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Oh Starling…the Bard and the Bird

May 13, 2015

A good friend and colleague just started a fantastic blog, combining her twin passions of science and conservation with art! Her first post is about the introduction of starlings to the US — a fascinating story and one that greatly changed urban bird populations in the US. Check it out!

The Science of Illustration

Lord StarlingLady NightingaleSir Skylark

In 1890 Eugene Schieffelin, a member of the American Acclimatization Society, released 100 European Starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) into Central Park so that a breeding population might colonize and expand. He had done this several times before with other birds but with limited success. So what is the American Acclimatization Society and why was Eugene Schieffelin introducing starlings to Central Park?

Eugene Schieffelin, a drug manufacturer and Shakespeare enthusiast, intended to introduce all the birds mentioned in Shakespeare’s writings to the American landscape (apparently collecting stamps wasn’t his thing). The starling was mentioned in the play Henry IV in relation to it’s ability to mimic and how that ability could be used for dark deeds, “The king forbade my tongue to speak of Mortimer. But I will find him when he is asleep, and in his ear I’ll holler ‘Mortimer!’ Nay I’ll have a starling shall be taught to speak nothing…

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