Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was a brilliant composer who knew a great voice when he heard it. For the Austrian genius, that voice belonged to a starling he kept as a pet for three years.
Mozart acquired the starling in 1784, shortly after he had finished writing his Piano Concerto No. 17 in G. According to one researcher, the starling, which Mozart named Vogelstar (the German word for the bird species), sang a lovely version of the allegretto movement of the concerto.
Mozart so loved his feathered friend that he wrote an elegy for the bird in 1787, and also held a funeral for Vogelstar, during which he recited a poem he wrote. According to author Lyanda Lynn Haupt, who wrote the 2017 book Mozart's Starling, the composer understood what few others do about starlings. "Mozart himself was very mischievous, very clever, with kind of an eccentric personality," Haupt wrote. "And so we also see in the elegy he wrote for his pet that he had a deep understanding of the starling's personality, its friendliness, its foolishness."
- The common starling is one of 114 species of starlings, which live anywhere from two to 12 years or even more.
- Starlings are found all over the world, including in the Arctic, though they cannot survive in some of Earth's drier deserts.
- Starlings find strength in numbers, which is why some city and woodland roosts can contain 1.5 million birds.