Starlings   Sturnidae

 
Return to Index Page Home Myna

Starlings are open country birds that eats fruits and insect with  habit of using the bills to pry open the food source. They have strong feet and flight. Most species that I have seen in Malaysia likes to live in habitats with humans.

They nest in holes and most species are in dark and metallic colors. A couple of facts about Starlings. They were said to have diverse and complex vocalizations.  This can be seen exhibited by our Hill Mynas. As for most other Starling, their calls are simple single or two shrills notes then a series of low whispering murmurs.

Next would be the special characteristic of Starling. They are social birds living in large family and some species are associated with flock behavior called murmuration. This phenomenon of grouping and flying as a flock were what we see as large black clouds doing acrobatic in the air on TV. . Flocking starlings are one of nature’s most extraordinary sights. The flock need not be from one species, among them could be other species of Starling and also other species of the family group. The science of Murmuration was studied and found that it is basically created by the behavior of the bird's "Do what you neighbor do!". In Malaysia, we do get to see that million of birds together but the show of darting about is displayed by the visiting Purple-backed Starlings with flocks of over a few hundred birds.

 Then this habit of other habit of grouping together on a tree is most evident at the time roosting, also by the Purple-backed Starling. The get-together is more clear in the non-breeding season.

There are both resident and migratory species

Asian Glossy Starling Aplonis panayensis
Golden-crested Myna Ampeliceps coronatus
Hill Myna Gracula religiosa
Great Myna Acridotheres grandis
Crested Myna Acridotheres cristatellus
Jungle Myna Acridotheres fuscus
Common Myna Acridotheres tristis
Vinous-breasted Starling Sturnus burmannicus
Purple-backed Starling/Daurian Starling Sturnus sturninus
Chestnut-cheeked Starling Sturnus philippensis
White-shouldered Starling Sturnus sinensis

From the table above, the birds that I have featured on this page are those marked in orange color. As usual, I have used the master list from Bird Life International as a guide.

 

1. Asian Glossy Starling  Aplonis panayensis

 

 Size & diagnostic markings:- 20 Cm. This is one of the most common birds in Malaysia. Urban as well as forest edge. In fact the only Starling that we get to see. No worry about not seeing them. Body is overall appears as shinning black which in actual fact is glossy dark green, very significant is that the bird has red eyes. Often the flock of birds accompanied by many juveniles which are light brown with streaks on the under part.

 Distribution :-  The bird was traced to N E India, Andaman, Nicobar islands & the Greater Sundas, Philippines and Sulawesi
 In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- This bird is found the whole year round and breeding in all places in Peninsula. Very common bird of the house hold backyards and public parks.
Habitats & preferences:- This is a lowland bird that feeds on fruits and flowers of the park. Do patronize urban garden with the Macarthur Palms.
 
 My personal jottings :-

I find that bird rather an annoyance as they move and feed in flock. Top on their list of  favorite food is the fruits from the Macarthur Palm which is planted widely as an ornamental as well roadside tree. After feeding they would rest and roost on the TV antennae. For reasons unknown to me, the would be continuously talking when they feed. Imagine a flock of 8-10 birds talking together. So there is no need for further elaboration. In the series of pictures, one of the less common Ficus tree fruiting in the Park. A big assortment of birds plus all the Starlings in the vicinity descended on that tree.

 

Record of bird's call :-    and Videos:-   with calls
 

Asian glossy Starling  # 1

Asian glossy Starling  # 2

Asian glossy Starling # 3

Asian glossy Starling # 4

Asian glossy Starling  # 5

Asian glossy Starling # 6

Asian glossy Starling  # 7

Asian glossy Starling # 8

Asian glossy Starling  # 9

Asian glossy Starling   # 10

Asian glossy Starling  # 11

Asian glossy Starling # 12

Asian glossy Starling  # 16

Asian glossy Starling  # 17

Asian glossy Starling # 18

Asian glossy Starling  # 19

Asian glossy Starling  # 20

Asian glossy Starling # 21

 

2. Purple-backed Starling  Sturnus sturninus

 

 Size & diagnostic markings:- 18 Cm. This is a beautiful bird that visit us during the migratory season. The bird is more choosy choosing seeds and flowers. hardly seen in the garden but around the city area in large flock. This is a slim medium size bird of18 cm. It has pale grayish head and under part, There are glossy dark purple patch on nape where the bird gets its name. Then on the wings, glossy dark green on upper wings.

 Distribution :-  The bird breeds in South eastern Siberia,  often stay in Mongolia and Northern China. During the winter month the bird flies south, noticeably to Sumatra and Java
 In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- This bird is normally seen in urban areas. In Parks and open field with tall trees accompanied by thick foliages. There the birds would roost in swarm of a few hundreds strong. In the early morning or late evening, the birds would congregate and flies around tall buildings like Swifts. They would have short periodic rest and the ritual could go on for an hour. In the daylight hours, the birds would break into small groups with 20-50 birds in each flock. I have seen the flock feeding on the Acacia seeds and also lone birds feeding on other fruits.
Habitats & preferences:- This is definitely a lowland bird. Most time I have seen the birds flying and feeding in my housing estates. Other times, the birds were seen in flock in the secondary forest in rural areas as well. Some birds like strays may join up with the local glossy Starlings in their routine. Most time they are on their own.
 
