hawking for butterflies

Apr 2014
231
Liverpool, England
In 'The Anatomy of Melancholy' by Robert Burton (1651) we read: "The Persian kings hawk after butterflies with sparrows made to that use, and stares." Stares would be starlings. The source given for this is Sir Anthony Shirley's 'Relation of his Travels into Persia' (1613). Shirley spent some time in Persia and was received favourably by Shah Abbas the Great, so he should have been in a position to know what he was talking about. The story still sounds a bit improbable - can anyone confirm it?