April 22, 2007

Bad imitation

96 Carolina chickadee
97 chimney swift
98 whip-poor-will
(total on this date in 2006: 89)

This morning I ran to my window after hearing a Carolina chickadee sing like an aging rocker attempting an old hit. Instead I saw a starling.

Half a minute later I heard the starling's inspiration
nearby: a textbook (songbook?) Carolina chickadee. I knew starlings were mimics, but didn't realize the extent.

If starlings weren't mimics, they probably wouldn't be in North America. Starlings were introduced in New York's Central Park in 1890 to honor their appearance in Shakespeare.
In Henry IV Hotspur thinks he could antagonize Mortimer using a starling's ability to imitate the human voice (Shakespeareans can use "starling" as a find command here).

The whip-poor-will cranked up right before dark. I hardly hear them these days, but as a kid a whip-poor-will was a permanent summer fixture in the woods behind our house.


Anonymous Michelle said...

Ah yes, Stormy. Stormy's audio files have made him famous in pet-starling-owner circles :D I have one myself, named Gonzo. Gonzo not only speaks in my voice, but also imitates various noises from around the house: cell phone rings, shower pipes squeaking, the sound of his cage being opened. My favorite thing though is him calling the dogs (in my voice of course).

I found your website Googling around trying to figure out whether Gonzo could maybe earn his keep by helping me dispose of the tent caterpillars that are messing with my Yoshino cherry tree. Enjoy the bird-watching.

Blogger Jeff Durbin said...

Thank you for the comment. Hopefully I'll soon dominate the starling-owner-with-caterpillar-problem demographic!

My mimic starling is now a regular outside my window. It also does a blue jay, cardinal, and angry squirrel. I've always disliked starlings because they displace native birds, but I'm almost changing my mind.

I found this amazing video (interesting part starts around 20 seconds): http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-4782817775120383631


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