Mozart’s Starling

  • Mozart’s Starling by Lyanda Lynn Haupt (Little, Brown Book Group, London, 2017).
  • 288 pages, some black-and-white illustrations.
  • ISBN 9781472153050. Hbk, £14.99.

This book needs to be read with an American perspective, which the reader will understand early on. Starlings here in Britain are not necessarily so reviled by everyone as they seem to be in the United States, where even little old ladies trap and drown them by the hundreds, and where millions are ‘officially’ killed annually. 

The tensions and interrelations between music, birds and this embedded dislike of one species are thus a little different, and give the book a particular character that would be less easily understood in the context of our own declining Starling population. It is about Mozart and his tame Starling (which mimicked some of his music), and the author’s experience of rearing a Starling. It intertwines discussions of the introduced (in US terms) Starlings’ impact on the environment, the meaning of bird song (is it music, or not?), the structure of Mozart’s ears, how Starling flocks co-ordinate their movements, how birds learn to sing and copy other birds’ voices, and especially a great deal about Mozart and his music. 

Anyone interested in bird song, and especially anyone with an interest in classical music, will find this a good and stimulating read.

Written by: Rob Hume