In the early 1890s, about 100 European starlings were released in New York City's Central Park by a group dedicated to bringing to America every bird ever mentioned by Shakespeare. The starling is mentioned in the third scene of Act One of Henry IV, Part 1, when Hotspur says:
"I'll have a starling shall be taught to speak
Nothing but 'Mortimer,' and give it him
To keep his anger still in motion."
Thanks to this single mention of the bird, there are now some 200 million European starlings in North America. Federal aviation officials say they have caused $4 million in damage since 1990.
'Starlings' and 'Startling' are the two longest common English words from which one letter may repeatedly be deleted, each time leaving another word, ending up with one letter: Starlings, Starling, Staring, String, Sting, Sing, Sin, In, I.
The longest word of all which conforms to this pattern is 'Austringers', a Miltonian form of 'Astringers', both of which mean 'keepers of goshawks'. The one-lett-at-a-time reduction goes: Austringers, Astringers, Stringers, Stingers, Singers, Singes, Singe, Sing, Sin, In, I.