Bali starling (Leucopsar rothschildi)

Also known as: Bali myna, Bali mynah, Rothschild’s myna, Rothschild’s mynah, Rothschild’s starling, white starling
Spanish: Estornino de Rothschild, Miná de Rothschild
GenusLeucopsar (1)
SizeLength: c. 25 cm (2) (3)
Wing length: 13.2 - 13.5 cm (3)
Tail length: 7.9 - 8.8 cm (3)
Weight85 - 90 g (4)
Top facts

The Bali starling is classified as Critically Endangered (CR) on the IUCN Red List (1), and is listed on Appendix I of CITES (5). 

The national bird of Bali (6) (7), the endemic Bali starling (Leucopsar rothschildi) was described and named as recently as 1910 by English ornithologist Lord Walter Rothschild (8).

The Bali starling is a fairly large starling (2) with mostly white plumage (2) (3) (4), except for the tips of the short tail and rounded wings which are black (2) (3). This species has elongated, bristly feathers on the crown and nape (2) (3) which form an erectile crest (3). A conspicuous patch of bright cobalt-blue skin extends around each eye and tapers to a point (2) (3) (4).

The Bali starling’s legs are greyish-blue, while the heavy bill is grey or brown, fading into a paler yellow or horn colour towards the tip. The eyes are grey, whitish or brown (2) (3).

Male and female Bali starlings are similar in appearance, but the crest is often longer in males (2) (3). Young birds tend to have a much shorter crest than adults, or may lack one altogether (3). They may have a smoky tinge to the feathers on the back, and a cinnamon tinge on the wings (2) (3).

The song of the Bali starling is composed of a wide variety of loud, chattering noises, including whistles, chuckles and squawks, and is performed by both sexes, usually without an accompanying display. However, this species is known to perform a bobbing action, which is sometimes accompanied by quieter chattering sounds. The Bali starling gives a flight call when taking off, which sounds like ‘creer’, and is also known to utter ‘tschick tschick tschick’ as an alarm call (2) (3).

The Bali starling is endemic to the island of Bali, Indonesia (1) (3). Formerly, this non-migratory species (2) (4) was found throughout a strip of land along the north-western third of the island (1) (2) (3), but its range has since declined drastically (1), and now only includes a 60-kilometre-squared area within the Bali Barat Nature Reserve (3).

The Bali starling can typically be found in dry, open lowland forests (4), usually with a grassy understorey (2) (3). During the breeding season, this species tends to favour areas of fire-induced open shrub savannah and adjacent tropical moist deciduous forest, usually below elevations of 175 metres. It often disperses to open forest edges and flooded savannah woodland outside of the breeding season. The Bali starling has also been known to occur in coconut groves near villages (1) (9).

The Bali starling is an omnivorous species (2), feeding on a mixture of seeds, small fruits and insects (2) (4). Larger fruits such as figs and papaya are sometimes consumed by the Bali starling, and while insects such as ants, termites, dragonflies and grasshoppers make up most of this species’ diet, worms and small reptiles are occasionally eaten. Interestingly, the Bali starling has also been reported to feed on the nectar from Erythrina species (2).

The Bali starling tends to feed in the trees, but it may also collect food items from the ground, particularly during the chick-rearing period. There have also been reports of the Bali starling perching on the backs of ungulates, and foraging for insects in association with the mammals (2).

The Bali starling is a monogamous species, and is thought to form a long-term pair-bond, strengthened by individuals performing mutual displays and preening each other (2). The breeding season occurs in the rainy season, between January and March or April (2) (4), although some scientists believe breeding to occur in October and November (1) (9).

The Bali starling often builds its nest in an abandoned woodpecker hole or other natural tree hole (1) (2) (4) (9), usually between four and ten metres above the ground, using dry twigs to line the nest (2). Each clutch typically contains two or three pale blue eggs (2) (4), although generally only one chick survives to fledging (4). It is thought that incubation of the eggs is carried out mostly by the female, for a period of between 12 and 15 days. The Bali starling chicks are brooded by the female, but are fed by both adult birds, which continue performing this duty up to seven weeks after the young have left the nest (2).

The Bali starling is thought to have always had a relatively small range and may never have occurred in large numbers, but its population has declined dramatically since its discovery (2), mostly as a result of the illegal collection of birds for the captive bird trade (1) (2) (3) (9). By 1990, illegal poaching had reduced Bali starling numbers to just 15 individuals (1) (3) (9), and by 2001 only 6 wild individuals remained (9).

Despite the entire Bali starling population being within a national park, illegal trapping of this species continues (1) (9), a threat which is further compounded by habitat destruction (2) (4), interspecific competition, natural predation and disease (1) (9).

The Bali starling is listed on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which means that commercial trade in this bird is prohibited (5). In addition, this species has been protected under Indonesian law since 1970 (1) (2) (9), and its entire remaining wild population occurs within Bali Barat National Park (1) (9).

In partnership with the Indonesian government and US and British Zoos, in 1983 BirdLife International established the Bali Starling Project, with the aim of saving the Bali starling from extinction. This project has helped to improve the protection of the park, and has increased the wild Bali starling population through the release of captive-bred birds (1) (9), contributing significantly to the future viability of this species (10).

Unfortunately, this programme was dogged with problems, including the theft of 39 captive individuals in the park that were awaiting release into the wild (1) (9). In 1992, the Indonesian Government introduced a new law which states that all protected animals were required to be registered, as they are the property of the state. Anyone found in possession of an unregistered Bali starling now faces a substantial fine, or even imprisonment (3).

In 2004, Friends of the National Parks Foundation (FNPF), a grassroots Indonesian conservation NGO, started work on protecting the Bali starling, and has since transformed three islands off the coast of Bali – Nusa Penida, Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan – into a bird sanctuary (1) (7). The bird sanctuary is the first in Indonesia to be established in an inhabited area, and is now home to at least 100 Bali starlings. These birds are now protected from poaching and wildlife traders under traditional regulations, which were adopted by the island’s 41 villages following discussions with FNPF (7).

In addition, the FNPF rehabilitates and releases Bali starlings within the sanctuary, and in 2013 four chicks hatched at the organisation’s centre on Nusa Penida Island – the first to be captive-bred in the area (7). Reforestation programmes help to restore the Bali starling’s habitat (11), while community development programmes are vital in ensuring that local people understand the importance of protecting this species, as well as other endangered birds (12).

Find out more about the Bali starling and it conservation:

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:

  1. IUCN Red List (January, 2014)
  2. del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Christie, D.A. (2009) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 14: Bush-shrikes to Old World Sparrows. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  3. Craig, A. and Feare, C. (2010) Starlings and Mynas. A&C Black Publishers Ltd, London.
  4. BirdLife International (2011) The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Birds. Dorling Kindersley Ltd, London.
  5. CITES (December, 2013)
  6. Howie, B. (2011) An Encyclopedia of Animals. Scholastic Inc., Witney, Oxfordshire.
  7. Friends of the National Parks Foundation - Bali Starling Conservation Project (January, 2014)
  8. Begawan Foundation (January, 2014)
  9. BirdLife International - Bali starling (December, 2013)
  10. Olney, P.J.S., Mace, G.M. and Feistner, A. (Eds.) (1994) Creative Conservation: Interactive Management of Wild and Captive Animals. Springer, Berlin.
  11. Friends of the National Parks Foundation - Habitat (January, 2014)
  12. Friends of the National Parks Foundation - Community (January, 2014)