Wattled starling

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Wattled starling
Wattled Starling (Creatophora cinerea) (6017306206), crop.jpg
Male singing
Scientific classification Red Pencil Icon.png
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Sturnidae
Genus: Creatophora
Lesson, 1847
Species:
C. cinerea
Binomial name
Creatophora cinerea
(Meuschen, 1787)

The wattled starling (Creatophora cinerea) is a nomadic resident in eastern and southern Africa. It is a species of grassland, open woodland and cultivation.

Africa The second largest and second most-populous continent, mostly in the Northern and Eastern Hemispheres

Africa is the world's second largest and second most-populous continent, being behind Asia in both categories. At about 30.3 million km2 including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of Earth's total surface area and 20% of its land area. With 1.2 billion people as of 2016, it accounts for about 16% of the world's human population. The continent is surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, the Isthmus of Suez and the Red Sea to the northeast, the Indian Ocean to the southeast and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. The continent includes Madagascar and various archipelagos. It contains 54 fully recognised sovereign states (countries), nine territories and two de facto independent states with limited or no recognition. The majority of the continent and its countries are in the Northern Hemisphere, with a substantial portion and number of countries in the Southern Hemisphere.

Contents

This is the only African starling which appears to show affinities with the Asian starlings, particularly the genus Sturnus. Its bare face patches and ability to open-bill feed in grassland are unique amongst African starlings. It is the only member of the genus Creatophora.

Starling family of birds

Starlings are small to medium-sized passerine birds in the family Sturnidae. The name "Sturnidae" comes from the Latin word for starling, sturnus. Many Asian species, particularly the larger ones, are called mynas, and many African species are known as glossy starlings because of their iridescent plumage. Starlings are native to Europe, Asia and Africa, as well as northern Australia and the islands of the tropical Pacific. Several European and Asian species have been introduced to these areas as well as North America, Hawaii and New Zealand, where they generally compete for habitats with native birds and are considered to be invasive species. The starling species familiar to most people in Europe and North America is the common starling, and throughout much of Asia and the Pacific, the common myna is indeed common.

This common species appears to be extending its range into West Africa, and has also occurred in Arabia, Madagascar and the Seychelles.

Madagascar island nation off the coast of Southeast Africa, in the Indian Ocean

Madagascar, officially the Republic of Madagascar, and previously known as the Malagasy Republic, is an island country in the Indian Ocean, approximately 400 kilometres off the coast of East Africa. The nation comprises the island of Madagascar and numerous smaller peripheral islands. Following the prehistoric breakup of the supercontinent Gondwana, Madagascar split from the Indian subcontinent around 88 million years ago, allowing native plants and animals to evolve in relative isolation. Consequently, Madagascar is a biodiversity hotspot; over 90% of its wildlife is found nowhere else on Earth. The island's diverse ecosystems and unique wildlife are threatened by the encroachment of the rapidly growing human population and other environmental threats.

Seychelles Island country to the East of Africa

Seychelles, officially the Republic of Seychelles, is an archipelago country in the Indian Ocean. The capital of the 115-island country, Victoria, lies 1,500 kilometres (932 mi) east of mainland East Africa. Other nearby island countries and territories include Comoros, Mayotte, Madagascar, Réunion and Mauritius to the south; as well as the Maldives and British Indian Ocean Territory to the east. With a population of roughly 94,228, it has the smallest population of any sovereign African country.

Description

Non-breeding male Wattled Starling non breeder.jpg
Non-breeding male

The wattled starling is 21 cm long, with a short tail and pointed wings. It has mainly grey plumage except for a white rump, and black flight feathers and tail. The breeding male has a white shoulder patch and a distinctive head pattern, with unfeathered yellow skin, and black forehead and throat wattles. The extent to which these seasonal features develop increases with the age of the bird, and some old females may show a weaker version of this plumage.

The non-breeding male has a feathered head except for a small yellow patch behind the eye. There are no wattles, but there is a black moustachial stripe. The white shoulder patch is much reduced. The female and juvenile plumages are similar to the non-breeding male, but the flight feathers and tail are brown.

The black flight and tail feathers and white rump make this species unmistakable in flight.

This species has a range of wheezing or grating calls comparable to those of the common starling, but the most familiar is a wheezing ssreeeeo.

