A passion for mischief…

Author:  Lyanda Lynn Haupt

So Mozart had a pet bird.  It’s not a topic that sounds particularly captivating.  But in the hands of Seattle-based “ecophilosopher”, bird enthusiast and award-winning author Lyanda Lynn Haupt, the story of the 18th century’s greatest composer and an unassuming starling comes to life in ways that I didn’t expect.  Mozart’s Starling delivers a remarkable look at music, birds and everything in between.

Common starling photo

A common starling, planning shenanigans.

Before Haupt can tackle the topic, however, she has to go all in and find a pet starling of her own.  As it turns out, plucking a tiny baby starling from its nest under the eaves of the restroom at a local park – while probably technically illegal – is the easiest part of the entire production.  Keeping the helpless bird – Carmen – alive and teaching her to behave in some sort of civilized manner prove to be much more challenging.

But the author’s efforts at bird caretaking pay off, providing a vast amount of insight into what life might have been like for a passionate and hyperkinetic composer and his equally energetic avian companion.  Haupt takes that inspiration and dives deeply into Mozart’s life, excising away much of the myth that has surrounded the story of the man and his bird.

Mozart's home photo

The Mozart family home in Salzburg, where his starling made mischief.

Displaying an infectious enthusiasm, Haupt deftly balances fascinating natural history with intriguing biography and inspiring – often comical – personal adventure.  Using some finely honed empathy and a remarkable tolerance for random splotches of bird shit, she finds a way to connect with her adopted avian charge.  She then uses the insight she gains to speculate about life in the Mozart household, somehow managing to get into the head of the long-deceased composer.  Often based on only the faintest historical trails, it’s an extraordinary feat that’s a joy to behold.

Providing a rebranding for one of North America’s most despised birds, Mozart’s Starling couldn’t be more fun.   Whether cute birds, classical music or zany adventures are your thing, this story is sure to entertain.

— D. Driftless

Starling photo by PierreSelim (CC BY-SA 3.0)/Salzburg photo by MbahGondrong (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Check out my enthusiastic review of another Haupt book, this time about Charles Darwin, called Pilgrim on the Great Bird Continent.

Or you could check out my review of a book about a different kind of pet bird, The Owl Who Liked Sitting on Caesar.

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