About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Violet-backed Starlings

The Violet-backed Starling male photo from Wikimedia Commons
The common European Starling is beginning to hit the feeders again in mid-Michigan now that it is early spring. So I thought it would be fun to look at another species of starling in the Sturnidae family. The Violet-backed Starling (Cinnyricinclus leucogaster), also known as the Plum-colored Starling or Amethyst Starling is found widely in the woodlands and savannah forest edges of mainland sub-Saharan Africa.

Starlings are small to medium-sized perching birds. The male Violet-backed, like their name suggest has bright violet feathers on his back and a white belly. The female however has a brownish back and a white belly with brown streaks.
While their coloring is different, both starlings have strong feet, a direct flight pattern, are very vocal and eat insects and fruit. The Violet-backed Starlings like to nest in old woodpecker nests and spend most of their time in the trees. 
The Violet-backed Starling female photo from Wikimedia Commons
Instead of grazing the grass for insects like our starlings, Violet-backs spend a lot of their time “hawking” for insects. This is a technique of bursting from a perch to snatch an insect out of the air and then returning to the perch. The term “hawking” comes from the similarity of this behavior to the way hawks take prey in flight, although, raptors usually catch prey with their feet, and hawking is the behavior of catching insects in the bill.

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