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Brian Collier, \
Brian Collier, "I'll Have a Starling." Installation view, Carnegie Art Center, Tonawanda, NY, 2003.

Brian Collier, Photo display stand, Carnegie Art Center, 2003.   Brian Collier, Detail of "I'll Have a Starling": Photo display stand, Carnegie Art Center, Tonawanda, NY, 2003.
Brian Collier, Vitrine, Carnegie Art Center, Tonawanda, NY, 2003.   Brian Collier, Detail of "I'll Have a Starling": Vitrine, Carnegie Art Center, Tonawanda, NY, 2003.
Brian Collier, Motorized flock model, Carnegie Art Center, Tonawanda, NY, 2003.   Brian Collier, Detail of "I'll Have a Starling": Motorized flock model, Carnegie Art Center, Tonawanda, NY, 2003.
Brian Collier

I'll Have a Starling

Nay, I'll have a starling shall be taught to speak nothing but 'Mortimer,' and give it him to keep his anger still in motion.
William Shakespeare, Henry IV, Part 1, 1:3

This short quote was enough for Eugene Schieffelin, between 1890 and 1891, to introduce approximately eighty European starlings into New York City's Central Park. Schieffelin's simple act initiated a species invasion that would be successful beyond his wildest dreams.

Schieffelin was a member of the New York chapter of the Acclimation Society of North America, which aimed to import a little bit of England wherever its people settled. Schieffelin had decided that it was his calling to introduce all the birds referenced in the works of Shakespeare into North America. Fortunately, his attempts to introduce bullfinches, chaffinches, nightingales, and skylarks were unsuccessful. The European starling, however, has attained an estimated population of 200,000,000 since its introduction.

Ironically, the first documented nest site was discovered under the eaves of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Starling populations then began their rapid advance westward—eventually occupying a large portion of the continent, threatening native birds, and taking the role of ubiquitous nuisance. Some scientists speculate that their remarkable early success can be partly attributed to the fact that large portions of the dense eastern forests had been cut down by the late nineteenth century, creating an ideal environment for a bird adapted to prairies and open fields. The North American starling population has grown at an exponential rate and has only recently been showing signs of slowing. Global starling populations are estimated at around 600,000,000, of which the North American population, though only 112 years old, already makes up one third.

"I'll Have a Starling" installation elements include: thirteen framed archival digital prints, alcohol-preserved starling, three-dimensional photograph display stand, motorized model of a starling flock, a handmade book outlining harmful effects of starlings, maps showing starling-related Mozart piece, book of Shakespeare showing the initial quote that inspired their introduction, and a small shadowbox containing cutouts of native bird species. Installation dimensions variable.

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