Red-winged starling

The red-winged starling (Onychognathus morio) is a bird of the starling family Sturnidae native to eastern Africa from Ethiopia to the Cape in South Africa. An omnivorous, generalist species, it prefers cliffs and mountainous areas for nesting, and has moved into cities and towns due to similarity to its original habitat.

Red-winged starling
Red-winged Starling (Onychognathus morio) (6042010966)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Sturnidae
Genus: Onychognathus
O. morio
Binomial name
Onychognathus morio
(Linnaeus, 1766)
Afrika Verbreitungsgebiet Onychognathus morio

Turdus morio Linnaeus, 1766


Onychognathus morio 2
Chestnut-coloured primaries, which are particularly noticeable in flight, help to distinguish this species from the similar pale-winged starling.

In 1760 the French zoologist Mathurin Jacques Brisson included a description of the red-winged starling in his Ornithologie based on a specimen collected from the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa. He used the French name Le merle du Cap de Bonne Espérance and the Latin Merula Capitis Bonae Spei.[2] Although Brisson coined Latin names, these do not conform to the binomial system and are not recognised by the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature.[3] When in 1766 the Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus updated his Systema Naturae for the twelfth edition, he added 240 species that had been previously described by Brisson.[3] One of these was the red-winged starling. Linnaeus included a brief description, coined the binomial name Turdus morio and cited Brisson's work.[4] The specific name morio or morion is Latin for "dark brown stone" or "black quartz".[5] This species is now placed in the genus Onychognathus that was introduced by the German physician and ornithologist Gustav Hartlaub in 1849.[6]

Two subspecies are recognised:[7]

  • O. m. rueppellii (Verreaux, J, 1856) – south Sudan to central Ethiopia and north Kenya
  • O. m. morio (Linnaeus, 1766) – Uganda and Kenya to Botswana and south South Africa


The male of this 27–30-centimetre (11–12 in) long starling has mainly iridescent black plumage, with chestnut flight feathers, which are particularly noticeable in flight. The female has an ash-grey head and upper breast. The juvenile resembles the male, but is less glossy than the adults, and has brown rather than dark red eyes. The Ethiopian subspecies O. m. rupellii is longer-tailed than the nominate form and intergrades with it.

This species has a number of whistled calls, but the most familiar is the contact call, cher-leeeoo.

This starling may be confused with other similar starling species, such as its sister species the pale-winged starling. The difference between the two is that the red-winged has rufous primaries while the pale-winged has whitish primaries edged with orange. The pale-winged has a bright red or orange eye, while the red-winged's is dark, almost black.[8] Only the female of the red-winged has a grey head.

Distribution and habitat

The range is down eastern Africa from Ethiopia to the Cape in South Africa. This species has a wide habitat tolerance. It may be found in forest, savannah, grassland, wetlands, fynbos, farmlands and commercial plantations, as well as urban centres. It is now common in many urban areas, due to the similarity between the structure of tall buildings and houses as nest sites with the cliffs of its original habitat. It may also nest in residential areas, breeding in roofs and apertures and up house eaves.


Food and feeding

Red-winged Starling feeding on Melianthus
A male red-winged starling feeding on a Melianthus inflorescence

Like other starlings, the red-winged starling is an omnivore, taking a wide range of seeds, berries, nectar from plants such as Aloe and Schotia brachypetala, and invertebrates, such as the beetle species Pachnoda sinuata. They may take nestlings and adults of certain bird species, such as the African palm swift.[9] It will also scavenge on carrion and human food scrap.

The red-winged starling will obviously only perch on plant structures that will be able to support its weight; therefore when taking nectar it will choose certain species with strong, robust racemes with easily accessible flowers, such as that of Aloe ferox and Aloe marlothii, and not Aloe arborescens. Large flowers that can support the bird's weight, such as that of Strelitzia nicolai and certain Protea species, are also chosen.

Fruit species that this species may feed on include figs, such as the sycamore fig and others, marulas, date palm fruit, berries from species such as wild olive Olea europaea ssp. africana and Euphorbia, and commercial fruit such as apples, grapes, citruses and others.

