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Sunday, November 11, 2012

The lowly starling has disappeared

Starlings used to number in the millions around here, and no one could sleep in of a morning due to their relentless chattering that began as soon as the sun began to appear.

But now they are all gone from here and the mornings are still and bereft of sound.

The Lowly Starling

It has many detractors... and a few fans

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.
From the BirdNote blog:

Mozart's Pet Bird 

On the 27 May 1784, Mozart bought a new pet: a Starling which he named 'Vogel Star'. His entry in his expenses book of the same date reads:

27 May 1784 starling bird 34 kreuzer

The remarkable thing about this bird was its ability to whistle tunes, and to imitate his master's compositions. The most famous example of this is related toMozart's Piano Concerto #17 in G, K. 453. Mozart's thematic catalogue has the completion of the concerto on the 12th April 1784 - a month and a half before the acquisition of his new Starling.

In the expense book, Mozart jotted down a single line that looks identical to the main theme of the 3rd movement of the G major piano concerto. The only main difference being that the melody in the expense book is without the grace notes, which feature heavily in the concerto. Underneath the passage, Mozart wrote 'That was fine!', leading most scholars to believe that he had jotted down what his new bird had whistled: the 3rd movement to his G major piano concerto.

Unfortunately, however, Vogel Star died in 1787, and Mozart buried his beloved pet on 4 June. Coincidentally, Leopold died seven days before Vogel Star, and in tribute to his bird, Mozart wrote a poem, which might have been an obituary for his father rather than the Starling:

Here rests a bird called Starling,
A foolish little Darling.
He was still in his prime
When he ran out of time,
And my sweet little friend
Came to a bitter end,
Creating a terrible smart
Deep in my heart.
Gentle reader! Shed a tear,
For he was dear,
Sometimes a bit too jolly
And, at times, quite folly,
But nevermore
A bore.
I bet he is now up on high
Praising my friendship to the sky,
Which I render
Without tender;
For when he took his sudden leave,
Which brought to me such grief,
He was not thinking of the man
Who writes and rhymes as no one can.

Perhaps a poignant reminder of the volatile relationship Mozart had with his late father. Some have also suggested that the first composition completed by Mozart after the death of his bird, K. 522 A Musical Joke, is a tribute to the whistling and liveliness of Vogel Star.  Nissen, Mozart’s biographer, also tells how Mozart gave the Starling a funeral, concluding with its burial. He says that Mozart composed music for the little service, which is now lost.

The Lowly Starling  (copyrighted material, including photos by Jo-Ann

by Jo-Ann, Nature's Wonders blog, March 23, 2011

Sometimes we forget how beautiful the lowly things around us. The starling is a junk bird. A problem child in the neighborhoods. Originally from China he does not have natural predator in this hemisphere. They flock together and raid pet foods and farms produce. But in reality he is incredibly beautiful.

A young starling is a soft brown and later turns the common black. His beak also turns from yellow to black with the seasons.

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