Unwanted Aliens Among Us!

Two Invasive Partners in Crime

By Ella Mayzes-Kotulla

What are Invasive Species?

Invasive species are organisms that are not native to the ecosystem they live in. They have a negative impact on our economy, our environment, and people's health. Invasive species are the second greatest threat to biodiversity.

Some reasons how Invasive Species get into an Ecosystem?

  • Ships: ships can carry aquatic organisms in the water
  • Wood and Wood products; Insects can be in wood, and palettes, and crates. In ships, cars, and airplanes. Then become invasive species
  • Pet trade; some invasive species are released on purpose by owners that traveled with them

What Impacts do they have on an Ecosystem?

Invasive species create more competition for food. Certain invasive species bring diseases with them. Any invasive species take up room and take up a home where a native organism could be. Invasive species change the ecosystem's process, and food chains. Invasive species decrease the native species populations, while their population is growing.

What are the wanted Invasive Species?

Purple Loosestrife or the scientific name Lythrum Salicaria is an invasive plant. European Starlings or Sturnis Vulgaris is a major invasive animal spread across many places. These invasive species are NOT wanted in the Okanagan.

How to Identify these Criminals

European Starlings are chunky, and are the size of a blackbird. They have long slender beaks. When these species fly, their wings are short and pointed which makes them seem small. They look black from far away, but in the summer they are a purplish-green iridescent with yellow beaks. In the winter they are brown and covered in white spots. Between sexes their sizes are 120-123 cm. Their wingspans are 31-40 cm . They weigh 60-96 g.
Purple Loosestrife is an erect, perennial herb. This plant grows from 0.5 to 3 meters tall. Their size depends on their habitat conditions. Purple Loosestrifes have square wooded stems, unlike most stems. They also have opposite or whorled leaves which are mainly lance-shaped and are stalkless. The leaves of the Purple Loosestrife are 3 to 10 cm in size. The leaves at the bottom are heart shaped. Upper sections of the Purple Loosestrife are generally covered with short hairs. They have 5-7 petal flowers.
If you see one of these invasive species, please, report it.

How did they get here?

European Starlings are native to Europe and Asia, they were first seen in Canada (Okanagan) in 1945. Ever since, they have spread throughout the entire province, mostly in the South and Central areas. This all happened because a Shakespeare fan in 1890 released 60 European Starlings in New York's Central Park. His dream was to bring all the birds described in Shakespeare's work to North America. From there on they multiplied and spread throughout the North American continent.

Purple Loosestrife are native to Europe and Asia, and came to North America in the early 1800's. People brought the Purple Loosestrife here for their gardens. It may have also come when ships used rocks for ballast. Since then, the Purple Loosestrife spread across 48 United States, and Canada. Purple Loosestrife was introduced for ornamental and medicinal purposes.

How do They Impact other Species and Humans?

The Purple Loosestrife forms dense stands which have thick roots that are able to spread over large areas. This results in a degrading habitat for organisms like birds, insects, and others organisms. Purple Loosestrifes also dominate areas with their numbers, and outcompete native species. As their infestation grows the native plant population decreases. Also, in big infestations they can block the water flow to canals and ditches resulting in a reduced amount of crops in agriculture leading.

European Starlings can cause some major damage. They can pass their diseases onto livestock and other species. European starlings also raid and eat a lot of crops, and fruits in fields. European Starlings compete with native birds for food and homes.

The damage these species cause will only get worse unless we do something to help!

Starling murmuration creates incredible aerial display, Israel

How or Why do they Spread so Easily?

European Starlings build nests and have 2-3 batches of eggs a year having 4-7 eggs. Starlings move around a lot, and there are a lot of them! Many have babies and then when the babies grow they will go somewhere else, and it will continue.

Purple Loosestrife spreads by seeds and root fragments. The seeds are small and get moved by water, wind, or wildlife, and, of course, humans.

Known Hangouts for these Criminals.

European Starlings can be seen almost anywhere in the Okanagan. They are often seen in the Okanagan Similkameen valleys. You can find European starlings in:
  • Keremeos
  • Kelowna
  • Oliver
  • Vernon
  • Penticton
European Starlings can be found almost everywhere in the Okanagan. Sightings of European Starlings are very common.

Purple Loosestrife are found in wetlands in the Okanagan. They are found in:

  • Wet meadows
  • Fresh water stream banks
  • Pond edges
  • Reservoirs
  • Ditches
  • Marshes
  • Lakes
  • Prairies
Purple Loosestrife are likely to be seen in wetlands rather than in dry lands.

What can you do to help Reduce the Population Growth of Purple Loosestrife?

  • You can learn how to identify these invasive species so you can report them
  • Learn about good times to remove them
  • If you cut Purple Loosestrife put them in a sealed garbage bag and throw them in the garbage, do this to eliminate all possible ways of reproduction
  • Spray herbicides on them, not pesticides!
  • Everyone can report sighting of these plants

What can you do to stop the Population Growth of European Starlings?

  • If you see a Starling making a nest remove the nest when the mother flies away
  • Shake Starling eggs fast and return them to the nest. This will result with no eggs hatching
  • Clean out your nest boxes each year because over time nests will get higher than starlings can pull the occupants in your nests out
  • Don't put perches on your nest boxes so European Starlings can't get to the occupants
  • You can buy certain traps or join a group that catches European Starlings
  • Hunting is also used to stop their spread

Interesting Facts?

Purple Loosestrife interesting facts:

  • In the past the Government used Purple Loosestrife to control roadside erosion
  • One Purple Loosestrife can produce up to 2.5 million seeds
  • It is estimated 200 000 wetlands of the U.S are lost annually because of Purple Loosestrifes

European Starlings interesting facts:

  • They are very strong flyers, they can fly at 48 mph
  • The oldest Starling recorded was wild and was 15 years and 9 months old
  • A female European Starling may lay an egg in the nest of another female
  • Scientists found they can taste salt, sugar, tannins, and citric acid
  • Starlings have great vocal mimics, they can learn up to 20 different specie noises
  • Today more than 200 millions starlings range from Alaska to Mexico
Purple Loosestrife