I must admit to a certain affection for starlings…this in spite of the fact that the introduced European starling (Sturnus vulgaris) is a serious avian pest (note the Latin name!). However, I have rehabilitated quite a few, and found them to be quite as intelligent as their better-loved cousin, the Indian hill myna. I was also shocked at the speaking abilities of a starling maintained for years at the American Museum of Natural History – in marked contrast to his stuffed companions, this lively fellow spoke as well as most parrots! But for pure beauty and personality, few can match the amethyst starling, Cinnyricinlus leucogaster.
Starlings in Zoos and Nature
Working at the Bronx Zoo put me in contact with several gorgeous starling species, including the amethyst, superb and glossy. In a huge exhibit teeming with African birds of every description, it was a pair of amethysts that regularly stole the show with their brilliant colors and bold demeanors.
One of the most striking of the world’s 114 starling species, male amethysts are clad in a deep violet set off by a brilliant white breast. In the sunlight, they are, like most starlings, as iridescent as any hummingbird (even the rather drab European starling is quite showy in its winter plumage).
Range and Habitat
Amethyst starlings range widely over much of Sub-Saharan Africa, from Senegal in the west to Tanzania in the east, and south to northern South Africa. Inhabiting open woodlands, forest edges and river valleys, they are not uncommon, but, staying to the treetops, are less evident than other starlings (its hard not to be aware of most starlings!).
Pairs form in the mating season, after which the birds separate into small flocks. In contrast to those starlings that have been well-studied, amethyst flocks are usually composed of a single sex.
Amethyst starlings take a wide variety of food, including moths, katydids, spiders, snails and other invertebrates, tree frogs, lizards, carrion and a wide variety of fruits, buds and sprouts. Like most starlings, they are not above pillaging the nests of other birds, taking both nestlings and chicks.
An interesting, in-depth survey of the wildlife inhabiting amethyst starling habitat in Cameroon is posted at http://www.ioe.ucla.edu/ctr/reports/Faunal.pdf.
Image referenced from Wikipedia and originally posted by LTShears