Coming Soon: Aliens

Alf socializing with staff

Err…kinda. What does Stitch, Groot, Alf, and ET have to do with wildlife rehabilitation? Each year, many invasive species of birds arrive at Wildlife Images’ clinic. These particular birds, such as European Collared Doves, House Sparrows, and European Starlings can pose a threat to the native birds who call Southern Oregon home. Until now, we have been required to follow only one path dictated by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. However, a new enclosure in our Critter Cavern exhibit is home to some of the non-native baby birds that arrive at Wildlife Images.

Groot and Alf the European Starlings

Groot and Alf are European Starlings and were the first to be designated for this display. These two came in separately and became fast friends. They live in the right side of the enclosure and will likely sing you a song if you stop to visit. These aliens invaded in a dramatic way… As the story goes, in the 1850’s a group released 100 European Starlings in Central Park. The reason? They believed every bird ever mentioned by William Shakespeare should be found in America. Starlings aggressively outcompete native species for food and other resources.  Turns out, not all is well that ends well.

This weekend, the left side of the new enclosure in Critter Cavern will become the new home to two baby House Sparrows. These yet to be named Ambassadors are still living in an incubator. They are fed every 30 minutes by staff. This is a rare opportunity to see inside the work that happens in the Baby Bird Room and ICU for our native patients. As a true invasive, House Sparrows will displace other native bird species by stealing nesting sites. They arrived on the East Coast in the 1850’s and were introduced to the West Coast twice in the 1970’s. 

Out in the park you’ll see two more Aliens. We have Grogu (a.k.a. baby Yoda) and Stitch. These European Collared Doves are not siblings but came in as inquired fledglings within a couple days of each other. They currently live in an enclosure next door to our American Kestrel Ambassador, Jackson. European Collared Doves are considered non-natives. They are originally from the Middle East. In the 20th century they spread to Europe and in the 1970’s hitched a ride accidentally to the Bahamas. It was a quick flight to Florida and in the last 50 years they have spread to almost every state in the U.S. As non-natives, this species doesn’t present a severe problem to native birds.

These birds play an important role in our educational mission by allowing us to share the story of how non-native and invasive species can disrupt the local ecosystem and lead to less diversity. Typically, invasive species are generalists, eating a variety of food items and reproducing quickly. They often don’t have natural predators, leaving them with no population control. Invasive species cost the U.S. billions of dollars annually by destroying land, waterways, fisheries, and spreading disease.


How to help stop/prevent the spread of invasive species:

    • Clean and inspect boats, kayaks, and cars. Get firewood and building supplies from local areas, clean boots and other gear used for outdoor activities, never release a domestic or exotic pet animal into the wild. 
    • Some areas have community based round up programs: for example, lionfish are invasive in the Gulf of Mexico, so competitions are held between divers to see who can catch the most lionfish to help preserve native species in the Gulf. 
    • Consider advocating for legislation that would help protect against native species, like requiring ballast water to be treated, or restoring natural areas that have been decimated by invasive species introduced by humans.