Common starling A medium sized passerine bird native to temperate Europe and western Asia

The common starling, also known as the European starling, or in the British Isles just the starling, is a medium-sized passerine bird in the starling family, Sturnidae. It is about 20 cm (8 in) long and has glossy black plumage with a metallic sheen, which is speckled with white at some times of year. The legs are pink and the bill is black in winter and yellow in summer; young birds have browner plumage than the adults. It is a noisy bird, especially in communal roosts and other gregarious situations, with an unmusical but varied song. Its gift for mimicry has been noted in literature including the Mabinogion and the works of Pliny the Elder and William Shakespeare.

Behaviour

Breeding

The wattled starling is a colonial breeder, and may share its colonies with the Cape weaver. It always nests in trees or bushes, including acacias and eucalyptus at between 1 and 10 m above the ground. The globular nest is made from twigs and lined with grass or feathers. The two to five, usually three or four, eggs are pale blue, immaculate or with some brown spots, and are laid before the dome of the nest is completed. Both sexes build the nest, incubate the eggs and feed the young.

Cape weaver species of bird

The Cape weaver is a species of bird in the weaver family, Ploceidae, found in southern Africa.

<i>Acacia</i> genus of plants

Acacia, commonly known as the wattles or acacias, is a large genus of shrubs and trees in the subfamily Mimosoideae of the pea family Fabaceae. Initially it comprised a group of plant species native to Africa and Australia, with the first species A. nilotica described by Linnaeus. Controversy erupted in the early 2000s when it became evident that the genus as it stood was not monophyletic, and that several divergent lineages needed to be placed in separate genera. It turned out that one lineage comprising over 900 species mainly native to Australia was not closely related to the mainly African lineage that contained A. nilotica—the first and type species. This meant that the Australian lineage would need to be renamed. Botanist Les Pedley named this group Racosperma, which was inconsistently adopted. Australian botanists proposed that this would be more disruptive than setting a different type species and allowing this large number of species to remain Acacia, resulting in the two African lineages being renamed Vachellia and Senegalia, and the two New World lineages renamed Acaciella and Mariosousa. This was officially adopted, but many botanists from Africa and elsewhere disagreed that this was necessary.

<i>Eucalyptus</i> genus of plants

Eucalyptus is a genus of over seven hundred species of flowering trees, shrubs or mallees in the myrtle family, Myrtaceae commonly known as eucalypts. Plants in the genus Eucalyptus have bark that is smooth, fibrous or stringy, leaves with oil glands, and sepals and petals that are fused to form a "cap" or operculum over the stamens. The fruit is a woody capsule commonly referred to as a "gumnut". Australia is covered by 92,000,000 hectares of eucalypt forest, comprising three quarters of the area covered by native forest.

The eggs hatch after 11 days, and the chicks leave the nest in another 13–16 days. They cannot fly, and suffer heavy predation from large birds of prey.

Bird of prey species of bird that primarily hunt and feed on vertebrates that are large relative to the hunter

Birds of prey, or raptors, include species of bird that primarily hunt and feed on vertebrates that are large relative to the hunter. Additionally, they have keen eyesight for detecting food at a distance or during flight, strong feet equipped with talons for grasping or killing prey, and powerful, curved beaks for tearing flesh. The term raptor is derived from the Latin word rapio, meaning to seize or take by force. In addition to hunting live prey, most also eat carrion, at least occasionally, and vultures and condors eat carrion as their main food source.

Breeding is linked to an abundant insect supply, and colonies will be abandoned, even with chicks in the nest, if, for example, locust swarms are destroyed by control measures.

Roosting

The wattled starling is highly gregarious and will form large flocks, often with other starlings. Its reedbed roosts, which can be huge, may also be shared.

Feeding

Like other starlings, the wattled starling is an omnivore, taking a wide range of invertebrates seeds and berries, but its diet is mainly insects including many locusts, leading to the local name "locust bird".[ citation needed ]

It will scavenge at rubbish heaps, and frequently perches on livestock, feeding on insects disturbed by the animals and also removing ectoparasites.

Notes

  1. BirdLife International (2012). "Creatophora cinerea". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature . Retrieved 26 November 2013.

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