On May 27th, 1784, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart met a flirtatious little starling in a Viennese shop who sang an improvised version of the theme from his Piano Concerto no. 17 in G major. Sensing a kindred spirit in the plucky young bird, Mozart bought him and took him home to be a family pet. For three years, the starling lived with Mozart, influencing his work and serving as his companion, distraction, consolation, and muse.
Two centuries later, starlings are reviled by even the most compassionate conservationists. A nonnative, invasive species, they invade sensitive habitats, outcompete local birds for nest sites and food, and decimate crops. A seasoned birder and naturalist, Lyanda Lynn Haupt is well versed in the difficult and often strained relationships these birds have with other species and the environment. But after rescuing a baby starling of her own, Haupt found herself enchanted by the same intelligence and playful spirit that had so charmed her favorite composer.
In Mozart's Starling, Haupt explores the unlikely and remarkable bond between one of history's most cherished composers and one of earth's most common birds. The intertwined stories of Mozart's beloved pet and Haupt's own starling provide an unexpected window into human-animal friendships, music, the secret world of starlings, and the nature of creative inspiration. A blend of natural history, biography, and memoir, Mozart's Starling is a tour de force that awakens a surprising new awareness of our place in the world.
Haupt's book has a sprightly energy of its own and is crammed with intelligent observations about what it is like to live with a starling. * TLS * A delightful book, whose pages are enlivened by the subversive presence of [Haupt's] pet starling, Carmen. * Evening Standard, Our Pick of the Books This Year * This is a charming book, and a nuanced one, too. Carmen herself offers a unique window on both the avian and musical worlds, and in so doing leaves us in doubt that this much-maligned species is also blessed with many charms. * The Lady, Book of the Week * A compelling blend of natural history, biography and memoir * Sunday Express *
Lyanda Lynn Haupt is an ecophilosopher, naturalist, and author of several books, including The Urban Bestiary, Crow Planet, Pilgrim on the Great Bird Continent, and Rare Encounters with Ordinary Birds. A winner of the Washington State Book Award and the Sigurd F. Olson Nature Writing Award, she lives in Seattle with her husband and daughter.