Monday, September 22, 2008

Morning Starling

On 8th Avenue Friday morning not far from the circle a woman had thrown the leftovers of some pork chops into the street where Starlings and Pigeons fought for pecking rights. This Starling was taking a break, or perhaps seeking sanctuary from the city buses that kept breaking up the frenzy.

I didn't know Starlings ate pork chops. I did know, from reading A Natural History of New York City by John Kiernan, that they like eating Japanese Beetles and put a big dent in the insect's populations once they discovered the abundant larvae available at ground level. I remember seeing those metallic beetles when I was a kid. I don't think I've seen one in a long time! For that matter, when was the last time I saw a telephone booth on a corner? Where is Superman supposed to change these days?

From what I've read, the Starlings were the superbugs' kryptonite. While we can thank them for protecting our darling plants from the voracious beetles that arrived from the orient around 1916, we can shake our heads that the speckled birds elbowed so many of the area's bluebirds (and no doubt other species) out of their nesting grounds. Well, there's that compelling mix again, the good with the bad, an acquired taste popular with Jungians.

According to Kiernan, Starlings, which for some reason were kept as caged pets in European households, made their grand entrance to the New World in 1890 when sixty imported birds were turned loose in Central Park. The House Sparrows beat them to it by 40 years when they launched from Green-Wood.

I wonder what qualities made Starlings popular pets. Maybe some clues here.


M.Thew said...

Cf. Hotspur, in Shakespeare's 1st Henry IV, 1.3

Bluebird of Friendliness said...

There's an honest-to-goodness telephone booth on the corner of W.66th and West End Avenue in Manhattan. I've seen it. You may enjoy this:

Brenda from Flatbush said...

I've had it in for starlings ever since they hijacked the Thanksgiving turkey carcass I put out for the alley cats and ate it down to the marrow--ugh. Yet I can't help admitting they're glossy, handsome and real urban survivors (or invaders)...and I love their happy "wolf whistles" on a beautiful morning. The 'Kuro' story is amazing.

amarilla said...

The Hotspur Starling? Starling as conscience, maybe. Not so the Hotspur Popinjay. So nice to revisit Shakespeare, his characters are so profoundly articulate.

Thanks for the enrichment, as usual. I'll look into the payphone project, Bluebird, and I also loved the Kuro story. But I'm not sure I know what the intriguing "wolf whistles" are.