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Animals and birds in Shakespeare

Shakespeare mentions the violet, pansy, primrose, cowslip, oxlip, daisy, daffodil, rose, dog-rose, lady-smock, lily, marigold, carnation, and many other trees and shrubs.



What kinds of birds does Shakespeare mention in his works? Shakespeare's works contain over 600 references to birds of all kinds, including the swan, bunting, cock, dove, robin, sparrow, nightingale, swallow, turkey, wren, starling, and thrush, just to name a few!

Shakespeare writes more about birds than any other poet. He includes the blackbird (ousel-cock), bunting, chough, cock, cormorant, crow, cuckoo, daw, dive-dapper, dove, duck, eagle, falcon, finch, fowl, goose, guinea hen, hedge sparrow, heron, jay, kestrel, kingfisher, kite, lapwing, lark, loon, magpie, mallard, martin (martlet) nightingale, osprey, ostrich, owl, paraquito, parrot, partridge, peacock, pelican, pheasant, phoenix, pigeon, popinjay, quail, raven, rook, sea gull, snipe, sparrow, starling, swallow, swan, thrush, turkey, vulture, woodcock, and wren.


     "THE instruction which may be drawn from Shakespeare is equal to the entertainment which his writings afford. We cannot peruse his works without having our understandins considerably enlarged. To promote, therefore, the knowledge of him is to contribute to general improvement." 1 )
     If Shakespeare is worth reading, moreover, he is worth explaining, and without a complete inquiry into his allusions the spirit of his writings can never be fully understood or appreciated. Pennant, in his 'British Zoology,' remarks that it is incumbent on every lover of Science to attempt placing the labours of ancient authors in a just light; to mark those errors that owe their origin to the darkness of the times; and to evince that many of their allusions are strictly true, many founded on truth, while many others contain a mixture of fable and reality which certainly merit the trouble of separation.
      It is plain that Shakespeare had much reading at least, if they will not call it learning. Whatever object of Nature or branch of Science he either speaks of or describes, it is always with competent if not exclusive knowledge; his descriptions are still exact; all his metaphors appropriate, and remarkably drawn from the true nature and inherent qualities of each subject . 2 ) Indeed, it was the opinion of Dr. Johnson that Shakespeare commonly derived his knowledge of Nature from his own observation, and no one can fail to be delighted with the variety and richness of the images which he has derived from Natural History.
    Having, from a mere love of the subject and admiration for the poet, carefully perused his plays, to ascertain what knowledge he possessed respecting birds, our inquiry has resulted in the following notes, which, it is conceived, will be found of sufficient interest to entertain all lovers of birds.
     We have extracted every sentence of note in which there is any allusion to birds, explaining where explanation seemed necessary, and occasionally illustration from other authors. It may with truth be said that there are many passages in Shakespeare's plays which, to one unacquainted with the habits of birds or ignorant of the terms employed in falconry, would be wholly unitelligible, but which, being interpreted, are found to contain the most beautiful and forcible metaphors. 3 ) Take, for example, the passage which occurs in 'Othello' (Act iii, Sc. 3), where the Moor compares his suspected wife to a "haggard falcon" 4 )
      From the following list it will be seen that no less than forty-three species of birds are mentioned or alluded to by Shakespeare. In some instances the references are very numerous, and although it has been our endeavour as much as possible to connect them, and so make our notes less disjointed, it has been found oftentimes impracticable from their nature to accomplish this.



Shakespeare wrote more about birds than any other poet in western literature. S All the European Starlings in North America descended from 100 birds released in New York's Central Park in the early 1890s. A group dedicated to introducing America to all the birds mentioned in Shakespeare's works set the birds free. Today, European Starlings range from Alaska to Florida and northern Mexico, and their population is estimated at over 200 million birds

  • Although the sexes look very similar, they do show some subtle differences. The male tends to be larger, more iridescent, and have longer throat feathers, but some females can be larger, more glossy, and have longer feathers than some males. During breeding when they have yellow bills, the base of a male's lower mandible is blue-gray, while the female's is pinkish. The male's eyes are a uniform deep brown, but the female has a narrow, lighter colored ring around the outer edge. In confusing cases, some males four years old or older can develop a faint ring in the eye, and some older females can lose it.
  • A female European Starling may try to lay an egg in the nest of another female. A female that tries this parasitic tactic often is one that could not get a mate early in the breeding season. The best females find mates and start laying early. The longer it takes to get started, the lower the probability of a nest's success. Those parasitic females may be trying to



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