Thursday, May 6, 2010

Starlings, Darlings

This morning, as I sat on the dining room patio and sipped my coffee, I watched the starling going to and from the birdhouse. After a few minutes' observation, I realized that it was cleaning out the old nesting materials and bringing in new ones. S/he would emerge from the house with a beakful of dried leaves and grasses and engage in a highly dramatic shaking loose of them. Then s/he'd fly away for a few seconds and reappear with fresh green leaves clutched in her beak, and re-enter the birdhouse to deposit them. The most entertaining aspect of the whole procedure was an occasional foray upon the roof of the birdhouse to declaim loudly and with great feeling about its endeavors. At moments like these, I would dearly love to know just exactly what this impassioned oratory is intended to relay. Were this a human mother or father rather than an avian one, I imagine it would be something along the lines of the ingratitude of children who leave messes behind for their parents to clean up.

This evening, again ensconced upon the patio, I watched another starling ritual which was even more perplexing. Perched on the roof of the birdhouse, the bird flapped its wings wildly in a forward windmill motion, all the while screeching wildly at the sky. It repeated this behavior 2 or 3 times, then flew off into the twilight. Once again, I wished I knew what this was all about. From what I read on the Cornell ornithology website just now, it sounds like some sort of aggressive warning to other birds. But why at this particular time? Is it like an avian burglar alarm?

I suppose I could ruminate on how its behaviors are a metaphor for life but I'll leave that to more philosophical gardeners than I. Despite its being considered a nuisance bird by some, I don't really begrudge the starling its spot in my garden. If you look closely at one, as I did tonight while I watered plants near the birdhouse, you see what a beautiful bird it really is.

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