greatly increased is the verdict of fruit-growers on all sides, and this increase led to the acquiring of new tastes, onslaught being made on raspberries in fields, on damsons and even apples and pears in orchards. To augment the British-reared starlings not a few come from abroad, which may possibly be turned to advantage, for the birds are said to be delicious eating when baked in a pie with some bacon under and over the plucked and drawn, peppered and salted birds.
In towns, starlings may be caught in severe weather and ground covered with snow by making a clear space a foot wide and running a cord along it attached to pegs, strewing in the track broken-up bread crust, bits of meat, or other scraps. When the starlings, joined by sparrows galore, take the bait freely, remove the cord and in its place affix one with hair nooses. The result will be a number of starlings caught, along with many sparrows, the latter making excellent pie. In the country a number of horsehair nooses attached to a cord of several yards length, the longer the better, and laid down in a grass field where manure is dotted over it in heaps ready for spreading, especially if placed near or just by the edges of these heaps, will effect capture of great numbers of starlings, cold weather being chosen for snaring. Why these birds should not be exported is matter for surprise, the taste for small birds as food being so pronounced abroad.