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The Lowly Starling

It has many detractors... and a few fans
© Chris Moody View Large

Much maligned as a pest and cursed by many as an "invasive species," the European Starling has had many fans, too. Eugene Schieffelin introduced about 50 pairs into the United States in the 1890s. And Rachel Carson noted that the starling carries "more than 100 loads of destructive insects per day to his screaming offspring.'' No less a figure than Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart kept a pet European Starling and wrote a poem* about it when it died.

Full Transcript

Transcript: 
BirdNote®
The Lowly Starling

Written by Ellen Blackstone

This is BirdNote!

Consider the lowly starling. [Squawks of a starling]

Much maligned as a pest and cursed by many as an “invasive species,” the European Starling has had many fans, too. Eugene Schieffelin thought enough of the starling—or of Shakespeare—to introduce about 50 pairs into the United States in the 1890s. Schieffelin attempted to bring all of the birds mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays into this country.

Rachel Carson, author of Silent Spring, said of the starling: ''In spite of his remarkable success as a pioneer, the starling probably has fewer friends than almost any other creature that wears feathers.” But she also noted that he carries: “more than 100 loads of destructive insects per day to his screaming offspring.'' [Squawks of a starling]

No less a figure than Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart kept a pet starling. The story goes that while Mozart was rehearsing his Piano Concerto #17 in G, the bird began whistling along. The composer liked the bird’s contribution so much that he actually wrote it into the concerto’s grace notes. [Lines with grace notes from 3rd movement behind]

And when Mozart’s beloved starling died, he wrote a poem* about it. You can read it when you come to our website, BirdNote.org. I’m Michael Stein.

###

Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Recorded by G.A. Keller.
Musical selection from Piano Concerto #17 in G Major, III Allegretto by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, piano and direction by Piotr Anderszewski,. EMI Records Ltd, 2006.
BirdNote’s theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
Producer:  John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
© 2015 Tune In to Nature.org   November 2014/2015   Narrator: Michael Stein
ID# 111306EUST2KPLU                   EUST-02b

*
A little fool lies here
Whom I held dear—
A starling in the prime
Of his brief time
Whose doom it was to drain
Death's bitter pain.
Thinking of this, my heart
Is riven apart.
Oh reader! Shed a tear,
You also, here.
He was not naughty, quite,
But gay and bright,
And under all his brag
A foolish wag.
This no one can gainsay
And I will lay
That he is now on high,
And from the sky,
Praises me without pay
In his friendly way.
Yet unaware that death
Has choked his breath,
And thoughtless of the one
Whose rime is thus well done.

   -- Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

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