Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Shakespeare's Starling

All the European Starlings in North America descended from 100 birds released in New York's Central Park in the early 1890s. A group dedicated to introducing America to all the birds mentioned in Shakespeare's works set the birds free. Today, European Starlings range from Alaska to Florida and northern Mexico, and their population is estimated at over 200 million birds.

It is believed to be responsible for a decline in native cavity-nesting bird populations, but a study in 2003 found few actual effects on populations of 27 native species. Only sapsuckers showed declines because of starlings, and other species appeared to be holding their own against the invaders. You can help scientists learn more about this species by participating in the Celebrate Urban Birds! project. (info from All About Birds)
The Starling is actually a pretty and interesting bird if you take the time to watch it. In the right lighting it will have some pretty cool colors along with all the spots. Starlings can frequently be found along Spring Valley Creek at Avimor. I found a few this morning already taking up residence in some woodpecker holes.
I'm a fan of Shakespeare, but I couldn't recall where in all of his works a Starling is mentioned so I looked it up. Here it is:

The starling is mentioned only once by Shakespeare, in a passage which shows that in his time this bird, which has so remarkable a power of imitation, was taught to say some words. The fiery Hotspur declares that although the King had forbidden him to speak of Mortimer he would find his Majesty...

“When he lies asleep,
And in his ear I’ll holla ‘Mortimer!’
Nay, I’ll have a starling shall be taught to speak
Nothing but ‘Mortimer,’ and give it him,
To keep his anger still in motion.”
[1st Henry IV – I, 3]

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