Teach the Starlings

As I was poking around the web to piece together a post about the smart and elegant site, verysmallobjects.com, I found myself on the warehouse site of its artist Brian D. Collier. From here I was immediately distracted from my original goal as I found myself on another of his art sites, Teach the Starlings.

To put it simply, Collier would like us all to take a few moments of our time and teach the starlings around us to say, “Schieffelin.” Eugene Scheiffelin being the incredibly short sighted fellow who decided to introduce the birds of Shakespeare to the United States in the late 19th century. One of which is the European starling.

Though many of Scheiffelin’s introduced birds never really took off, those beloved little starlings virtually spread like wildfire across North America, displacing staggering numbers of native birds from their niches. With a North American population of more than 200 million, it is now the most common bird on the continent. Nice going, Scheiffelin.

As part of this project, Collier is inviting us all to take advantage of the learning power of these starlings and introduce the name Scheiffelin into their vocabulary. Collier proposes several methods of doing this, the easiest of which is, “to find a starling and shout “Schieffelin” to it.” (Check out the rest on the site). It’s a brilliant idea and one that, if successful, will be a clever way to preserve the history of how the starlings were introduced to the new world. As Collier puts it, “you can help change the starling from an unwanted invader to a productive environmental teaching tool.”

And while you’re at it, check out The Collier Classification System for Very Small Objects. It’s an older project of Collier’s but no less compelling.

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