In Nilka, Xinjiang, nearly 74 million dollars had been invested in a highway construction project. But to the workers’ surprise, the gravels at the construction site had attracted a flock of rosy starlings to build their home here and breed the next generation. What’s more, because these birds had decided not to budge from their nests, the construction project had to halt because of them. What on earth had happened?
Rosy starlings caused a halt in the construction project
Xinjiang is the main breeding ground in China for rosy starlings. Every year from May to July, rosy starlings come here to breed their next generation. This year, these birds happened to choose to build their nests within the highway construction area in Ili, Xinjiang.
In the beginning, when the huge flock of rosy starlings had arrived at the construction site, the workers felt very confused. Later, they invited ornithologists to the site, who discovered what species these birds were and the fact that they were at their breeding season. Rosy starlings like to build their nests near gravels and small caves, but they won’t stay there forever. It only takes a month for the young starlings to grow up. After the conclusion of that month, they will migrate with their parents to the south. However, for this 74-million-dollar project, a month is definitely a long time.
Dongjun Jiang, the chief engineer of the project, said: “It is very hard to stop such an enormous project because many factors — such as labor, materials, equipment, and construction timeline — are involved. These friendly birds had been a headache for the construction team. However, rosy starlings hold important economic and research values. They are worth our protection. Therefore, the local government, as well as the construction team, decided to halt the project.”
Dongjun Jiang stated that the construction project will resume after the rosy starlings have moved away.
The local villagers had built homes for these starlings
The construction project had stopped, but the workers haven’t. They have been building protection webs for the birds. In fact, the local villagers in Ili, Xinjiang, have also been quite supportive.
The reporter visited a village and learned that more than 50 out of the 440 families in this village have rosy starlings breeding in their backyards. Erijan Ye have been building his new house, but a month ago, several rosy starlings had already built nests over the bricks that he originally intended to use for his building new house. To avoid disturbing them, Erjiang had to buy new bricks.
The local villager, Erjiang said: “Rosy starlings had built their nests on our bricks a month ago. Since we do not want to damage their eggs and nests, I bought new bricks for the house. This year, the villagers have been gathering stones and moving them to areas typically frequented by large numbers of locusts, so that more rosy starlings can be attracted to those areas and breed there.”
Rosy starlings are “locust killers”
Rosy starlings like to eat locusts, and they possess a big stomach and good appetite. Each adult bird can consume 120 to180 locusts. In many parts of Xinjiang, farmers have been using large amounts of pesticides to kill locusts, but doing so had been highly costly, as well as threatening the environment and rosy starlings. After making various comparisons, biologists realized that rosy starlings can be a better biological pest control method. Indeed, this solution yielded much better results.
The photographer happened to take this picture of adult rosy starlings breeding chicks during an interview on the highway. The baby birds were waiting for their parents to feed them.
The reporter learned that, over the past ten years, 17 huge rosy starling nests were built over 140,000 acres of farmland in Nilka which were heavily infested with locusts. Thanks to these starlings, the locust population has been effectively controlled.
It is now the breeding season for rosy starlings. It will take a month for the young starlings to grow up. And after a month, the starling families will move to South Asia.
All information and photos come from The Paper and CCTV News: https://www.thepaper.cn/newsDetail_forward_2268845.
Translated by Lele, and edited by Riley Peng @ Animal Dialogue