December 28, 2013

Wearing Winter Stars

Common Starling
(Sturnus vulgaris)
One of my favorite winter birds, the starling is not native to North America. It was introduced in the nineteenth century by newcomers who had a passion for Shakespeare and longed for a bit of the old country in their new homeland. After a few centuries on this continent, they have adjusted and are as native as any feathered settler can ever be, populating the new world in the hundreds of thousands, if not in millions.

Noisy, exuberant and sociable to a fault, starlings travel in large flocks, often in company with blackbirds and grackles, and one always knows when they are about. They are clowns, but they are also gifted songsters with remarkable repertoires of whistles, warbles and trills, and they are superb mimics, often perching in trees in springtime and imitating the voices of song sparrows, robins and and thrushes.   I have spent many an hour in April looking high and low for a robin when a starling was pretending to be one and thought it was a fine joke.
When most other birds have done the sensible thing and headed south, starlings remain in the snowbound north, and they stay around all through the long white season, livening our days with their operatic performances, their rude jokes and their cavorting .

I love them because they are bold and sassy, because they are trickster birds, because they have bright yellow beaks and wear beautiful glossy stars in winter.

1 comment:

Lilian Nattel said...

I like starlings too. And I didn't realize that they are literary birds! Thanks!