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06 Dec, 2021
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Are Starlings Darlings? – Article by Gareth Jones

Starlings Of The Nairobi National Park

When visiting the various National parks in Kenya, it is difficult not to see various species of starlings. The Nairobi National Park is one of the parks that has some special varieties like the Superb starling, Ruppell’s long-tailed starling, Hildebrandt’s starling, Wattled starling and others.

Lamprotornis is a large genus of glossy starlings, all of which occur in Africa south of the Sahara. They have glossy blue or green upper parts, which is due to hollow melanin granules arranged in a single layer near the feather barbule’s surface. This unique arrangement led to some glossy starlings formerly placed in the genus Spreo being transferred to Lamprotornis. The under parts of these species lack iridescence. They may be blue, purple, yellow or brown. Most glossy starlings have striking yellow or red irides and are found in a variety of habitats from forests to open woodland and gardens. They nest in tree holes, either natural, or made by woodpeckers or barbets, and some will use man-made structures. Most species are resident apart from seasonal or local movement, but Shelley’s starling is migratory. Most species are gregarious outside the breeding season. Lamprotornis glossy starlings are omnivorous and mostly feed on the ground, although they will take fruit from trees. Some will feed on or near large mammals to find insects.

It is well worth it to just stop and quietly watch the starlings, they are always active, and very often trying to catch their next snack. Then once a particular starling has caught a meal, suddenly many others appear and would like a share. Imagine if humans behaved like that when eating, maybe some of us do? What always impresses me about starlings is their magnificent shining feathers, they reflect in the sunlight at various angles revealing shades that vary from deep blues to powerful purples, amazingly when they are standing in the shadows the same glossy starling appears to be rather dull and dark. This shows how reliant they are on sunlight for the reflection of the wonderful colours. Plus their bodies also have other colourful features. These birds are much more than physical colour, they also have colourful character traits. They have almost liquid sounding calls. In my opinion, starlings are perhaps darlings, as they always manage to cause me to have a moment of joy when I watch them. However starlings do also have a “not so cute, dark side”, they can be very aggressive with other birds at times. In the wild, it’s always “survival of the fittest”. Sometimes some of them look like the original “angry birds” when their beady eyes seem devoid of caring emotions. Then again we look with human eyes and think as humans, obviously a “bird brain” is very different, regarding decisions in their lives. Interestingly we as humans can also seem to be “good looking on the outside” but at times we are actually like “angry birds” on the inside. It is written… “for mankind looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart”- 1 Samuel 16 vs 7.  I pray God helps many people to change from the inside out, getting rid of the “angry bird” and having love, joy and peace from within.

I always find it a joy to see birds when driving in the park, as God has created so much amazing diversity. While driving through the park there is so much to see, I would highly recommend that it is best to drive slowly and quietly when looking for birds, and then stop as soon as you see them, in the hope that they will behave naturally, and maybe even catch something while you are watching! Very often when I drive slowly through the park, other rewards also come in the form of Serval cats, Lions and special creatures.

So remember next time you are in the park to spend some time watching the starlings, very often they are at the picnic sites as well, you will never be disappointed. Then as you observe them, after some time you can make your own decision. Are starlings darlings?


Gareth Jones – A passionate writer & photographer
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