In Defence of Rome’s Starlings
Some say they have always been here, pattern auguries their ancient fame; others, that a species-drift southward around the time of the jazz age renewed their numbers. By whatever ark of arrival or remaining, the plane and ilex trees, the cypresses swollen into night-roosts, murmur with comfort and lore, forage sites swapped for warmth, density the currency of survival amid this melody of Italian place names. The peregrine falcon is ever-present, ever-vantaged, eyesight that scans a mile out, unmatched speed, reaction time thirteen times as fleet as man’s. If our eyes held their gravity, they would weigh four pounds and span three inches. To the artist, when the starlings take to the sunlit wing, they are rhapsodies of graphite, a shape-shifting stencil, a pointillist accordion. To the scientist, they blur the peregrine’s laser, crowd out the singular prey, each bird the vertex of a seven-pointed star that, with its confidants, knits a synaptic galaxy of beauty and evasion. Each bird senses the flock through its seven peers as the centre expands, the flank contracts, speed unwavering despite the alternating appearance. On the computer screen the mystery unbuttons, the awe swells anew.
Feature image by Eliza Brightwen