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MLA Full: "Invading Birds!" YouTube, uploaded by SciShow Kids, 21 December 2017,
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Living things change and evolve to survive in the places they live. There are some animals, though, that end up in habitats where they don't belong, and that can cause big trouble for the native species!

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Hey there!

Squeaks and I are just about to… [Squeaks squeaks] …what is it, Squeaks? What do you hear?

A bird? Oh, now I hear it, too! You’ve got some good ears.

Let’s see if we can find out what kind of bird it is! I see it! That’s a starling.

This one looks like it’s on its own, but starlings sometimes fly around in huge … and I mean huge flocks. Now, it may be hard to believe, but at one time, there were none of these birds in the United States. Nope … not one.

But that’s not the case now, at all! There are millions of starlings in the United States. And they can cause some problems.

For example, starlings like to eat fruit. And if a huge group of starlings gets into an orchard … well, they can eat or harm a lot of the fruit that people need. Starlings are an example of what’s called an invasive species: a type of animal or plant or other living thing that gets moved to a place where it doesn’t belong and causes some harm to the other types of living things that are already there.

A species is a specific kind of living thing, and lots of species can only survive in certain places. For example, a spider monkey that lives in the wet rainforest isn’t going to be able to live in the dry desert. It wouldn’t be able to find the food, water, and shelter it needs to stay alive!

But invasive species can survive in places other than where they originally lived. And when they move in, they can cause problems for the other types of living things that aren’t as flexible. That’s what happened with the starlings in North America.

About 130 years ago, someone brought a group of starlings from England, one of the places where they naturally lived, to the United States. Like many other birds, starlings use their beaks to find and get food. But starlings have beaks that are extra strong, and they’re so good at getting food that they can often get more food than other kinds of birds.

So the group of starlings from England were able to get more food than the other birds that were already living in the United States. And the starlings were also able to get food all winter. The birds that were already here never had to deal with anything like that before!

The starlings were getting and eating a lot of the food, and they weren’t leaving much for the birds that were already here. And that wasn’t all! When other kinds of birds went to other places to find food, the starlings moved into the places where those other birds made their nests.

When it got warmer again and the birds came back, the starlings had taken away the other birds’ food and their houses! Then the starlings had babies…and their babies had babies! The number of starlings grew and grew…until there were tons of starlings, and a lot less of some kinds of birds that were living here in the first place.

All this happened because one person brought starlings into the United States! [Squeaks is sad] Other times, invasive species move from one place to another accidentally. For example, the brown tree snake was accidentally taken from its home in Australia to a nearby island called Guam. Scientists think the snake might have been hiding on a ship, or even on an airplane.

Once the snakes got into Guam they found lots of food to eat, like birds and small lizards. And while there were lots of animals for the snakes to eat, there were not very many animals on Guam that would eat the snakes. So the number of brown tree snakes started to grow.

And the more snakes there were, the more birds and other animals that got eaten. Some of the birds that were on Guam before those snakes got there are all gone now! So, what can we do to stop invasive species?

Well, it’s not an easy problem to solve. Sometimes, just paying attention is enough. For example, people have trained dogs to use their noses to check for tree snakes on ships and planes to make sure they don’t accidentally get taken to other islands. [Squeaks sniffs around, then squeaks] Squeaks says he doesn’t smell any tree snakes in here either!

Good to know. In general, people try to be very careful not to take wild animals and other living things from one area and let them go in another. The starlings in North America are probably here to stay, but we can use what we’ve learned from their story to stop other living things from becoming invasive species.

Hey, it looks like our starling friend took off, maybe to find the rest of its flock. And it’s time for us to get going, too! Thanks for joining us!

If you want to keep learning and having fun with Squeaks and me, hit the subscribe button, and we’ll see you next time here at the Fort!