Last fall, we had a huge flock of strange birds take over our feeders for one day. Many of them banged into our windows and one even fell to the ground, lifeless. We identified the rowdy visitors as starlings and we haven’t seen them in our yard since.
|Here’s what the intruders looked like. Not very pretty.|
I recently learned that starlings are not native the to U.S. Eugene Schieffelin brought them here. Actually, he brought about one hundred of them from Europe and released them in Central Park. He had this obsession to introduce all the birds mentioned in Shakespeare’s works to America, no easy task as Shakespeare mentions over 60 different birds. His experiment with starlings was wildly successful in one sense – they spread like crazy, leaving the U.S. with over 200 million of these pests. Our feeder visitors are included in that number. His attempts to introduce bullfinches, chaffinches, nightingales, skylarks, and song thrushes failed.
Funny, but the starling gets one lone mention in Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part I:
“The king forbade my tongue to speak of Mortimer. But I will find him when he is asleep, and in his ear I’ll holler ‘Mortimer!’ Nay I’ll have a starling shall be taught to speak nothing but Mortimer, and give it to him to keep his anger still in motion.”
I read this story about Mr. Schieffelin and his plan in an excerpt from Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. And that excerpt is from this book, which I recommend snuggling up with on cold winter mornings.
|edited by Gary Schmidt and Susan M. Felch|
For more on Eugene, Shakespeare, and the starlings, see this interesting New York Times piece which details some of the wild methods used in attempts to eradicate the species.
From joy to joy,