Egyptian Geese, lupines and xenophobia

To: Willem Jan Marinus Vader <>
Subject: Egyptian Geese, lupines and xenophobia
From: Laurie Knight <>
Date: Sun, 4 Sep 2016 08:07:44 +0000
G’day Wim

Thanks for your thoughts.

I think it depends on the ecological context and the nature of the feral 

On islands containing endemic species, it would probably be a case of zero 
tolerance - remember that the greatest rates of extinction involve island 

The situation would be more relaxed in highly modified regions where there are 
no specialised endemics and the introduced species is not aggressively 
invasive.  Rock Pigeons and House Sparrows are fairly innocuous in that they 
pretty much live in human settlements and don’t encroach to much on native 
species in unmodified areas.

Of course, if the introduced species is charismatic, endangered in the wild and 
not overly invasive - like a Spix Macaw, then I guess it would get a fair bit 
of slack (but would probably be targeted by collectors).

Regards, Laurie.

On 4 Sep 2016, at 1:31 am, Willem Jan Marinus Vader <> wrote:

> Egyptian Geese, starlings. lupines and xenophoba
> Today was a sunny day in Tromsø, N. Norway, a respite between rain yesterday 
> and rain tomorrow (Not terribly hot, though, +5*C this morning when I went 
> out at 10 am). It is clearly autumn here now,  the birches are yellowing, 
> mushrooms everywhere. the swallows and terns are gone, and the thrushes are 
> raiding the berries in the gardens. Few flowers left along the roads, mostly 
> diehards like Yarrow and Hawksweed, but at Tisnes the Felwort still is in 
> full flower. And there are still a few flowers in the large patches of 
> lupines that from year to year become more prevalent in the area, but which 
> of course do not belong here; these are American plants. I remember how 
> elated I was the year I lived in Bodega Bay in California, now almost 40 
> years ago and found several species of wild lupines on Bodega Head; but here 
> in Tromsø I don't like them at all, beautiful though the flowers may be.
> There is a similar case in Holland with the Egyptian Geese that in the course 
> of a few decades have become almost ubiquitous in that country. Rare is the 
> day trip where this species is not on the list nowadays. And I loathe them, 
> even to the ridiculous point that I don't even fully appreciate them anymore 
> in Africa, where they of course are fully at home.
> Several small flocks of Starlings were around and reminded me that every time 
> I write something about this most interesting bird, I get a number of irate 
> reactions from the USA and Australia, telling me how awful these birds are.
> In all these cases we have arguments that sound somewhat rational: The 
> lupines take over the road verges from the local flowers; the Egyptian Geese 
> have the nasty  habit of killing off other young and smaller birds in their 
> territories, and the Starlngs are simply too many and occupy nest holes that 
> 'better' birds need for their nests. But recently I have started wondering if 
> there maybe is something amiss with these feelings nevertheless. In these 
> later years we have here in Europe a serious problem with large numbers of 
> human refugees, largely from areas where there is war, famine, and/or 
> repressive dictatorships, and also in Australia and now in the USA 'illegal 
> immigrants' are much in the news. And the arguments used to keep out these 
> people as much as possible are exactly the same as in the case of the other 
> exotic animals and plant: they do not belong here, they take up room and jobs 
> from the 'better people', and they have undesirable behavour.  It has made me 
> think: maybe my strong reluctance to accept these foreign plants and animals 
> in our nature here North is in fact just a kind of xenophobia, in the same 
> way as I feel much of the fear for immigrants is too.
> A further argument for this view is that the 'fear and loathing' only kick in 
> when the exotics arrive in numbers. All birders love to see the lone vagrant 
> , and I have no problems at all with another American immigrant on our 
> island, the Monkey flower Mimulus guttatus, that has only a precarious 
> toehold here, and every year is found at only 1 or 2 spots. Nor do I grudge 
> the 2-3 pairs of Collared Doves that have held out in Tromsø since their 
> arrival in 1969, no doubt the northernmost in the world. But in the areas in 
> the USA they have recently overrun I suppose feelings are maybe quite 
> different towards also this species.
> Have you ever had any thoughts along these lines? Or am I completely at sea 
> with my ideas?
> Wim Vader, Tromsø, Norway
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