The Problem With Exotic Species Gets Worse

I found this on the Bluebird Recovery Program of Minnesota site:

The U.S. Congress just passed two identical bills of importance to bluebirders. The bills reauthorize the soon -to- expire Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and added clarification to specifically state that invasive, exotic species are NOT federally protected. This overruled a recent court decision which interpreted the act as including exotic species. With this strong new federal interpretation of the act, states may now be able to add language to their own rules and statutes regarding state’s control of exotic species.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MN DNR) is right now in the process of reviewing their rules, and has asked for comments. Of particular interests to us is statute 84D.12, subd,3 under Rule #6216, which states that it is illegal to introduce certain regulated or prohibited exotic species into the state. The Bluebird Recovery Program urges people to write and request two changes:

  1. Include the exotic house sparrow and European starling in the regulated invasive species category, and
  2. change the wording of statute 84D.12, subd 3 (which states that it is illegal to introduce regulated exotic invasive species), to include the words “or release”.

With these two changes, it would be illegal in Minnesota to rehabilitate house sparrows and release them again into the wild (or trap them and release). Hundreds of volunteer hours and donations are spent by rehabilitating centers in treating and releasing house sparrows. Over 700 house sparrows and starlings were released last year by just one rehab center.

Help stop this cycle of releasing rehabilitated house sparrows which in turn cause death or injury to our native song birds, some of which may survive to be treated by rehabilitation centers!

Some of the DNR rules were adopted by emergency power given to them to act quickly when invasive species appear, to prevent further spread. The DNR needs to make permanent these rules, and can do so without having to go through the legislature.

Comments should be submitted by April 1 in writing, by phone, or by email to:

Steve Hirsch
Division of Ecological Services, MN DNR
500 Lafayette Road
St. Paul, MN 55155-4025

Phone: 651-297-4928


I am very disturbed by it. If it's passed, it will be illegal for any rehabber to treat and release an injured house sparrow, starling or pigeon. I know these species have been a part of the decline of native species--I have even found a nuthatch that was killed by a house sparrow, but if this law goes into effect it will not slow down the bird populations of these invasive species.

To top it off, most of the people who drop off baby birds at wildlife rehab centers don't know the difference between house sparrows and cardinals. Picture this: a child comes in carefully carrying a box that has a baby bird nestled inside. The child feels bad and wants to help. The rehab center then opens the box sees a house sparrow and says, "Sorry, kid, if we help this bird, we can't release it so we'll have to put it to sleep." That's just going to turn kids off to wildlife. It also encourages people to raise wildlife on their own, which is much worse.

The statistic that is used is way off. The only rehab center I know in Minnesota that could have possibly taken in the number of birds below is the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Minnesota and even if they did take in that number, they only have a 20% success rate in treatment so most were euthanized anyway. (I'm really getting worked up now) And, in the grand scheme of things the number taken in is not even a drop in the bucket of the total population of these birds. You can do far more for native bird species with proper bird house management than by telling a wildlife rehabilitation facility what they can and cannot treat.

Feel free to contact the DNR with your own thoughts, but I intend to tell him that this law if enacted would do WAY more harm than good.