Red-winged Starling

Onychognathus morio

The Red-winged Starling is an omnivorous species feeding on a wide range of seeds, fruits and berries, nectar, invertebrates (even pecking parasites from large mammals), small vertebrates (such as the hatchlings of other birds) as well as carrion and human waste.

These large starlings (30cm long, weighing up to 150g) are closely associated with cliffs and rocky hills and mountains, occurring in a wide range of mesic vegetation types wherever these favoured breeding sites are to be found. They have also adapted to built-up environments, where they use buildings as artificial nesting sites. Monogamous pairs of Red-winged Starlings stay together for years, are territorial when breeding and aggressively protect their nests, even against humans. The nest is built of mud, twigs and grass on a ledge, and the female is responsible for incubating the 2 to 4 eggs over a period of about two weeks. Hatchlings fledge at about a month old. Outside of the summer breeding season they are highly gregarious and congregate in large flocks.

The Red-winged Starling commonly occurs in a band stretching from Ethiopia to South Africa and is considered of least concern by the IUCN, with a growing population as it continues to exploit man-made habitats. In South Africa this species can be found in the south, east and north of the country, being entirely absent from the arid parts of the Northern Cape. It is regarded a pest in orchards.

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15 thoughts on “Red-winged Starling

  1. colonialist

    I was trying to say when WP rudely posted for me, that we used to regard those ‘Spreeus’ as Enemy No 1 in Knysna Heads when they polluted our gutters, which supplied our only water in those days.

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      The starlings are quite a diverse group of birds – there’s over 50 species in Sub-Saharan Africa, of which 13 occur here in the RSA. I can just imagine how many kinds there must be the world over!

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