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Starlings Murmur over Brighton

In the U.S. starlings are slaughtered by the millions, but in their native England they are enjoyed as one of the most mysterious spectacles.

Nature groups give tours of the starlings, but you can just show up yourself at dusk at the Brighton Pier, where 50,000 some starlings murmur–that is, swarm in a hypnotizingly coordinated dance in an effort to evade the hawks that are trying to eat them.

The starlings have always hung around Brighton, Sussex, but moved to the pier after a big storm knocked over their favorite trees in 1987. Their supporters think that’s just as well: the setting is gorgeous; the birds are safe from people; and the city is safe from guano. “You could not really have them in a more ideal spot. It is a great spectacle to have 50,000 birds in a big town wheeling about,” Steve Berry from English Nature told Regency Brighton. Starlings are legally protected in the UK; their numbers have fallen 66% since the 1970s, the RSPB reports.

Starlings (Sturnus vulgaris), clever mimics with shimmering, multi-colored feathers, are treated far differently in the U.S. The 200 million that live here are treated an invasive species and pest here, topping the biological services hit list. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, improbably still in the business of mass culls of animals, especially predators, kills 1,117,000 starlings a year.

A homesick Brit, Eugene Scheiffelin, introduced 100 starlings into Central Park in 1891, hoping to enjoy every bird here that was mentioned in the works of William Shakespeare, David Ian Withers writes. Mozart had a pet starling and some people still do, the fan site Starling Talk says. Just shows you can have fun even with a common bird.




Visit Brighton suggests Brighton Pier, the Brighton Marina or West Marina for a starling show.

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