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Starling

   

Starlings are small to medium-sized passerine birds. Their flight is strong and direct, and they are very gregarious. Their preferred habitat is fairly open country. They eat insects and fruit. Plumage is typically dark with a metallic sheen. There are 125 species worldwide and 13 species which occur in Namibia.

  •  European Starling Sturnus vulgaris
    The European Starling, Common Starling or just Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) is a passerine bird in the family Sturnidae.

    This species of starling is native to most of temperate Europe and western Asia. It is resident in southern and western Europe and southwestern Asia, while northeastern populations migrate south and west in winter to these regions, and also further south to areas where it does not breed in Iberia and north Africa. It has also been introduced to Australia, New Zealand, North America, and South Africa.

    It is among the most familiar of birds in temperate regions. It is 19–22 cm long, with a wingspan of 37–42 cm and a weight of 60–90 g. The plumage is shiny black, glossed purple or green, and spangled with white, particularly strongly so in winter. Adult male European Starlings are less spotted below than adult females. The throat feathers are long and loose, and used as a signal in display. Juveniles are grey-brown, and by their first winter resemble adults though often retain some brown juvenile feathering especially on the head in the early part of the winter. The legs are stout, pinkish-red. The bill is narrow conical with a sharp tip; in summer, it is yellow in females, and yellow with a blue-grey base in males, while in winter, and in juveniles, it is black in both sexes. Moulting occurs once a year, in late summer after the breeding season is finished; the fresh feathers are prominently tipped white (breast feathers) or buff (wing and back feathers). The reduction in the spotting in the breeding season is achieved by the white feather tips largely wearing off. Starlings walk rather than hop. Their flight is quite strong and direct; they look triangular-winged and short-tailed in flight.

    The Common Starling is a noisy bird uttering a wide variety of both melodic and mechanical-sounding sounds, including a distinctive "wolf-whistle". Starlings are mimics, like many of its family. In captivity, Starlings will learn to imitate all types of sounds and speech earning them the nickname "poor-man's Myna".

    Songs are more commonly sung by males, although females also sing. Songs consist of a mixture of mimicry, clicks, wheezes, chattering, whistles, rattles, and piping notes. Besides song, 11 other calls have been described, including a Flock Call, Threat Call, Attack Call, Snarl Call, and Copulation Call. Birds chatter while roosting and bathing—making a great deal of noise that can frustrate local human inhabitants. Even when a flock of starlings is completely silent, the synchronized movements of the flock make a distinctive whooshing sound that can be heard hundreds of meters away.

    Starlings are hunted by birds of prey, including the Peregrine Falcon and Brown Falcon. However, in the 1970s the consumption of chemically treated (DDT) crops by the starlings which were subsequently eaten by Peregrine Falcons caused a dangerous build-up of the toxin in the falcon. As a result, lower reproductive success was observed as a result of thinner eggshells and a build-up of organochlorine residues in eggs.[13]

    The European Starling is insectivorous, and typically consumes insects including caterpillars, moths, and cicadas, as well as spiders. While the consumption of invertebrates is necessary for successful breeding, starlings are omnivorous and can also eat grains, seeds, fruits, nectars, and garbage, if the opportunity arises. There are several methods by which they forage for their food; but for the most part, they forage from or near the ground, taking insects from or beneath the surface of the soil. Generally, starlings prefer foraging amongst short-cropped grasses and are often found between and on top of grazing animals out to pasture. Large flocks forage together, in a practice called “roller-feeding”: where the birds at the back of the flock continually fly to the front of the flock as they forage so that every bird has a turn to lead (1957). The larger the flock, the nearer individuals are to one another while foraging. Flocks often forage in one place for some time, and return to previous successfully foraged sites. There are four types of foraging observed in the European Starling:

    1. Wattled Starling Creatophora cinerea
    The Wattled Starling, Creatophora cinerea, is a nomadic resident in eastern and southern Africa. It is a species of grassland, open woodland and cultivation.

    This is the only African starling which appears to show affinities with the Asian starlings, particularly the Sturnus genus. Its bare face patches and ability to open-bill feed in grassland are unique amongst African starlings. It is the only member of the genus Creatophora.

    This common species appears to be extending its range into West Africa, and has also occurred in Arabia, Madagascar and the Seychelles.

    The Wattled Starling is 21 cm long, with a short tail and pointed wings. It has mainly grey plumage except for a white rump, and black flight feathers and tail. The breeding male has a white shoulder patch and a distinctive head pattern, with unfeathered yellow skin, and black forehead and throat wattles. The extent to which these seasonal features develop increases with the age of the bird, and some old females may show a weaker version of this plumage.

    The non-breeding male has a feathered head except for a small yellow patch behind the eye. There are no wattles, but there is a black moustachial stripe. The white shoulder patch is much reduced. The female and juvenile plumages are similar to the non-breeding male, but the flight feathers and tail are brown.

    The black flight and tail feathers and white rump make this species unmistakable in flight. This species has a range of wheezing or grating calls comparable to those of the Common Starling, but the most familiar is a wheezing ssreeeeo.

    2. Cape Glossy-Starling Lamprotornis nitens
    The Red-shouldered Glossy-starling (Lamprotornis nitens) is a species of starling in the Sturnidae family. It is found in Angola, Botswana, Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

    3. Greater Blue-eared Glossy-Starling Lamprotornis chalybaeus
    The Greater Blue-eared Glossy-starling or Greater Blue-eared Starling (Lamprotornis chalybaeus) is a bird that breeds from Senegal east to Ethiopia and south through eastern Africa to northeastern South Africa and Angola. It is a very common species of open woodland that undertakes some seasonal movements.

