Starlings of South Africa

Probably the most common bird in the United States is the European Starling, there are billions of them. Unfortunately, it is the only species of starling we have (with the exception of mynas that have been introduced in some areas). But here in South Africa, there are an astonishing 15 species! Most of them are beautifully iridescent and glossy in coloration and others lack the glossy-ness but make up for it in strange looks. So far I have been able to photograph five species of starling here in Africa.

Pied Starling

Probably my favorite of the starlings I have seen in southern Africa is the Pied Starling (pictured above). This species is dark-brown in coloration but if the sun hits it right, can appear purple-green. The Pied Starling is a common and endemic species to South Africa. I think the characteristic of this bird that really makes me like it, is the constant expression of a hyperactive clown. Another interesting trait of this bird is that it nests colonially in burrows in dongas and riverbeds.

Red-winged Starling - female due to the gray head coloration

By far the most common species of starling that I have seen here during my trip here in South Africa is the Red-winged Starling. This species can be seen in virtually any habitat; towns, grassland, savannah, forests, wetlands, on the beach; you name it, I have seen it there. The Red-winged Starling is a fairly large starling and is unlike any other species in southern Africa as far as its plumage coloration goes: males are pitch black with bright red-brown wings; females are the same as males except their heads and necks are blue-gray.

Black-bellied Starling

A common starling of wetter areas is the Black-bellied Starling. This species exhibits the glossy coloration shown by most southern African starlings. I have recently been seeing flocks of these birds feeding on berries alongside African Green-Pigeons here in the Cwebe Nature Reserve where I live.

Cape Glossy Starling

Another psychedelically-colored starling is the Cape Glossy Starling. This species is the most widespread starling in southern Africa but is endemic to the region. These birds can often be seen foraging on foot through grasslands and people’s yards.

European Starling

The European Starling has been introduced to southern Africa but is currently restricted to the lower half of South Africa. Of the five starling species mentioned, it is the smallest. I don’t think I have to say much about this species because its habits here are exactly like its habits in the States.

Hopefully this was a good introduction to the gorgeous assortment of starlings found in southern Africa and as I find and photograph more of these beautiful starlings, I will try to write up another post about them.

Location:South Africa