8th of August, 2014 – Species Spotlight – Red Winged Starling

This week we spotlight

Red Winged Starling

Onychognathus morio

Red Winged Starling (2)

These birds are native to Eastern Africa, where they are found ranging from Ethiopia down to the Cape in South Africa.  They are found in a wide range of habitats, from forest to grassland and are also becoming increasingly frequent in urban areas.  They are not thought to be  rare and are of least concern in terms of their conservation status.

The name is rather obvious when you see the birds in flight.  The majority of their plummage is almost iridescent black, with the the primary flight feathers chestnut red.  Females can be told apart from the males as they have ashy grey heads whereas the males are blue/black all over.

Red Winged Starling (1)

As with the majority of Starlings, Red Wings are omnivores, taking a wide range of food.  Fruits and berries are the favourite food, although they also take seed, nectar and live food in the shape of insects, amphibians & molluscs.  They are often found around large mammals where they will take ticks and other parasites.  Snails & scorpions are dealt with in a similar as to our Song Thrush, broken on an anvil into small, manageable pieces.

Red wings are unusual in Starlings in that they prefer to nest on cliff ledges and, more frequently, buildings.  The nest is made of mud, grass and sticks and lined with finer materials including hair.  Nests will be used again and again over the years.  Between 2 & 4 eggs are laid and they are blue, with red/brown spots. Incubation lasts for 2 weeks, with the female incubating and the male providing food.  Both adults tend the chicks who fledge at just over 3-4 weeks.

 

We currently house a pair in the old Toucan/Temperate House where they are alongside a pair of Southern Lapwing & a single Sulawesi Dove.  They are fed on an insectivorous mix with fruit and live food, but can also access seeds from the doves food dish.  We have had eggs from this pair in the past but the hen has a gammy leg, making successful mating highly unlikely.

 

 

In other news…..

King Penguin egg number 5 was laid this morning by Lily and her mate Frank.  This is their second egg this year and marks our best year for eggs for quite some time.  The egg has been removed for incubation and unfortunately has been found to have a crack (Frank was not sat particularly well this morning).  We have attempted to repair the crack with some liquid plaster and only time will tell if the egg was too badly damaged. It weighed 319 grams

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We are watching the Pink Backed Pelicans closely as we have had lots of displaying this week and at least 3 mating attempts have been seen (2 looked successful!) Extra nest material has been provided and all 6 birds are frequenting the nest platform

The Golden Conures have at least one egg in the nest, probably more

The Kookaburra egg was removed as it was broken

Humboldt Ron is the next of the group to come into moult

 

Wildlife wise the Kingfishers are proactive around the site and a Stoat was seen (lovely but not good news from our point of view as they could do some serious damage bird wise)

A hornet has been regular and a Giant House Spider gave me a small fright in one of the food stores yesterday. Moths have included White Plume and a possible Common Marbled Carpet?

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Thanks as always for reading

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