    The Greater Blue-eared Glossy-starling is a 22 cm long, short tailed bird. This starling is glossy blue-green with a purple-blue belly and blue ear patch. Its iris is bright yellow or orange. The sexes are similar, but the juvenile is duller and has blackish brown underparts.

    Like other starlings, the Greater Blue-eared Glossy-starling is an omnivore, taking a wide range of invertebrates seeds and berries, especially figs, but is diet is mainly insects taken from the ground. It will perch on livestock, feeding on insects disturbed by the animals and occasionally removing ectoparasites.

    3. Lesser Blue-eared Glossy-Starling Lamprotornis chloropterus
    The Lesser Blue-eared Glossy-starling (Lamprotornis chloropterus) is a species of starling in the Sturnidae family. It is found in Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ivory Coast, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

    4. Meves's Glossy-Starling Lamprotornis mevesii
    The Meves's Glossy-starling (Lamprotornis mevesii) is a species of starling in the Sturnidae family. It is found in Angola, Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
  • Burchell's Glossy-Starling Lamprotornis australis
    The Burchell's Glossy-starling (Lamprotornis australis) is a species of starling in the Sturnidae family. It is found in Angola, Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
     
  • Sharp-tailed Glossy-Starling Lamprotornis acuticaudus
    The Sharp-tailed Glossy-starling (Lamprotornis acuticaudus) is a species of starling in the Sturnidae family. It is found in Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Namibia, Tanzania, and Zambia.
     
  • Violet-backed Starling Cinnyricinclus leucogaster
    The Violet-backed Starling (Cinnyricinclus leucogaster), also known as the Plum-coloured Starling or Amethyst Starling, is a relatively small species of starling in the Sturnidae family. This strongly sexually dimorphic species is found widely in woodland of mainland sub-Saharan Africa.
     
  • African Pied Starling Spreo bicolor
    The African Pied Starling, Lamprotornis bicolor, is a bird endemic to South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. It is common in most of its range, but largely absent from the arid northwest and the eastern lowlands of South Africa. It is found in open habitats such as grassland, karoo scrub, thornbush and agricultural land, and often associates with farm animals.

    The adult of this 27–28 cm long starling has mainly dully glossed black plumage except for a white lower belly and undertail. It has a white iris and yellow lower mandible. The sexes are alike, but the juvenile has unglossed plumage, a brown iris and a dull yellow lower mandible. There are no subspecies. This species has a number of calls, but the most familiar is a skeer kerrra kerrra. There is also a soft warbling song.
     
  • Pale-winged Starling Onychognathus nabouroup
    The Pale-winged Starling (Onychognathus nabouroup) is a species of starling in the Sturnidae family. It is found in Angola, Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa.
     
  • Red-billed Oxpecker Buphagus erythrorhynchus
    The Red-billed Oxpecker, Buphagus erythrorhynchus, is a passerine bird in the starling and myna family Sturndidae; some ornithologists regard the Oxpeckers to be in a family by themselves, the Buphagidae. It is native to the savannah of sub-Saharan Africa, from the Central African Republic east to Sudan and south to northern and eastern South Africa.

    The Red-billed Oxpecker nests in tree holes lined with hair plucked from livestock. It lays 2-5 eggs, with three being the average. Outside the breeding season it forms large, chattery flocks.

    The Red-billed Oxpecker feeds on ticks found on other animals such as this impala. The preferred habitat is open country, and the Red-billed Oxpecker eats insects. Both the English and scientific names arise from this species' habit of perching on large wild and domesticated mammals such as cattle and eating ticks. An adult will take nearly 100 engorged female Boophilus decoloratus ticks, or more than 12,000 larvae in a day.

    However, their favorite food is blood, and while they may take on ticks bloated with blood, they also feed on it directly, pecking at the mammal's wounds to keep them open to more parasites. So, what good the bird does for the mammal is negated by it keeping the wounds open to parasites and disease.

    This is a medium-sized passerine, 20 cm long with strong feet. The Red-billed Oxpecker has plain brown upperparts and head, buff underparts and a pale rump. The bill is red, and adults have a yellow eyering, both clear distinctions from the related Yellow-billed Oxpecker. Its flight is strong and direct, and the call is a hissy crackling trik-quisss.
     
  • Yellow-billed Oxpecker Buphagus africanus
    The Yellow-billed Oxpecker, Buphagus africanus, is a passerine bird in the starling and myna family Sturnidae; some ornithologists regard the Oxpeckers to be a separate family, the Buphagidae (Zuccon, 2006). It is native to the savannah of sub-Saharan Africa from Senegal east to Sudan. It is least common in the extreme east of its range where it overlaps with the Red-billed Oxpecker, despite always dominating that species when feeding.

    The Yellow-billed Oxpecker nests in tree holes lined with hair plucked from livestock. It lays 2–3 eggs. Outside the breeding season it is fairly gregarious, forming large, chattery flocks. Non-breeding birds will roost on their host animals at night.

    The Yellow-billed Oxpecker eats insects and ticks. Both the English and scientific names arise from this species' habit of perching on large wild and domesticated mammals such as cattle and eating arthropod parasites. In a day an adult will take more than 100 engorged female Boophilus decoloratus ticks or 13,000 larvae.

    However, their preferred food is blood, and while they may take ticks bloated with blood, they also feed on it directly (Feare 2003), pecking at the mammal's wounds. So the good the bird does to the mammal may be negated by its keeping the wounds open to parasites and disease. Whatever the net result, mammals generally tolerate oxpeckers (Feare 2003).

    The Yellow-billed Oxpecker is 20 cm long and has plain brown upperparts and head, buff underparts and a pale rump. The feet are strong. The adults' bills are yellow and the base and red at the tip, while juveniles have brown bills. Its flight is strong and direct. The call is a hissy crackling krisss, krisss.
   
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