Amethyst Starling


There are three species in the genus Cinrtyricincius:

• Amethyst Starling Cinnyricinclus leucogaster, ranges in African woodlands from Senegal east to Somalia and south from parts of Saudi Arabia all the way to Natal, Orange Free State, and Cape province. It is not found in deserts or thick forests.

• Abbott's Starling Cinnyricinclus femeralis, is more of a forest bird found in east Africa in the Mt. Kilimanjaro area of Kenya and parts of Tanzania.

• Sharpe's Starling Cinnyricinclus Sbarpii, ranges from northern South Africa to Senegal on the west coast across to northern Tanzania on the east coast of Africa (except the Mt. Kilimanjaro area).

This article addresses only the Amethyst Starling. It inhabits woodland, savannah, forest edges, and riverine habitats. Much if its time is spent in the tree tops in the wild, rarely is it seen on the ground. This species is very gregarious, often found in pairs during breeding season (not noisy) otherwise in nomadic flocks of mostly one sex.

Up until 1910 only one male had been on exhibit in the London Zoo. The species was first bred just prior to 1936.

When I first saw these birds I was awestruck. The male with its almost pure white belly contrasting with the amethyst-purple of the rest of his body was stunning. His colors glittered much like the colors of a sunbird or a humming bird's violet in the sunlight. The female looked much like a hen American House Finch ( Carpodacus) with a finer beak and head and more white on the belly.

Amethysts are sexually dimorphic when in adult plumage. It must be remembered that the young males come off the nest looking like the hen. They do not start to get adult plumage until at least one year old. I have seen some that did not start to get their adult male plumage until three years of age. This makes it imperative to sex any birds that look like hens.

Amethyst Starlings remind me very much of our American Blue Bird in size and shape. After keeping the Blue Birds in the early 1950s the main difference I see between the two is that the Amethysts are not aggressive towards their own kind or other birds as Blue Birds are.

We acquired our first Amethysts in 1990 - the subspecies Cinnyricinclus leucogaster verreauvi differing from the nominate only in that the outer tail feathers are marked with white. They were put into a 3 x 16 foot flight, 6 feet of which is under cover and 10 feet is open and planted. A nest box made of j/4 inch pine stock with inside dimensions of 5 x 7 x 12 inches high was installed just inside the sheltered area at about six feet above the ground with the entrance hole facing north. A hollow oak knot was put over the entrance hole and grass was added to...