Lee Richardson Zoo

Emerald Starling

Order:  Passeriformes - song birds

Family:  Sturnidae - starlings and mynas

Scientific Name:  Lamprotornis iris


DescriptionThe emerald starling is a small, short-tailed starling.  It is bright emerald green with purple ear-coverts, neck patch, and belly.  The eyes are dark.  Like other starlings, this species has a strong, narrow beak, and strong legs and feet for perching.  It is 7-7.5 inches long.  Juveniles are brown below and mixed brown-green above, with green wings. 


Home Range: Parts of West Africa, including French
Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Ivory Coast


Habitat Type:  Orchard bush, wooded and open savanna


Reproduction:   Emerald starlings build their nests in stumps or small trees, lining a cavity with green leaves.  Both partners help to build the nest.  They lay 2-4 pale blue eggs, sometimes with red-brown splotches, in each clutch.  The female has a fully developed brood patch (a bare spot on the belly that is used to transfer heat more efficiently to the eggs) and probably does most of the incubating, but the male also helps.  The incubation period lasts 13-15 days.  In captivity, both parents feed the chicks.  They may be assisted by other “helper” birds.  The chicks develop their complete adult plumage at 12-14 months, and can probably begin breeding at this time.


Diet in the Wild:  Small fruits, seeds, and insects (especially black ants and caterpillars);  chicks are fed only insects


Diet in the Zoo:  Softbill diet, small bird maintenance, chopped fruits and vegetables, mealworms


General Information:  Emerald starlings live in loose flocks.  The flocks spread out to forage during the day.  Like other starlings, emerald starlings have special muscles that allow them to open their beaks while probing in the soil, giving them easier access to many insects.  In the late afternoons, they begin heading to their roosting sites in small groups of 12-20.  The small groups join together at the roosting site to form large flocks.  They have many different calls for different purposes, including alarm calls, contact calls, and pre-flight calls. 


Conservation Status:  Although this species has a limited range, it is not thought to be endangered.  Emerald starlings are traded internationally, but the extent of this trade is unknown.


PredatorsNo information found.



Encyclopedia of Aviculture, Vol. 3.  1977.  A. Rutgers and K.A. Norris.  Blandford Press, Poole.  pp. 205-206, 209.

The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior.  2001.  C. Elphick, J.B. Dunning, and K.A. Sibley.  Alfred A. Knopf, New York.  pp. 475-477.