like to share with you a story about our pet,
Kuro, a wild starling that I found when I was
12 years old. At that time, he was just a small,
featherless hatchling that had fallen out of a
nest at my primary school. Two children were teasing
him, so I took him away from them and brought
him home in a styrofoam cup.
We initially thought he was a blackbird, so we named him "Kuro"
which means "black" in Japanese. After a quick trip to the library
however, we confirmed that Kuro was a baby starling. He was such a hungry
little bird. We fed him dog food several times a day. He grew rapidly
and was soon a cute, juvenile starling with nice grey-brown feathers.
He quickly learned his name and would respond with a squawk every time
we called out his name. We also gave him flying lessons in the house and
were careful that he didn't fly outside--we didn't ever want to lose our
darling starling who had instantly become an important member of our family.
Within weeks, he learned how to fly. He soon started adopting more and
more human habits such as taking daily baths with my father every morning,
joining us at every meal and sleeping on top or under the covers with
us for a nap. Our house was his home and our family lived in his cage!
As you can imagine, for most of my childhood and adolescence, I often
experienced "wet steps" walking on our carpet throughout our
house and wore, unknowingly of course, white-stained clothes to school!
When he was a few months old, we were all very delighted to discover that
Kuro could mimic words and sounds. He could say "good bird!",
"pretty bird!" "Kiss!", "Kuro stay!" and
many combinations thereof, as well as whistle many tunes including the
William Tell overture and "Pop Goes the Weasel". His songs and
voice were remarkably clear; in fact, he could imitate mechanical sounds
such as the "beep, beep" of my watch so precisely that whenever
I'd hear "beep, beep", I had to look down at my watch to see
if it was my watch or him! He really loved to sing and would listen so
intently whenever I would whisper or whistle to him. He would also never
miss the opportunity of whistling along with my sister whenever she practiced
playing the organ.
Kuro listening to my mother play the
would often amaze and surprise visitors with his
mimicry talent whenever they came to our house.
You could catch him singing day and night, except
of course when I needed him to sing or talk.......
One day, I was interviewed about my bird on the
CBC Canadian radio show, "As It Happens".
Michael Enright, the host, had done a show on
bird mimicry and had heard about Kuro and our
family from an interview with renowned psychologist,
Dr. Meredith West. (see Mozart's
Starling) I was then called to do a follow-up
interview. I knew Kuro would not let me down,
as he ALWAYS sings. And in fact, I brought Kuro
and the phone for the interview into our bathroom,
because Kuro loved to hang out there and sing
because he loved the acoustical effect of "singing
in the shower".
interview call came. All was going well. I bragged about how Kuro loves
to sing, always sings and how clearly he could mimic songs and words. Michael
then asked, "Can you please make Kuro say/sing something?" I then
replied, "sure". I brought the phone close to Kuro. As you can
imagine, rather than him looking curiously at it as he often does with new
objects, he looked at it and looked at me with
an expression, "What are you
this big, plastic object in my face? Get it away from me!" He totally
clammed up and did not peep a single sound! I was so embarrassed, as this
show was broadcast across the nation. I continued on with the interview
trying to keep calm and at the same time, trying to get Kuro to say SOMETHING.
Not a word. As Michael was wrapping up the interview thanking me for my
time, I was at once frustrated and humored that Kuro had done the "singing
frog" trick. I hung up. It was silent in the bathroom--but only for
a second as Kuro belted: "Good bird!" and started whistling the
William Tell overture......I guess he, like any other person might, had
experienced performance anxiety!
memorable moment was when Kuro flew outside during the second year we
had him. Our whole family was devastated that he had flown away, but I
vowed to find him. I rode my bike screaming, "Kuro! Kuro! Where are
you?" There were a million starlings on the front lawns of houses
in our Don Mills suburban setting so I started to lose hope of ever finding
him. After about an hour and in tears, I came across my neighbor's tree
that had a bird preening his feathers. I called out, "Kuro?"
The bird didn't fly away so I came closer to the tree......as I looked
up, there was a starling in the middle of summer with his full winter
feathers on (as he was domesticated, he always got his winter/summer coats
mixed up!). He was also soaking wet so he had obviously taken a bath somewhere
during his short adventure outside! I knew without a doubt, I had found
my bird again. I coaxed him down from the tree, left my bike where it
was and ran home with him in my hands, crying of joy.
Kuro was around three years old, we wrote Kuro the Starling as a
summer project. My mother had gone to Japan for a few months to tend to
her sick mother, leaving our father to temporarily take care of us. We were
aged 12-17 years so you can imagine the
chaos in our house! We were arguing with each other every day and missed
our mother terribly so in an attempt to re-bond the sisters and keep us
busy, my father proposed a project to write a story about Kuro. We all agreed
and worked over the summer to write a script about our beloved bird. We
then submitted the manuscript to various publishers and got accepted by
one that was looking to publish a short story as part of a series of readers
for grade 3 students for schools in Canada. We were very delighted that
a publisher accepted it and also to have such a great memento of our Kuro.
was always fun with Kuro. He loved to jump on all the presents gathered
around the tree and tug at all the shiny ribbons. He also loved to rip
up some of the wrapping, so there were many occasions when we knew exactly
what we were getting from Santa! Every
year, we would buy a little gift for Kuro. I remember one year my sister
made little "Kuro" replicas out of clay as his Christmas gift.
He helped tear the gift open but when he saw the other "starlings"
he was a little scared of them at first--afterall he had never seen "starlings"
pecking at his gift
out Ayumi's play dough replicas of him