For about three years the composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart kept a pet starling. The first record of the starling is the entry Mozart made in his expense book when he bought it on 27 May 1784:
- starling bird. 34 kreutzer.
- That was fine!
The music Mozart jotted down in the book is fairly close to the opening theme of the third movement of his Piano Concerto No. 17 in G, K. 453, which Mozart had completed a few weeks earlier (12 April). One theory is that Mozart taught the bird to sing this tune in the pet store, or wherever it was that he bought it. According to Mozart’s transcription, the starling incorrectly inserted a fermata on the last beat of the first full measure, and sang G-sharp instead of G in the following measure.
Mozart probably was not joking when he made the transcription, because starlings are known to have a very strong capacity for vocal mimicry.
The bird Mozart brought home lived as a pet in his household for three years and died on 4 June 1787. Mozart buried the creature in the back yard and wrote a commemorative poem for the occasion. Deutsch 1965 calls the poem “serio-comic”. However, West and King note, based on their extensive experience, that starling pets interact closely with their human keepers, often causing their owners to bond with them. Thus, Mozart’s expression of sorrow may have been quite sincere.