Brahminy starling (Sturnus pagodarum)

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderPasseriformes
FamilySturnidae
GenusSturnus (1)
SizeLength: 20 cm (2)
Weight40 - 54 g (2)

The Brahminy starling is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1).

The wispy crest of elongate, hackled feathers on the glossy black crown of the Brahminy starling (Sturnus pagodarum) distinguishes this small bird from other species of similar size and colouration. The hackles may extend to the nape and upper breast, which are both cinnamon in colour with pale streaks on the feather shafts. The underparts, cheeks and throat of the Brahminy starling are cinnamon, becoming greyer on the flanks. The mantle, back, wing-coverts and rump are all grey tinged with brown, while the blackish-brown primary feathers have some white at the base. The tail is grey-brown with white tips to all but the central pair of feathers. There is a small whitish patch of bare skin behind the eyes, which are pale greenish in colour, while the bill is yellow, coloured slightly bluer at the base. The legs are yellow (2) (3).

The female Brahminy starling appears similar to the male, but with a shorter crest and darker coloured mantle. The juvenile lacks the crested feathers and is much duller and browner on the back and crown, with buff coloured underparts. The legs of juvenile birds are flesh coloured and the iris is grey, while the bill lacks the blue base (2) (3).

The Brahminy starling produces a rambling warble of many varied notes and mimicry of other species, while calls include harsh shrieks, and a repeated alarm call of grating ‘churrs’ (2) (3).

The Brahminy starling is found in northeast Afghanistan, east into the foothills of western Nepal and west Bengal, south to eastern Pakistan, and throughout peninsular India. Non-breeding populations of the Brahminy starling are also found in Sri Lanka (2).

The Brahminy starling principally inhabits open deciduous forest, scrubby areas of jungle and cultivated areas close to human habitation, in lowlands and foothills up to elevations of 1,800 metres (2) (3).  

Although less gregarious than many other starling species, tending to live in pairs or in small family groups, the Brahminy starling will congregate in larger flocks during the non-breeding season and around sources of abundant food. It may also roost communally in trees, shrubs and reed beds, and will nest colonially if the availability of nest holes allows (2) (3).

The breeding season runs from February to September, with breeding occurring earlier in the more southern parts of its range, and slightly later in the north. The Brahminy starling is monogamous and both sexes contribute to building the nest, which is typically an untidy structure of grass, dead leaves, paper and other materials, placed in the hole of a tree. The Brahminy starling also uses holes in walls or in the roofs of buildings, and will use nestboxes if no other suitable nest sites are present (2) (3).

The courtship display of the Brahminy starling takes place on the ground, with the male singing and standing erect, puffing out the feathers on the chest and crest and fanning the tail up and down. The female lays a clutch of between 3 and 5, usually 4, pale blue eggs which are incubated by both sexes for a period of 12 days. The chicks are fed by both adult birds until they leave the nest after 18 to 21 days (2) (3).      

The Brahminy starling typically feeds on a wide variety of invertebrates, as well as the fruits, berries, flowers and nectar of a range of plant species. Juvenile birds are fed mainly with invertebrates and small amounts of plant matter. The Brahminy starling forages extensively on the ground, often in association with other starlings (2) (3).

The Brahminy starling is not considered globally threatened, and the population may even be expanding in some of the more northern parts of its range (2). However, the trend of the global population is difficult to estimate because of uncertainty over how habitat change is affecting this species (4). In India, the Brahminy starling is sometimes caught and kept as a cagebird, although this is unlikely to have a significantly negative impact on the overall population (2).

There are no known conservation measures in place for the Brahminy starling.

To find out more about the Brahminy starling and other bird species, see:

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:
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  1. IUCN Red List (December, 2010)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org/
  2. del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J. (2009) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 14: Bush-Shrikes to Old World Sparrows. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  3. Feare, C. and Craig, A. (1998) Starlings and Mynas. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey.
  4. BirdLife International (December, 2010)
    http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/speciesfactsheet.php?id=6809