Bird Bios: Song of the Superb Starling Brightens Up Tanzania

June 29, 2012
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Superb starlings are some of the most colorful birds endemic to northeast Africa, but you will likely hear these birds long before you can spot them in the bushes of the Serengeti. The songbirds are very vocal and have a variety of different calls they use to communicate with one another. They likely need to be so loud to be heard above the group, as the starlings live in large flocks that can number well into the thousands.

These birds have distinct coloration that makes them easy to pick out on IE’s Kenya & Tanzania safaris. They are about seven to eight inches long with iridescent blue-green feathers on their backs, wings, throats and tails, with white feathers on the undersides of the wings and tail. Superb starlings have distinct thin white collars that separate their throat feathers from their bellies, which are a rusty orange. Their faces are black, which makes their whitish eyes even brighter. Superb starlings do not start out looking this way. When they are young, their bodies are mostly black and their eyes are dark as well. The belly of an adolescent superb starling is less vibrant as well.

When it comes time to choose mates, adult male superb starlings will begin courtship by jumping around on the ground with their wings splayed or dragging on the ground. Unlike most other bird species, these mating rituals are taken up by the females as well. To seal the deal, both sexes will lift their tail feathers high to expose the white feathers underneath. Females can take more than one mate in their lifetime, but the starlings are generally monogamous creatures. Birds that don't mate during a particular breeding season will help couples by gathering nest-building materials and bringing food to feed the young once they hatch.

Superb starlings tend to stick to wooded areas near large bodies of water where the air is dry. Their meal of choice is pretty much any insect they can get their beaks on, but berries, fruit and plant nectar will do when there are no grubs to be found. They often travel to human settlements to snatch up scraps of food, so you might be able to check one species off of your birding list before your small-group safari even begins.
 


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