The Friday Fact

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the pretty (but irritating) starling

Shakespeare may have been a great playwright, but sometimes the strange and unusual things that he’s caused people to do over the years are even more interesting than his plays. Lots of people, from scholars to other writers to just plain eccentrics, have been inspired by the Bard to write, create, study and… do some really weird things.

Shakespeare’s for the birds!

In his plays, Shakespeare mentions birds quite a few times. In 1890, an overenthusiastic Shakespeare fan decided to record every species of bird mentioned in the plays, and bring them to New York. This man, Eugene Schiffelin, decided that North America should contain a bird from every Shakespeare play. This didn’t work particularly well for most of these birds – between the change in climate and habitat from England to North America, many died. However, the hardy starling – a bird Shakespeare particularly liked, probably because it can mimic the sound of a human voice – managed to survive in New York.

Actually, the birds kind of took over New York! Schiffelin had 60 brought over, and there are now an estimated 200 million starlings in the city’s Central Park. They are actually kind of annoying – forcing other birds out of habitats, pooping everywhere, and generally being noisy and bird-like. It was perhaps an idea best left unexecuted, but nevertheless, at least Shiffelin found his way into the historical record somehow!

Click here or here for more information on Shakespeare’s starlings!

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