Lee Richardson Zoo

Superb Starling

Order:  Passeriformes – Perching birds

Family:  Sturnidae – Starlings, mynas, and oxpeckers

Scientific Name:  Spreo superbus


Description Superb Starlings are small, stocky birds with rounded wings and a strong, straight beak.  Their upperparts and large bib are dark metallic blue-green.  They have a white band along the bottom of the bib, and the rest of the chest is bright chestnut.  The underparts are white.  Adults have pale yellow eyes.  Juveniles have darker eyes, and are duller in overall coloring than adults.  Males and females look alike.  They reach 7-8 inches in length.


Home Range:   Parts of northeastern Africa, including Ethiopia, Somalia, Tanzania, and Sudan


Habitat Type:   Open woodland, scrubland, and agricultural fields;  often found near human habitation


Reproduction:   The breeding season varies within their range.  Pairs perform courtship displays by jumping along the ground, with the wings trailing behind.  They nest in thorny bushes, low trees, or cliff hollows, building a bulky nest out of grasses, leaves, and small twigs.  They may add other material, including man-made objects, to the nest, and often line it with feathers.  Both partners help to build the nest.  They usually lay 4 eggs per clutch.  Incubation lasts 13 days, with both partners taking shifts.  The hatchlings are pink with little or no down.  Their eyes open after several days, and they fledge in about 3 weeks.  Superb Starlings can lay several clutches in one breeding season.


Diet in the Wild:   A variety of insects, crustaceans and other arthropods, worms, fruits, and grains.  They eat some agricultural pests, but also help themselves to the crops.


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


General Information:   Superb Starlings forage by probing into the soil and then forcing the beak open, creating an open space where they can search for food.  They have strong muscles attached to the beak, and captive starlings will search for a substrate to probe in, even if their food is always provided in a dish.  Strong legs and feet give them agility on the ground, where they do most of their foraging.  Starlings also have exceptional flight abilities.  They fly swiftly and can maneuver quickly, with large flocks twisting and turning as one.  Their voice is various chattering and whistling notes, and they sometimes mimic other birds.  Like other starlings, they are gregarious and usually unafraid of people.  They are often seen feeding near towns and agricultural fields.


Conservation Status:   Not threatened.  This species is widespread and very common in its range.


Predators:   No information available




Encyclopedia of Aviculture, Vol. 3.  1977.  A. Rutgers and K.A. Norris.  Blandford Press, Poole.  p. 210.


Field Guide to the Birds of East Africa.  1980.  J.G. Williams and N. Arlott.  Collins, London.  p. 392.


Grzimek’s Animal Life Encyclopedia, Vol. 11.  2003.  M. Hutchins.  Gale, Detroit.  pp. 407-411.


Utah’s Hogle Zoo website