What Are Invasive Species?

“Invasive species” or “introduced species” are terms that are used frequently in conservation circles. If you’ve heard these sayings before; perhaps, you heard it on a news broadcast or saw it on a sign. Maybe they were talking about a tree, a weed, a fish, or a bird. In all of these cases, the same thing has happened.

Invasive or introduced species are species of flora or fauna that are not native to an area but began to propagate in the wild. Maybe it came in on a shipment of produce from Asia or was brought to America as a pet. Invasive Species often arrive in innocuous ways but can cause significant damage to the local ecosystem.

Red Foxes, for example, were introduced to Australia in the mid-1800s. This species has spread and poses a risk to native prey animals because they have no predators there to keep their population in check.

Invasive birds to North America include the European Starling, Ring-necked Pheasant, and Mute Swan. All three of these species first arrived in North America through the 1700 and 1800s. Pheasants were introduced as game birds and are hunted regularly each year in October through the end of December.

Eugene Schieffelin and the American Acclimatization Society introduced Starlings to Central Park. Urban legend says that Schieffelin desired the introduce all of the species mentioned by Shakespeare to the New World. Starlings cause damage to fruit orchards and pose dangers to aircraft while traveling in large flocks.

Likewise, Mute Swans arrived in North America as decorative features for parks. Outside of these captive environments, Mute Swans can wreak havoc on local ecosystems by fighting with local bird populations, like the Trumpeter Swan, for nesting locations and food.

While these birds are beautiful to see, we must keep in mind the damage that they can do if they are allowed to roam free.

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