Superb Starling

Location

In the Zoo

Scientific Information

Scientific Name: Lamprotornis superbus
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Sturnidae
Genus: Lamprotornis

Size

Male

Female

Height: 6-7.5 inches 6-7.5 inches
Wingspan: 15-17 inches 15-17 inches
Weight: 2.5-3 ounces 2.5-3 ounces
Maturity:

Lifestyle and Lifespan

Diet: Omnivorous
Activity Timeframe: Diurnal
Interactivity: Social
Sexual Dimorphism: No
Gestation: 13-15 days
Lifespan in the Wild: up to 15 years
Lifespan in Captivity: up to 15 years

Geographic Range

Superb Starlings are native to eastern Africa. They are found in the countries of Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda.

Conservation

Status in the Wild: Least Concerned
Threats: No Major Threats

Characteristics

The Superb Starling is a small but brightly colored bird. The head is all black, with a pale yellow eye and black beak. The neck, breast, back, wings and tail are covered with iridescent blue-green feathers. A thin white stripe separates the glossy blue breast from a red-orange belly. The under-tail coverts and wing linings are white. The legs are black. Immature birds have dull coloring, lack the white breast band, and have darker eyes.

Species Specifics

The Superb Starling may be confused with Hildebrandt's Starling or Shelley's Starling. However, neither of these species have the thin white band that separates the iridescent blue breast from the red-orange belly. They also both a have darker eyes, and iridescent blue feathers on the head while the Superb Starling has a black head. The Superb Starling used to be in the genus Spreo, an alternative genus of starling in the Sturnidae family, but is now grouped under the genus Lamprotornis.

Physical Characteristics

The Superb Starling is a superb flier! The shape of the wings helps it fly swiftly and maneuver quickly. Such agility is helpful in woodlands or to escape a predator.

Ecology

Habitat

Dry woodlands and forests, thorn and acacia woodland, scrub grasslands, and around human inhabited areas such as agricultural fields and urban and suburban areas.

Distribution

The territory of a Superb Starling flock is about 0.5 km or more in size. They are a non-migratory species, though after reaching maturity they may disperse up to 20 km away from their natal group. Females are much more likely to disperse than males.

Diet

The Superb Starling eats insects, berries, fruit, and seeds.

Ecological Web

The Superb Starling keeps populations of insects and other invertebrates stable through predation. They may also use nests made by other species, such a swallows, swifts, and weavers. They are prey to other birds, baboons, snakes, squirrels and genets.

Activity and Behavior

Activity Pattern

The Superb Starling forages during the day, returning to a roosting spot at night.

Behavior

This bird has various calls: it can whistle and warble, mimic other species, and its alarm call is loud and whining. Some songs of the starling may have as many as 82 distinct phrases. Females that move to a new group learn the songs and phrases of that group.

Social Behavior

The Superb Starling is a gregarious bird that forms kin-based flocks of up to 40 or more individuals that defend a territory year-round. They feed together in flocks and during the non-breeding season, may form mixed flock species with other starlings at the edges of their territories. They may feed near towns, agricultural fields, and animal herds. They are unafraid of people

Reproductive Behavior

: Reproductive behavior in Superb Starlings is complicated because they are cooperative breeders. Breeding season is primarily from March and lasts until June during the rainy season but may also occur during a secondary breeding season from October to November during the short rains. During this time, there becomes several obvious ranks (from most dominant to least dominant): pair-bonded breeding pairs, nonbreeding and non-helping individuals, and helping individuals. Pair-bonds typically endure from season to season, though mate-switching and extra-pair mating does occur.Courtship behavior involves small jumps on the ground with neck stretched out and wings trailing. Breeding pairs choose separate trees in which to make their nests, often in the acacia family near a central feeding ground. Nests are made of grass, woven into a dome-like structures with a tunnel entrance, and lined with feathers. Nests may be reused until they are destroyed by weather. Sometimes a Superb Starling pair will use nests made by other birds.

Offspring

Between 2 to 5 dark blue-green eggs are laid at a time. After 13-15 days of incubation, the altricial young hatch. Chicks receive alloparental care, meaning that both parents and additional members of the group care for the chicks. The additional members are called 'helpers.' The helpers and the breeding male often provide most of the care for the chick, and the breeding females are often first to defend the nests from predators.

Conservation

Status

The Superb Starling is listed as Least Concern (2016) on the IUCN and not listed on the CITES appendices. It is considered abundant and widespread within its range.

Historical

Not enough historical information is known about the Superb Starling.

Current Threats

No Major Threats

Our Role

Exhibit and educate

How You Can Help

You can help urban and suburban wildlife by always sorting your trash, recycling and compostables and make sure they end up in the appropriate bins to make sure it does not end up in their habitat.

Fascinating Facts

Starlings are native to the Old World (Africa and Asia) except for the Common Starling, which is native to Europe and introduced in the Australia and North America.

Super Starlings are cooperative breeders, meaning that while some pairs get to breed, there are other ranks as well. Nonbreeding and non-helping individuals are ranked after breeding pairs, and at the bottom are helping individuals. Helping individuals are often, but not always, related to the breeding male and help care for and feed the chicks. Some helping individuals may care for several nests at once.

Though Superb Starlings pair-bond, mate-switching and extra-pair fertilization is not unheard of. Females that engage in extra-pair fertilization from males within their social group gain that male as a helper for her nest, which increases the chances of her offspring surviving. She often targets specifically males that did not breed the year before or had nest failure the year before. Females that engage in extra-pair fertilization from males outside their social group tend to choose males that have more heterozygous traits than the male that they are pair-bonded with, thus increasing genetic diversity in her offspring.

Extra-pair fertilization is correlated to territory resources. If the territory is poor, with little grass cover and few insects, females may have to forage father away from the territory and thus increasing chances of mating with males from other groups.

In many bird species, it is the male with bright colorful plumage and intricate calls and songs, but in cooperative breeding species, females often resemble males. In Superb Starlings, females and males look alike. This results from the fact that father than just males competing to breed, females are as well and therefore have a more intense sexual selection on traits than females in non-cooperative breeding species.

References

http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/22710767/0

http://eol.org/pages/1052507/details

https://www.beautyofbirds.com/superbstarlings.html

http://www.belfastzoo.co.uk/animals/superb-starling.aspx

https://www.hoglezoo.org/meet_our_animals/animal_finder/superb_starling/

http://www.columbia.edu/~dr2497/download/rubenstein-2016-book.pdf

http://www.centralpark.com/guide/central-park-zoo/birds.html

http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/2007/06/cu-study-reveals-why-superb-starling-females-cheat

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