West documents one hapless bird, caught in a web of string, shrieking "Basic research!" at its owners; another screeching "I have a question!" as it squirms while having its feet doctored. The speech patterns of one bird routinely precedes its rendition of "hi" with the sound of a human sniffle--a combination traced to his caregiver being allergic.Collier is using this skill to turn the species into an environmental teaching tool. He has mounted a project to teach the starlings to speak the name of their patron.
The first and most simple strategy is to find a starling and shout "Schieffelin" to it. Research by West and King has shown that starlings have the ability to learn a word or phrase after hearing it only once. To increase the success rate, I recommend repeating "Schieffelin" as many times as possible to an individual or group of starlings.
"Eventually, the starlings themselves will begin to carry the name "Schieffelin" through their North American population. Research by West and King has shown that starlings can learn sounds from one another. With the teaching of just a few "Schieffelin" can spread, as a virus would, through a population."
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