Rosy starling (Sturnus roseus)

Also known as: Rose-coloured starling
French: Etourneau roselin
GenusSturnus (1)
SizeLength: : 22 - 26 cm (2)
Male weight:: 59 - 90 g (2)
Female weight:: 60 - 88 g (2)

Classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

The rosy starling (Sturnus roseus) has a black head, chest and tail, with a purple or blue sheen. The feathers of the back of the neck form a crest, which although larger in the male, can be erected in both sexes. The back, lower chest and belly of the rosy starling are a distinctive pale pink colour, while the beak is yellow, and the legs bright pink (2).

The female rosy starling has a duller colouration than the male, while both the adult male and female appear dull outside of the breeding season during the summer and autumn. Juveniles are sandy grey-brown with a slight spotting pattern (2). 

The male rosy starling’s song consists of many phrases with whistling, bubbling, warbling and grating sounds, which are similar to the song of the common starling. Winter roosting flocks of the rosy starling chatter constantly and nestlings chirp weakly (2).

The rosy starling is one of the most widely-distributed species of starling in the world, with a breeding range that extends from Kazakhstan and central Russia into eastern Europe (3). The winter range is geographically distinct from its breeding range, with birds generally wintering in India and sometimes on the eastern coast of Oman (4).

On occasion, migrating birds may stray off course, appearing as far from their usual range as Iceland, Egypt or Thailand (2).

During the breeding season the rosy starling can be found in steppe habitat. Once the breeding season has passed, this species will leave the breeding colonies in favour of wooded areas, such as orchards and vineyards. The preferred habitat of the rosy starling is varied during the winter, when it can be found in areas ranging from open country and agricultural land to woodland (2).

The adult rosy starling adults and its young feed on insects during the breeding season, particularly locusts and grasshoppers. There are accounts of the rosy starling feeding on the larvae of the winter moth (Operophetra brumata), which is considered to be a significant agricultural pest. Upon fledging, the rosy starling eats fruit, such as grapes and mulberries. In line with the wider range of habitats that the rosy starling occupies in the winter, it shows a broadening of diet to include seeds and nectar, and a wider range of fruit including cherries, apricots, dates and even chillies (2).

The relatively short breeding season of the rosy starling begins in May to June in most parts of its range, and is tightly associated with abundance of locusts and grasshoppers. Courtship and mating occur on the ground. The rosy starling usually builds its nest hidden in holes and crevices, such as gaps between rocks in scree slopes or abandoned holes made by other species, although occasionally nests are exposed. The nests are made of grass and twigs, with a lining of feathers and finer grass (2). Wormwood and giant fennel are occasionally used in nest lining, possibly due to their insecticidal properties (2).

The rosy starling lays between three and six pale blue eggs, although clutches of up to ten eggs have been reported. Large clutch sizes are probably due to two females sharing the same nest. The male and the female take turns incubating eggs for a period of about two weeks and,- after hatching, the chicks remain in the nest for about 24 days, fed by both adults (2).

The rosy starling is a highly social bird, feeding and migrating in flocks, breeding colonially, and roosting communally. Even in dense colonies, it will rarely show aggression toward other individuals. During the breeding season, flocks of rosy starling can reach numbers of tens to hundreds, but during migration, flock size varies from tens of hundreds to thousands. The rosy starlings will also form large groups and roost with other species such as other starlings, mynas, parakeets and crows (2).

There are no known threats currently affecting the population of the rosy starling although this species is often shot for sport in India (4).

There are no known specific conservation measures in place for the rosy starling (1).

For more information on the rosy starling:

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 (February, 2009)
  2. Feare, C. and Craig, A. (1998) Starlings and Mynas. Christopher Helm, London
  3. BirdLife International (November, 2009)
  4. Feare, C. (1984) The Starling. Oxford University Press, Oxford.