759 – Birds: Selefkis

The 11th century archives of the Mount Athos Monasteries refer to the huge swarms of locusts that devastated cultivation in the Northern Aegean island of Agios Eustratios. According to the same source, the total catastrophe was prevented by the sudden appearance of vast flocks of a bird that devoured the menace, a miracle attributed to St. Athanasios. The bird was called “Selefkis”.

900 years after its first recorded “ecological invasion”, Selefkis still visits the Aegean. It is now aptly named by Greeks Agiopouli (holy bird). This is the Rose-coloured Starling (Sturnus or Pastor roseus – in Dutch: Roze spreeuw) whose irregular outbursts make a real impression. Having spent the winter in the Indian sub-continent, it migrates westwards as far as the steppes around the Black Sea. Occasionally, it moves in large flocks further west, breeding wherever conditions are suitable. Locust swarms are often the cause of such unexpected appearances.
More on Aegean birdlife.

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