In rural areas, red-winged starlings are often spotted perching on livestock and game, such as cattle, klipspringers and giraffes, a trait shared by the pale-winged starling,[10] and may take insects and ectoparasites such as ticks, much in the manner of oxpeckers.


Red-winged starling chick
A Red-winged starling chick that is almost old enough to leave the nest.

The red-winged starling is territorial, aggressive and intolerant when nesting, and will attack other species, including domestic animals and humans. When not breeding, red-winged starlings are highly gregarious and will associate with other members of their species in large flocks.

This starling is a cliff nester, breeding on rocky cliffs, outcrops and gorges. The red-winged starling builds a lined nest of grass and twigs, and with a mud base, on a natural or structural ledge. It lays two to four, usually three, blue eggs, spotted with red-brown. The female incubates the eggs for 13–14 days, with another 22–28 days to fledge. This starling is commonly double-brooded. It may be parasitised by the great spotted cuckoo.


It is preyed upon by other birds such as peregrine falcons, lanner falcons, tawny eagles, cape eagle-owls, pied crows, and gymnogene.[9]


The red-winged starling is not endangered[1] and can be a pest in some areas, raiding orchards and attacking people that wander too close to their nests.


Red-winged Starling 2014 02 23 6113

Male with caterpillar food item

Red-winged Starling male RWD

Male feeding in a Cape fig

Red-winged Starling female RWD

Female, showing streaky grey head plumage

Red Winged Starling on Table Mountain Cape Town 016

Exposed black-tipped, rufous primaries


  1. ^ a b BirdLife International (2017). "Onychognathus morio". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 11 May 2018.
  2. ^ Brisson, Mathurin Jacques (1760). Ornithologie, ou, Méthode contenant la division des oiseaux en ordres, sections, genres, especes & leurs variétés (in French and Latin). Volume 2. Paris: Jean-Baptiste Bauche. pp. 309–311, Plate 23 fig 2. The two stars (**) at the start of the section indicates that Brisson based his description on the examination of a specimen.
  3. ^ a b Allen, J.A. (1910). "Collation of Brisson's genera of birds with those of Linnaeus". Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History. 28: 317–335.
  4. ^ Linnaeus, Carl (1766). Systema naturae : per regna tria natura, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis (in Latin). Volume 1, Part 1 (12th ed.). Holmiae (Stockholm): Laurentii Salvii. p. 297.
  5. ^ Jobling, J.A. (2018). del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A.; Sargatal, J.; Christie, D.A.; de Juana, E. (eds.). "Key to Scientific Names in Ornithology". Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions. Retrieved 11 May 2018.
  6. ^ Hartlaub, Gustav (1849). "Description de cinq nouvelles espèces d'oiseaux de l'Afrique occidentale". Revue et Magasin de Zoologie Pure et Appliquée. 2nd Series (in French and Latin). 1: 494-499 [494].
  7. ^ Gill, Frank; Donsker, David, eds. (2018). "Nuthatches, Wallcreeper, treecreepers, mockingbirds, starlings, oxpeckers". World Bird List Version 8.1. International Ornithologists' Union. Retrieved 11 May 2018.
  8. ^ Newman, Kenneth (1 January 2002). "Newman's Birds of Southern Africa". Struik – via Google Books.
  9. ^ a b "Onychognathus morio (Red-winged Starling)".
  10. ^
  • Feare, Chris; Craig, Adrian (1999). Starlings and Mynas. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-7136-3961-X.
  • Sinclair, Hockey and Tarboton, SASOL Birds of Southern Africa, ISBN 1-86872-721-1

External links

Media related to Onychognathus morio at Wikimedia Commons

Birds of Eden

Birds of Eden is the world's largest free flight aviary and bird sanctuary, located near Plettenberg Bay in the Western Cape, South Africa. The mesh dome of the sanctuary was built over 2.3 hectares (5.7 acres) of indigenous forest, and is up to 55 metres (180 ft) above ground level. 1.2 kilometres (0.75 mi) of walkways, about 75% of which are elevated, let visitors see the birds at all levels of the aviary.

