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Invasive species keeps countryside cattle clean

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — A recent trip into the countryside in Belmont County revealed a sight reminiscent of documentary film footage out of Africa ­– birds living and eating off of animals in the wild.

But there was nothing exotic about these creatures — it was a herd of cattle and some small birds, possibly starlings, dancing around their heads and noses. It appeared the fowl were eating the bugs off the cattle.

The cattle didn’t seem to mind too much. Perhaps having help getting rid of biting insects was actually a relief. It was a hot day, and the large beasts were just trying to stay cool under the shade of a group of trees.

The birds worked quickly, perhaps knowing the mammals at any moment could shake their heads and send them flying through the air. It appeared there were plenty of flies and other bugs available for the birds to eat.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Invasive Species Information Center, starlings are an invasive species in the U.S. Their common names are European starling, common starling and English starling.

It is believed starlings were brought to the U.S. about 1890 “as part of a plan to introduce to the U.S. all birds mentioned in the works of Shakespeare.” However, the birds compete with native species, often stealing their nests and destroying crops.

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