Birds have long been regarded as an icon in biodiversity conservation, receiving both public and scientific interest for centuries. As a symbol, birds have come to represent certain social and moral attributes (e.g. the association of doves with peace, and eagles with power). During the range expansion of humans, especially in the early colonial era, many bird species were translocated across the globe for a variety of reasons (e.g. agricultural, game and ethical). For instance, Steve Mirsky, in a 2008 article on Scientific American titled ‘Shakespeare to blame for introduction of European starlings to U.S.’, states,

“We move on to the late 19th century, when a group called the American Acclimatization Society was reportedly working on their pre-environmental-impact-statement project to introduce to the U.S. every bird mentioned in Shakespeareís scripts.”

Many of these introduced birds have established themselves in the wild and pose threats to the recipient ecosystems as invasive species, especially given their functional roles as seed dispersers, pollinators and predators, which can lead to far reaching impacts on the functioning and services of ecosystem.

In 2008, the First International Invasive Bird Conference was held at the Maritime Museum in Fremantle, Western Australia. The conference has five themes:

  • What makes some species good invaders?
  • Global transport mechanisms of invasive species and their control
  • Problems caused by invasives: assessment and interpretation
  • Management of establishing/established populations: (i) methods available and their success; (ii) benefits and risks to native species; (iii) politics, economics and determination
  • Future scenarios of human movement and climate change

Three years down the line, it is time for us to re-assess the status quo of the ecology of avian invasion. To better and more efficiently use every participantís expertise, we plan to work towards a synthetic review using ideas and discussions generated from this workshop. While brainstorming the theme and ideas for this review and workshop, you might find that the review paper by Richardson & Whittaker (2010) on conservation biogeography has provided a good framework for the sort of questions that we will discuss during this workshop. The following several bullets will help to organize your knowledge in a more structured way to facilitate this collaborative work:

  • Fundamental knowledge in avian invasions
  • Sketches of research priorities & research questions
  • New data, analyses and approaches
  • Conservation, control & management

Some background readings include Leonie Joubertís Invaded: The Biological Invasion of South Africa (2009, Wits University Press), where she provides a short narrative piece on invasive birds in South Africa (Chapter 6: Winged incursions: common starlings, common mynahs, house sparrows, house crows, feral pigeons, the mallard duck and the spread of indigenous species). In a book edited by Dave Richardson, Fifty Years of Invasion Ecology: The Legacy of Charles Elton (2010, Wiley-Blackwell), Tim Blackburn, Julie Lockwood and Phillip Cassey present a review chapter (Chapter 13: Fifty years on: confronting Eltonís hypotheses about invasive success with data from exotic birds). Of course, Tim, Julie and Phill have also summarized brilliantly the literatures in the field in their book, Avian Invasions: The Ecology and Evolution of Exotic Birds (2009, Oxford University Press), providing a brilliant review of the field. All said, it is my great pleasure to welcome you all to attend this exciting workshop.

Cang Hui

Centre for Invasion Biology

Stellenbosch University