I’ve mentioned Stars and Stripes, our European Starlings, many times in my blog posts. I’ve also mentioned that they talk … and yet, my readers have had nothing but my word to go on as to the truth of that.
All that has changed! I’ve finally, after quite a few months of trying to figure out a way to record them, come to a solution. You see, if they see any kind of recording device, they clam right up. Likewise with becoming upset at the sight of the camera. However, for the past several days, I’ve been acclimating them to the presence of a micro cassette recorder placed on top of their cage. Today, finally, they resumed their normal chatter with it running.
Please excuse the background noise and less than pristine quality of these clips. I’ve got a cable on the way that will allow me to patch the cassette recorder directly into the microphone jack on my computer. However, Stars was so chatty this morning that I couldn’t resist doing this the hard way … by just holding the mic to the speaker on the recorder.
These clips are in the form of .wav files, so any computer that can play standard sound files should be able to hear them. Clicking the link for each file should open it in a new browser tab or window for you.
And now, without further ado, I present to you Stars Nastasi, the talking Starling! (His clutch mate also talks, by the way, but Stars seems to be the more vocal of the duo).
1. laugh.wav (632K) — We start out with a short clip of Stars laughing. I can’t hear this silly chuckle without laughing myself. It’s as addictive as a yawn!
2. (whoshere)_Mommy.wav (451K) — You hear me ask, “Who’s here?” and Stars responds, “Mommy!”
3. whosaprettybird(short).wav (433K) — Their favorite phrase is “Who’s a pretty bird?”
4. whosaprettybird(clear).wav (1447K) — Stars wolf-whistles then whistles a little song. Then he says “Who’s a baby”, and then, really clearly, “Who’s a pretty bird?” I respond and then he says, more quietly, “Who’s a bay-bird” (baby-bird contraction).
5. pretty_baby_conversation.wav (1331K) — Stars says “You’re a pretty baby” and I respond with the same. Then I repeat that just as he says “Bird.” And then he asks, “Who is a baby” and then “Who’s a pray-bee?” (their combination of “pretty” and “baby”).
6. kisses_here-kitty_whistles.wav (513K) — My favorite. You’ll hear Stars mew-mew, then do some kisses (part of calling the cat). He then says, “Here, Kitty!” and wolf-whistles.
More Starling Talk: Stripes the Talking Starling
Update, January 2014: I would be remiss if I didn’t add Whistle to this page! In 2010, the first “baby season” after moving into my Dad’s house after he passed, I raised and released a clutch of 6 baby starlings. Well, let me rephrase that. I raised six; I released five. The night of their release, one baby was still in the outside aviary. It was the littlest starling, the one we called “Whistle” simply because he would sit long after the others went to sleep at night, singing away to them. He was in a panic, screaming, slamming himself against the sides of the cage, and I could feel the fear and the emotions of, “Don’t make me go out there!” piercing right through me. Still unable to get around very well at that point, I sent my son into the aviary, who quite easily captured the little fellow and we brought him back inside. He flew to a shoulder and started singing happily, very pleased to have been heard. Whistle is still here, and though not as tame as Stars and Stripes, still quite happy to be close to humans and in a safe and loving home. He talks as well (pretty much all day long … he’s jabbering about how the girls are pretty baby birds and asking them “Who’s your mommy, pretty bird?” right now, in fact). He’s where he desired … nay, demanded … to be, and is a living example of the fact that their plans don’t always jive with our own!
Video of Turkeys dancing with Whistle talking in the background (read notes below clip to figure out what he’s saying, he doesn’t speak as clearly as the older two.
And another update: You will see Stars and Stripes referred to as “he” in various places, and Whistle as “she”. That’s how I thought it was until, in the summer of ’13, I revisited all the starling identification websites and realized I have had it backwards all along. My bad. We’re still getting used to calling the girls “girls” and Whistle a boy, and they don’t seem to care one way or another.