Thursday, March 27, 2014


Study this photo closely. There is simply not another bird in this country hated as much as the European starling.

There are millions of them, millions, millions, millions, and we can blame the American Acclimatization Society and its president at the time, Eugene Schieffelin. The goal of the organization was to introduce into North America every bird species ever mentioned in the entire oeuvre of William Shakespeare.

We assume that perhaps the Bard would have been flattered. Perhaps. 

In 1890, after two failed attempts, Schieffelin released about 60 starlings into New York's Central Park, and the rest is history so to speak. 

Starlings have a post-Exxon Valdez oily look; they're also aggressive, noisy, messy, even mean. Most consider them a vile, spit on the ground, abomination, a Book of Job sorta pestilence.

But, of late, others are starting to see the beauty, the exquisite grace they achieve in vast flocks. In the case of starlings, there's artistry in numbers. Their aerial ballets performed at dusk are called murmurations. Each flying as one, yet in tune to the others, front and back, side to side, overhead and below. Flying as one.

Here's another video sent to me by a friend. As Winter says, their ability to dodge and weave and not crash into one another, to flow through the sky, to act as one even though they number in the thousands, is "almost inexplicable." Except it sounds so much better said with an English accent.

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