How Mozart’s favorite star put a spanner in the works for him
In some rural locations, starlings squirm and roost in the hundreds – rather than the thousands attributed to West Cork last week – and robins are an international attraction.
Tarling (sturnus vulgaris) form tight units that spectacularly flow into each other. Often occurring at twilight, they are known as murmurations, the synchronicity of which leads naturalists to wonder if telepathy is at play. Not so.
Starling activity may attract attention, but robins are the real heartthrobs. I seek my regular visitor where the earth has been transformed to welcome the blossom.
But last week I saw an eye-catching robin-in-hand card image sent by a reader in Mullingar, who says he’s lucky enough to experience the joy of a robin coming to an outstretched hand, a ” magical sensation”.
The reader lives on the Royal Canal and says it is the place to experience “Robin therapy with tiny claws on your hand and the intense expression on Mr. Robin’s face”. The custom printed card has a ‘Robin Moments with Love’ logo, all pretty impressive.
There is no doubt that these little fellows evoke feelings of genuine affection – a mention here elicited reader reactions from France and around the world. Perhaps the bird awakened some thoughts of home abroad.
The flocks of starlings, once undesirable because of guano feces, have flight reaction times that make Olympic athletes look slow, says a British academic.
The large bird formation is said to make it difficult for predators such as sparrowhawks to kill individual birds. Professor Anne Goodenough of Gloucester University says the birds in these huge flocks don’t follow a master plan – each bird flies in formation with seven others
Starlings are comfortable around humans. Along Howth’s harbor promenade, small groups or individual birds can be found scurrying about underfoot in search of nuggets of food that gulls may have missed.
Public parks and athletic fields are popular at halftime, when there is a chance invertebrates may have been exposed through activity.
From Howth, a reader once sent a picture of a pink starling (Sturnus roseus), taken in a parking lot. This was a very rare blow-in from central Europe, fewer than a dozen of which could reach Ireland or the UK in the summer.
The gasping and bubbling star may not be a singer, but he’s an incredible mimic, imitating other birds, meowing cats, barking dogs, cell phones, radio taps and that’s aside from his endless babble, gurgles and whistles.
According to the naturalist Pliny, they were trained to speak Latin and Greek in ancient Rome, and Shakespeare mentions the bird in a play.
David Rothenberg in his book Why birds sing tells of Mozart’s favorite star whistling a fragment of what was then his latest concerto, KV 453, in G major – but the bird changed it to G sharp, producing a sound “ahead of its time”. When the bird died, the composer and his friends gave it a “proper burial”.
Like many other bird species, the number of starlings has increased significantly in recent years. So appreciate their iridescent plumage and high-flown antics, and chatter all the more the next time you meet them.
https://www.independent.ie/life/how-mozarts-pet-starling-gave-him-a-good-run-for-his-money-42393692.html How Mozart’s favorite star put a spanner in the works for him