Annual appearance of migrant starlings

on 21st December 2008

On 15th November 2008, KC Tsang was at his favourite haunt, the Bididari Cemetery:

“There were hundreds of starlings up in the sky this morning at my favorite haunt, Asian Glossy Starlings (Aplonis panayensis) mainly. However, among the flying hoards, we noticed there were some that was quite different from the usually black starlings.

“These were the Daurian Starlings a.k.a. Purple-backed Starlings (Sturnus sturninus) that are supposed to be common winter visitors and passage migrants (above).

“…we also pay attention to these flying hoards just in case we find some rarities…”

Two weeks later Chow Ngian encountered several flocks of starlings along Tampines Ave 12, adding that “they seem to be very nervous birds because they never remain still for long and they move in waves from tree to tree.” He wondered whether they could be White-shouldered Starlings (Sturnus sinensis) (left).

According to our bird specialist R Subaraj, they were actually Purple-backed Starlings “…the males of the White-shouldered Starlings have the whole shoulder as one large white patch while females have grey shoulder with the white line at the bottom of the shoulder patch. Females also have grey rumps while these show white rumps.

“…Purple-backed Starlings do occur in large flocks, mainly as passage migrants; flocks can be 2-3 hundred strong!

“White-shouldered Starling is an uncommon migrant that annually occurs in small flocks, usually on their own but sometimes in Purple-backed flocks. They are larger and males are obvious. They are found each year in the Lorong Halus/Ponggol area but we also have records from a few other areas.”

If you like this post please tap on the Like button at the left bottom of page. Any views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the authors/contributors, and are not endorsed by the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM, NUS) or its affiliated institutions. Readers are encouraged to use their discretion before making any decisions or judgements based on the information presented.

YC Wee

Dr Wee played a significant role as a green advocate in Singapore through his extensive involvement in various organizations and committees: as Secretary and Chairman for the Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch), and with the Nature Society (Singapore) as founding President (1978-1995). He has also served in the Nature Reserve Board (1987-1989), Nature Reserves Committee (1990-1996), National Council on the Environment/Singapore Environment Council (1992-1996), Work-Group on Nature Conservation (1992) and Inter-Varsity Council on the Environment (1995-1997). He is Patron of the Singapore Gardening Society and was appointed Honorary Museum Associate of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM) in 2012. In 2005, Dr Wee started the Bird Ecology Study Group. With more than 6,000 entries, the website has become a valuable resource consulted by students, birdwatchers and researchers locally and internationally. The views and opinions expressed in this article are his own, and do not represent those of LKCNHM, the National University of Singapore or its affiliated institutions.

Other posts by YC Wee

4 Responses

  1. Yeow Chin,

    Slight error here….the description that I gave, “males of these starlings have the whole shoulder as one large white patch…..” refers to White-shouldered Starlings but comes across in the article as a description of Purple-backed Starling.

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