Page:Bird Life Throughout the Year (Salter, 1913).djvu/95

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thrushes, listening to the chanting of the monks at vespers and prime, acquired and repeated the oft-heard refrain. But in this line our leading performer is unquestionably the Starling—the troubadour of the chimney-pots, giving to the term its true meaning of one who invents or improvises as he sings. Who does not know the starling on the roof or up in the elm tops as he sings, whistling, piping, wheezing and flapping his wings? This is genuine starling minstrelsy and all his own, but in early spring he runs over the whole repertoire of sounds which he has picked up at one time or another, interweaving them with his true notes in a series of reminiscences or character sketches. One starling gave a life-like rendering of the corn-crake, another hit off the green woodpecker's cry to a nicety, a third mimicked the yellow-hammer, and threw in one of the brown owl's notes. At the curlew's call we have looked up, to find that the only "curlew" in sight is the starling on the chimney-top. These powers of mimicry are of course shared by the starling with the members of the crow family, to which it is so nearly related.

Such are some of the ideas called forth by the first outburst of song in March. But bird minstrelsy is by no means confined to spring or to the breeding season, and this will appear (with the possible exception of tuneless August) as we trace the fortunes of our feathered acquaintance through the ensuing months.