Starlings of the genus Sturnia

Brahminy Starling 

Courtesy of Lip KeeYap  CC BY-SA 2,0 License. Originally posted to Flickr.

 Brahminy Starling (Sturnus pagodarum) - Flickr - Lip Kee.jpg


In this series we look at the species of birds that occur within a particular genus. These birds occur all other the world and are diverse in size and form,habits and habitat. here in part-20 we review the Starlings of the genus Sturnia {Asian Starlings}.

They are a group of Asian Passerine birds in the the family  Sturnidae and they are sometimes merged with the genus Sturnus. A 2008 study places five species within the genus Sturnia with former taxonomic treatments including another three species.

We commence with the Chestnut-tailed Starling, sometimes referred to as the Grey headed Myna, Sturnia malabrarica. 

Chestnut-tailed starling. Sturnia Malbarica. India.

Courtesy of Chestnut tailed Starling (Sturnus malabaricus) on a Kapok (Ceiba pentandra) tree W IMG 3466.jpgJ M Garg.   CC BY-SA 3.0 License


Descrption of the Chestnut-tailed Starling.

The adult bird is about seven point nine inches long {20 cm }. They have grey upper parts and black remiges {remiges oocur on the posterior side of the wing}. They have elongated hackled feathers on the crown,nape,side of the face and throat. The forehead and chin are white. The head is silver grey which gives it a streaked appearance. They have an orange brown rump. The wings are grey with black primary coverts and brown secondary feathers. The tail is grey tipped with chestnut. The breast and belly are a rich cinnamon brown.

The bill is blue at the base  green in the middle and yellow at the tip. The sub-species nemoricola is much paler with dusky white underparts and grey or whitish primary coverts forming a whitish wing patch. Both sexes are similar in appearance.

Chestnut tailed starling.

Courtesy of JM Garg CC BY-SA 3.0 license.Chestnut-tailed Starling (Sturnus malabaricus) after bath on Kapok (Ceiba pentandra) in Kolkata W IMG 3992.jpg


Diet,habits and breeding.

They are a fairly common species,a resident breeder from India to Myanmar, southwest China, Thailand, and Indochina. They are classed as vagrants in Pakistan and Sri-Lanka. These birds are usually encountered in pairs and small flocks, however, large flocks are sometimes encountered.

As with the European starling they form communal roosts often with other starling species and like the European starling  they fly in tight flocks and often change direction rapidly with great skill as one {murmuring}. 

They are omnivorous feeding on insects and their larvae,fruits, seeds and nectar.

The breeding season occurs in April until July in northern India,while in southeast Asia it occurs from April until June. They nest in tree holes often utilizing existing vacant holes excavated by a Woodpecker or Barbet. The female will deposit three to five eggs. The incubation period is about 12-14 days and other broods may be raised in a season.

Subspecies--  There are two subspecies recognized Sturnia malabarica malabaricus,in northern India to northeast India and south to Orrisa and a summer visitor to Nepal. Sturnia malabarica nemoricola from northeast India,east to Burma ,southern China, Thailand, Vietnam,Laos and Cambodia.

Brahminy Starling.  Odisha India

Courtesy of JM Garg. CC BY-SA 3.0 License.



Brahminy Starling . Surnia pagadarum

The Brahminy starling {also see header image} inhabits the plains of the Indian subcontinent. They are sometimes referred to as the Brahminy Myna and formerly placed in the genus Sturnus or the genus Temenudius, they were placed in their current genus in 2008.

The plumage colour of this species is greyish buff above and creamy buff below. The head has a black cap and a loose crest. The iris is pale and there is a bluish patch of skin around the eye. The bill is yellow with a bluish base. The outer tail feathers have white margins. they have blue primary feathers in their wings. The male has a much more prominent crest than the female and longer neck hackels.  

Lifestyle and breeding habits.

The Brahminy starling is a resident species in India and Nepal,in Sri Lanka it is a winter visitor. During the summer they may be encountered in the western Himalayas and northeastern Himalayas. there are reports of this species having been observed on the plains of Pakistan.

They are typically found in the dry forests and scrub,they especially favour places with water-logged or marshy land. However, they are frequently seen near human habitations. indeed the species name alludes to the temple pagodas in southern India. This species is not as arboreal as other species and more likely to be encountered foraging among cattle . 

Brahminy starlings are not as arboreal as other species. Image taken in Rajastan India.

Courtesy of Ram5885   CC BY-SA 4.0 license.

 Birds of india.jpg

Diet and breeding.

Like most starlings, this species too, is omnivorous, mainly dieting on fruit and insects and nectar. They roost communally in large numbers generally in trees which they may share with other bird species such as Parakkeets.

Breeding. The nest is located in a tree hole but they will utilize artificial holes and cavities. Both parents will undertake the task of nest building,which is composed of grass,feathers and even strips of rag,it is a bulky affair and an untidy structure. The female will deposit three to four eggs of a pale bluish green colour. The incubation period like that of the former species is about twelve to fourteen days. Two or even three broods may be raised per season. 

Other species of Sturnia in brief.

The white shouldered starling, Sturnia siensis,is a species found in Brunei,Cambodia, China, India,Japan, South Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, The Philippines, Singapore,Taiwan,Thailand and Vietnam. There are no current conservation concerns.

The Malabar starling. Sturnia bythii, was previously considered a subspecies of the Chestnut-tailed starling {above} and is sometimes referred to as Sturnus blythii.

White-headed starling is sometimes referred to as the Andaman white faced starling is a species of wooded locations on the Indian islands of Adamans and Nicobars. There are no current conservation concerns. 

White shouldered starling Sturnia sinensis.

Courtesy of honan4108  CC BY-SA 2.0 License.Sturnus sinensis Taitung.jpg


Malabar starling   India.

Courtesy of T R Shankar Raman   CC BY-SA  4.0 International License.

White-headed starling. 

Courtesy of Anthony Grossy   CC BY-SA 4.0 International License. Originally posted to Flickr.

Three other starlings that were formerly placed in this genus.

White-faced starling now placed in the genus Sturnornis.

Daurian starling  now placed in the genus Agropsar

and the Chestnut-cheeked starling also placed in the genus Agropsar

Images below. 

White faced starling. Sturnornis albofrontata

Courtesy of Steve Garvie {Fife Scotland}, CC BY-SA 2.0 generic License. Originally posted to Flickr. 

Daurian Starling. Agropsar sturnius

Courtesy of Anthony Grossy  CC BY-SA 4.0 International License. Originally posted to Flickr.

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Asian Glossy starling. Courtesy of Lena Chow. Standard YouTube License.


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