Birds of Eden is one of the three Sanctuaries under The South African Animal Sanctuary Alliance (SAASA). As a member of SAASA Birds of Eden was honoured with four major tourism awards in 2014. The four awards are namely the Lilizela Tourism Visitor Experience of the Year Award at a 'Wildlife Encounters', the Skål International Sustainable Tourism Award, Overall winner of the World Responsible Tourism Award as well as the Gold Award in World Responsible Tourism in the category of 'Best Animal Welfare Initiative'

Blouberg Nature Reserve

Blouberg Nature Reserve is a protected area situated close to Vivo, west of Louis Trichardt in the Limpopo Province, of South Africa. It covers an area of 9,360 hectares (23,100 acres) from the eastern portion of the Blouberg mountain range down to the savanna near the Brak River, and is managed and administrated by the Limpopo Provincial Government.

Faerie Glen Nature Reserve

Faerie Glen Nature Reserve is a nature reserve at the western limit of the Bronberg in the east of Pretoria, South Africa. It formerly formed a part of the farm Hartbeespoort 304 which belonged to H. W. Struben. On old aerial photographs it is apparent that the flood plain was utilized for crop fields, while the remainder was used for cattle grazing. The reserve constitutes the western part of the Bronberg conservation area, which was declared in 1980. Its highest point is Renosterkop (1,468 m) in the northern part of the reserve.

Groenkloof Nature Reserve

The Groenkloof Nature Reserve, located adjacent to the Fountains Valley at the southern entrance to Pretoria, was the first game sanctuary in Africa. The reserve of 600 ha is managed by the Department of Nature Conservation. The National Heritage Monument is located within the reserve. It is flanked by Christina de Wit Avenue and Nelson Mandela Drive, that separate it from the Voortrekker Monument and Klapperkop Nature Reserves. In aggregate these reserves conserve some 1,400 ha of bankenveld vegetation which is threatened in Gauteng. The reserve is open to day visitors from 5:30 to 19:00 in summer, and 7:00 to 18:00 in winter.

Jurong Bird Park

Jurong Bird Park is an aviary and tourist attraction in Jurong, Singapore. The bird park, managed by Wildlife Reserves Singapore, covers an area of 0.2 square kilometres (49 acres) on the western slope of Jurong Hill, the highest point in the Jurong region.

Wildlife Reserves Singapore reported on 1 June 2016 that in 2020, Jurong Bird Park will be relocated to 80 Mandai Lake Road, 729826, with a new name for the Bird Park. For now, operation continues as per normal.

Krantzkloof Nature Reserve

The Krantzkloof Nature Reserve, managed by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, conserves 668 ha of the Molweni (Zulu: 'mutual greetings') and Nkutu River gorges that incise the sandstone Kloof plateau in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. The reserve conserves coastal scarp forest, sourveld grassland, a cliff face biotope, and aquatic environments along its rivers. Scarp forest is a threatened forest type, protected by South Africa's forests act of 1998, while the grassland is classified as KwaZulu-Natal sandstone sourveld, the most threatened terrestrial habitat in the Durban metropole. The reserve was established in 1950 and was augmented by land donations as late as 1999.

List of birds of Gauteng

An alphabetic list of common names of birds occurring in Gauteng, South Africa. Gauteng includes both the cities of Johannesburg and Pretoria, and numerous satellite municipalities spreading over a total of some 18 000 square km and an enormous diversity of habitat, and ranging in elevation from 1300 to 1900 metres. Gauteng lies at the junction of three major biomes – grassland to the south, arid savanna to the north-west, and moist savanna to the north-east and east – this location largely accounts for its great diversity of species.

The growing occupation of the area by man since the discovery of gold in the late 1800s has led to inevitable habitat loss and degradation, with the consequent displacement and decline of many species. The establishing of parks and suburban gardens, on the other hand, has created a multitude of niches and this, together with progressively milder highveld winters, has attracted a wealth of bushveld species from north of the Magaliesberg, and from other warmer areas. Tall office blocks and high-rise apartments have provided nesting opportunities for cliff-dwellers, while the collective, man-made forest is regarded as the world's largest. Some arrivals in Johannesburg gardens within recent times have been the hadeda ibis, green wood hoopoe, Cape starling, red-winged starling, grey go-away-bird, African grey hornbill, pin-tailed whydah, African green pigeon and southern boubou. Southern Africa's bird list numbers more than 900, with some 350 being found in Gauteng. Of the Southern Africa birds, 134 are endemic or near-endemic, while the centre of endemism is in the far west in the Karoo and Namib Desert. More species breed in Southern Africa than in Canada and the continental United States combined.

