Common within its range but uncommonly striking to birders who are unfamiliar with just how colorful starlings can be, the greater blue-eared starling is a magnificent bird with spectacular plumage that has to be seen to be believed.
Common Name: Greater Blue-Eared Starling, Greater Blue-Eared Glossy-Starling, Green Glossy Starling, Blue-Eared Starling
Scientific Name: Lamprotornis chalybaeus
Scientific Family: Sturnidae
- Bill: Black, stout, slightly curved culmen
- Size: 8.5-9.5 inches long with 15 to 17-inch wingspan, short tail, upright posture
- Colors: Blue, teal, purple, green, black, brown, gray, iridescent, yellow
- Markings: Genders are similar with teal-blue upperparts that show a brilliant shiny, metallic iridescence in good light. A blue-black, mask-like facial patch surrounds the eyes and extends over the auriculars. Even black spots create two wing bars. The underparts are more deeply colored and the abdomen and flanks are blue-purple. This bird's plumage may show different hues or degrees of coloration depending on the viewing angle and quality of light. The eyes are bright yellow or yellow-orange with a dark pupil, and the legs and feet are gray-black.
Juveniles are similar to adults but are much less iridescent, and show sooty brown-gray underparts. The eye is also darker.
Foods: Insects, seeds, berries, fruit, small mammals, small reptiles (See: Omnivorous)
Habitat and Migration
These starlings are adaptable to a wide range of habitats and may be found in open deciduous woodlands, riparian areas, drier savannahs and around human habitation in towns and villages. They are found year-round in sub-Saharan Africa from Senegal and southern Mauritania west to eastern Eritrea and Ethiopia. Their range extends south to Mozambique and Botswana, then east again to northern Namibia and southern Angola.
After the breeding season, a small portion of the northwestern part of this bird's range expands south, especially in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Nigeria and northern Cameroon. This is the only migratory part of the greater blue-eared starling's population.
These noisy starlings have a number of jumbled songs and calls that include musical warbles, grating croaks, nasal mews and a variety of whistled notes. Call notes are usually shorter and more abrupt but can have just as many variations.
These are gregarious birds that can gather in very large flocks and roosts, often mixed with several other starling species. They will forage either in trees or on the ground, and typically prefer to walk rather than hop when foraging. They will even land directly on grazing animals to pick away at insects and parasites.
These starlings are cavity-nesting birds that use natural cavities or the old nesting holes of woodpeckers or barbets. Some greater blue-eared starlings have even been observed nesting in large gaps in the broad stick nests of ibises and storks. Both males and females work together to line the nesting cavity with dry grass, feathers, and similar nesting material.
The eggs are green-blue with darker brown or purple dots, and there are 2 to 5 eggs in each brood. The female parent incubates the eggs for 13 to 14 days, and after the altricial young hatch, both parents will bring the chicks food for an additional 22 to 24 days. At that time, the young starlings are ready to leave the nest but will follow their parents to learn the best foraging spots and food types.
Multiple broods are likely with these starlings, though their breeding behavior and reproduction success have not been extensively studied. They are occasional victims of brood parasitism by great spotted cuckoos and, to a lesser extent, greater honeyguides.
Attracting Greater Blue-Eared Starlings
These birds are fearless and will readily stay near humans, particularly if nesting areas are available and insecticide use is minimized to ensure a good food source. Planting fig trees or agave plants can help attract these birds, and they will also visit reliable water sources. Greater blue-eared starlings are likely to be found in agricultural areas with abundant livestock to churn up insects for easy feeding.
These birds are not considered threatened or endangered, and in fact, the growing presence of agricultural livestock is helping expand their range and populations.
- Lesser Blue-Eared Glossy-Starling (Lamprotornis chloropterus)
- Cape Starling (Lamprotornis nitens)
- Black-Bellied Glossy-Starling (Lamprotornis corruscus)
- Long-Tailed Glossy-Starling (Lamprotornis caudatus)
- Sharp-Tailed Starling (Lamprotornis acuticaudus)
- Miombo Blue-Eared Starling (Lamprotornis elisabeth)
- Bronze-Tailed Glossy-Starling (Lamprotornis chalcurus)
Photo – Greater Blue-Eared Starling © flowcomm