Roman skies

Jonathan Rosen in the NY Times:

22birds190 In Europe, where the birds are native — Mozart had a pet starling that could sing a few bars of his piano concerto in G major — they still have the power to turn heads. Each fall and winter, vast flocks gather in Rome. They spend the day foraging in the surrounding countryside but return each evening to roost. (Rachel Carson, author of “Silent Spring,” called the birds reverse commuters.) They put on breathtaking aerial displays above the city, banking in nervous unison, responding like a school of fish to each tremor inside the group.

The birds are beloved by tourists and reviled by locals — understandably, since the droppings cover cars and streets, causing accidents and general disgust. A flock of starlings is euphoniously called a “murmuration,” but there is nothing poetic about their appetites. Their ability to focus both eyes on a single object — binocular vision — allows them to peck up stationary seeds as well as insects on the move. In the countryside outside Rome, they feast on olives. Like us, the birds are enormously adaptable but what we admire in ourselves we often abhor in our neighbors.

Photographs by Richard Barnes.

More here.