 My personal jottings :-

Only on those odd occasions had I seen the birds behaving like a normal bird gathering fruits and taking nectars from the flowers of the Flame of the forest . Almost all other time, they were feeding in groups. Now that I know of the feeding habits I could always keep a look out for these trees during the migrating season for their presence.

When the flock arrives in our area, their combined calls would alert. Then the birds do aerial acrobatic with flock reaching about 100 birds during the normal hours. In the evening when they are ready for roosting, many flocks would combine for late afternoon acrobatics, this time I have seen flocks reaching a few hundreds in urban Kuala Lumpur.

 

Record of bird's calls :-    and Video:- 
 

Purple-backed Starling  # 1

Purple-backed Starling   # 2

Purple-backed Starling  # 3

Purple-backed Starling  # 4

Purple-backed Starling   # 5

Purple-backed Starling  # 6

Purple-backed Starling   # 7

Purple-backed Starling  # 8

Purple-backed Starling    # 9

Purple-backed Starling    # 10

Purple-backed Starling   # 11

Purple-backed Starling  # 12

Purple-backed Starling   # 16

Purple-backed Starling   # 17

Purple-backed Starling  # 18

Purple-backed Starling   # 19

Purple-backed Starling   # 20

Purple-backed Starling  # 21

 

3. Vinous-breasted Starling  Sturnus burmannicus

 

 Size & diagnostic markings:- 24 Cm. This bird is hardly seen in Malaysia. Only rare and accidental meeting up with a strayed bird. So don't waste time looking for it here. At a causal look and fleeting glance, the bird do look like a Myna of 24 cm. It has  pale grey to whitish head, naked eye mask, yellow bill with red at base Pala vinous brown on the under part where the bird gets its name.

 Distribution :-  Endemic to to Myanmar, Thailand and Cambodia. Very specific and narrow range.
 In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- This is not a bird that one in Malaysia can hope to meet up with or would there be places where the bird could be found. This is an extraordinary situation where the bird were seen and hardly could be repeated. According to sources the bird could be a vagrant or escapees from the Bird Park.
Habitats & preferences:- With hardly any chance to see the bird I could only repeat from what I learn from books. this is a lowland bird that prefer arid open country side
 
 My personal jottings :-

I would not even consider my meeting with the bird as an experience for it was accidental and all efforts were direct to getting videos made. Nothing to note except conclusion made from reviewing the clips.

 

Record of bird's calls :-    and Video:-
 

Vinous-breasted Starling  # 1

Vinous-breasted Starling  # 2

Vinous-breasted Starling # 3

Vinous-breasted Starling # 4

Vinous-breasted Starling  # 5

Vinous-breasted Starling # 6

Vinous-breasted Starling  # 7

Vinous-breasted Starling # 8

Vinous-breasted Starling   # 9

Vinous-breasted Starling   # 10

Vinous-breasted Starling  # 11

Vinous-breasted Starling # 12

Vinous-breasted Starling  # 16

Vinous-breasted Starling  # 17

Vinous-breasted Starling # 18

Vinous-breasted Starling  # 19

Vinous-breasted Starling  # 20

Vinous-breasted Starling # 21

 

4. Black-collared Starling  Sturnus nigricollis

 

 Size & diagnostic markings:- 30 Cm. These 2 last Starlings with the body shape typical of Mynas show their closeness. This species is not a regular bird seen in Malaysia. The birds I encountered could more likely were escapees from the Bird Park, some time ago. Occasionally they were spotted. Had more time to study the 3 birds that appeared in the park for a couple of weeks. It has white head and underpart, with broad blackish collar across rump.

 Distribution :- The origin of this bird was neatly documented and said to be confined to a small area. The bird is resident in China
 In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- Record has it that this bird is a common resident in SEA Asia except Malaysia
Habitats & preferences:- Understand that this is an open country bird, visiting scrubs and also prefers urban areas.
 
 My personal jottings :-

The birds were hiding in the thick undergrowth and appearing in the edges of the field beside the scrubs. These behavior were consistent with what I read. It appears to be more a ground bird with foraging done more often on the ground.

 

Record of bird's calls:-    and Video:-
 

Black-collared Starling  # 1

Black-collared Starling  # 2

Black-collared Starling # 3

Black-collared Starling # 4

Black-collared Starling  # 5

Black-collared Starling # 6

Black-collared Starling  # 7

Black-collared Starling # 8

Black-collared Starling   # 9

Black-collared Starling   # 10

Black-collared Starling  # 11

Black-collared Starling # 12

 
 

Starlings are interesting birds as they seem to be everywhere and their shrill calls announce their presence. in the area. Most time they are seen alone and then sometimes they are seen as a pair.  In Malaysia, we only get to see the Glossy Starling. The other Starlings mentioned in this page and Rosy are either migrants or vagrant are birds that we hardly seen.

Two other points need emphasizing is that the Starling seen here could be noisy where they are roosting together otherwise, alone or in pair, I do not find their calls loud nor offensive. This contrary to many reports that their calls varies and are obvious. next, The Glossy Starling do make nest in the roof of houses. That shows that the bird is more domestic than being an entirely jungle dwelling bird.