List of birds of Lesotho

This is a list of the bird species recorded in Lesotho. The avifauna of Lesotho include a total of 358 species, of which 60 are rare or accidental and four have been introduced by humans. One species has been extirpated. Unless otherwise noted, the list is that of iGoTerra.This list's taxonomic treatment (designation and sequence of orders, families and species) and nomenclature (common and scientific names) are those of The Clements Checklist of Birds of the World, 2018 edition.The following tags have been used to highlight several categories of occurrence

(A) Accidental - a species that rarely or accidentally occurs in Lesotho

(I) Introduced - a species introduced to Lesotho as a consequence, direct or indirect, of human actions

(Ex) Extirpated - a species that no longer occurs in Lesotho although populations exist elsewhere

List of birds of South Africa

South Africa is a large country, ranked 25th by size in the world, and is situated in the temperate latitudes and subtropics. Due to a range of climate types present, a patchwork of unique habitat types occur, which contribute to its biodiversity and level of endemism. This list incorporates the mainland and nearshore islands and waters only. The submerged though ecologically important Agulhas Bank is for most part inside its territorial waters. Offshore, South Africa's territory includes the Prince Edward Islands in the Subantarctic Indian Ocean.

This list's taxonomic treatment (designation and sequence of orders, families and species) and nomenclature (common and scientific names) follow the conventions of The Clements Checklist of Birds of the World, 2018 edition. Taxonomic changes are on-going. As more research is gathered from studies of distribution, behaviour and DNA, the order and number of families and species may change. Furthermore, different approaches to ornithological nomenclature have led to concurrent systems of classification (see Sibley-Ahlquist taxonomy and IOU taxonomy).

Unless otherwise noted, the list is that of BirdLife South Africa (BLSA). Notes in the status column are also from this source. Notes of population status, such as "Endangered", refer to the worldwide population, not the South African part of it. Unless otherwise noted in the "status" column, the species is a resident or regularly-occurring migrant.

"Vagrant" means the species rarely or accidentally occurs in South Africa.

"Endemic" means the species is found only in South Africa.

"SLS endemic" means the species is found only in South Africa and the Kingdoms of Lesotho and Eswatini (formerly Swaziland). Lesotho is surrounded by South Africa and Eswatini nearly so.This list contains 849 species according to the Clements taxonomy. The BLSA list includes additional entries as species which Clements considers subspecies; some of them are noted. According to BLSA, 18 species are endemic, 20 are SLS endemic, and 11 have been introduced by humans. Clements describes only 16 as endemic and 15 as SLS endemic. Of the 849, 125 are considered vagrants.

List of protected areas of Tanzania

Protected areas in Tanzania are extremely varied, ranging from sea habitats over grasslands to the top of the Kilimanjaro, the tallest mountain in Africa. About a third of the country's total area is protected to a certain degree as a national park, game reserve, marine park, forest reserve or the like.

The following list gives an overview on the various protected areas in Tanzania including their predominant habitat, wildlife and flora. Especially remarkable species (endemics or those occurring in unusually large numbers) are set in bold.

Milnerton Racecourse Nature Reserve

The Milnerton Racecourse Nature Reserve is a lowland conservation area located in the City of Cape Town, South Africa.

It forms part of the greater Table Bay Nature Reserve, proclaimed in June 2012.

Nature's Valley

Nature's Valley is a holiday resort and small village on the Garden Route along the southern Cape coast of South Africa. Nature's Valley lies between the Salt River, the foothills of the Tsitsikamma Mountains, the Indian Ocean and the Groot River lagoon. Nature's Valley has a balmy climate and is surrounded by the de Vasselot Nature Reserve which is part of the Tsitsikamma Park, and in turn part of the Garden Route National Park.

Neumann's starling

Neumann's starling, or Neumann's red-winged starling (Onychognathus neumanni) is a bird native to Africa. This starling breeds on rocky cliffs, outcrops and gorges mainly in the Sahel from Mauritania and Equatorial Guinea to western Sudan. Its English and binomial names commemorate German ornithologist Oscar Rudolph Neumann.


