STARLINGS IN NEW ZEALAND.
[TO THE EDITOR OP THE "SPECTATOR."]
Sin,—It may interest you to hear that the starling keeps up its reputation here as a "mocking-bird," and like a good Colonist adapts itself to altered circumstances. A few days ago I heard one imitating perfectly the cry of the weka (Ocydromus). As these birds are no longer found within miles of Christchurch, it was a puzzle to think where the bird had heard it, until I learnt that an acquaintance a, few streets away had recently got one as a pet. I imagine only individual birds become great performers. Our starling is a fine hand- some fellow, whose favourite perch is close to the gate. The last two Septembers, when the whitebait swarm up the rivers, our bird gives a very good rendering of the "White- bet, whitebet " of the old Italian fisherman passing along the street. The distant clamour of sea-gulls flying far overhead is given so realistically that I have often looked up expecting to see them. At up-country homesteads I have often heard starlings bleat like young lambs, and my son-in-law tells me he was thoroughly deceived by a starling whose soft sotto voce bark so exactly resembled that of a dog far away that he twice climbed to the top of a hill, under the impression that a young collie he was training was "rounding up" sheep on his own account. The dog in question had a very peculiar bark. All this mimicry is in addition to their own individual song and clattering of "tiny castanets" which you have so
graphically described.-1 am, Sir, &c., A. G. H. Christchurch, New Zealand, July 13th.