Thursday, December 5, 2013

African Starlings (Africa Series)

Starlings largely go unnoticed by the local people in Africa. They are a common, ground-dwelling bird…although superbly colorful they’re apparently easy to ignore.  They even named this one the Superb Starling, but few people will give him a second look…they’re that common.  It makes me wonder, how spectacular must a bird be to get noticed in Africa?

Collectively grouped as glossy starlings, it’s essential you see him in the right light.  His radiance comes from refracted light…not a true color pigment. Without sunlight highlighting his feathers he’s a rather dull black bird…much like a hummingbird in the shade.

(Click any picture to enlarge)

Urbanized enough to accept people, this Greater Blue-eared Starling patrolled a dew-laden lawn looking for his morning meal. While taking notice of who was watching him he gave no sign of being disturbed by the amazed onlookers.

America’s starlings don’t get much respect. It’s probably because our starling, the European Starling is a messy, raspy-voiced alien. 

Intentionally introduced into New York City’s Central Park by the American Acclimatization Society a century ago, they have exploded in population to 150 million nationwide. Considered an agricultural pest, a risk to aviation and a competitor to native birds, our alien starling doesn’t score high in popularity. It’s a matter of image. I doubt many bird lovers intentionally feed starlings. To the contrary, they discourage them. If our European Starlings looked like the African starlings would our reaction be different? (see link below)

While not suggesting repeating a bad idea, what would we think if the American Acclimatization Society had released one of these beautiful African starlings into America a hundred years ago in place of the European Starling?  It didn’t happen and shouldn’t happen ever again, but there are a whole lot prettier African starlings they could have picked. 


Wildlife of East Africa, Martin Withers & David Hosking

Feather Tailed Stories, European Starling)