Onychognathus is a genus of starlings, most of which are found in Africa.

All the species are quite similar, and characterised by rufous primary wing feathers, very obvious in flight. The males are typically mainly glossy black, and the females have dull (sometimes dark, depending on species) grey heads.

The genus was introduced by the German physician and ornithologist Gustav Hartlaub in 1849 with the chestnut-winged starling as the type species. The name Onychognathus combines the Ancient Greek words onukhos "claw" or "nail" and gnathos "jaw".The genus contains 11 species.

Red-winged starling, Onychognathus morio

Slender-billed starling, Onychognathus tenuirostris

Chestnut-winged starling, Onychognathus fulgidus

Waller's starling, Onychognathus walleri

Somali starling, Onychognathus blythii

Socotra starling, Onychognathus frater

Tristram's starling, Onychognathus tristramii

Pale-winged starling, Onychognathus nabouroup

Bristle-crowned starling, Onychognathus salvadorii

White-billed starling, Onychognathus albirostris

Neumann's starling, Onychognathus neumanni

Oscar Neumann

Oscar Rudolph Neumann (3 September 1867 – 17 May 1946) was a German ornithologist.

Neumann travelled to Africa on several occasions, in particular between 1892 and 1894, and described many new African species. From 1900 to 1901 he traveled through Somaliland and southern Ethiopia with the German ornithologist Baron Carlo von Erlanger, clarifying the reports of earlier explorers and collecting numerous zoological specimens.

From 1908, financial difficulties forced Neumann to find employment in the Walter Rothschild Zoological Museum, where he worked for many years. In 1941, with the help of his friend Julius Riemer he fled Nazi Germany, traveling from Berlin to Cuba, then to Chicago, where he worked the final years of his life as a curator in the Field Museum of Natural History.

Sibley-Monroe checklist 14

The Sibley-Monroe checklist was a landmark document in the study of birds. It drew on extensive DNA-DNA hybridisation studies to reassess the relationships between modern 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.

Starlings have strong feet, their flight is strong and direct, and they are very gregarious. Their preferred habitat is fairly open country, and they eat insects and fruit. Several species live around human habitation and are effectively omnivores. Many species search for prey such as grubs by "open-bill probing", that is, forcefully opening the bill after inserting it into a crevice, thus expanding the hole and exposing the prey; this behaviour is referred to by the German verb zirkeln (pronounced [ˈtsɪɐ̯kl̩n]).Plumage of many species is typically dark with a metallic sheen. Most species nest in holes and lay blue or white eggs.

Starlings have diverse and complex vocalizations and have been known to embed sounds from their surroundings into their own calls, including car alarms and human speech patterns. The birds can recognize particular individuals by their calls and are the subject of research into the evolution of human language.

Ts'ehlanyane National Park

Ts'ehlanyane National Park is a National Park in Lesotho. It is located in the Maloti Mountains in Butha-Buthe District, and is part of the larger Maloti-Drakensberg Transfrontier Conservation Area. This Lesotho northern park protects a high-altitude, 2,600-metre (8,500 ft) patch of rugged wilderness, including one of Lesotho’s only stands of indigenous forest with a number of rare undergrowth plants that are unique to this woodland habitat.

The name "Ts'ehlanyane" is the local common name for the berg bamboo (Thamnocalamus tessellatus), from which the river and park take their name. It is fitting that the park should bear the name of this Drakensberg endemic plant, as it may be the most important refuge for this plant in the entire Maloti-Drakensberg mountain range.

Tswapong Hills

The Tswapong Hills are a mountain range in the Central District, Botswana. They rise to an elevation of 300 to 400 m above the hardveld of the almost 900 m high surrounding plateau. Geologically, these flat-topped hills are similar to the Waterberg Massif, located about 100 km to the south.

The Tswapong Range receives relatively more moisture than the surrounding sandy plain of Mopane woodland. The rocky cliffs are made of porous rock that absorbs rainwater, which then seeps out forming permanent cascades and pools, such as the Phothophotho Gorge.

The Lotsane River flows at the feet of the Tswapong Hills on their northern side. One of the main attractions of the hills is the spectacular Moremi Gorge.


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