Asian Glossy Starling: A portrait

on 24th December 2011

I am never tired of watching groups of Asian Glossy Starling (Aplonis panayensis) feasting on the fruits of my Alexandra palms (Archontophoenix alexandrae). I have four palms that are more than 20 years old. They regularly flower and fruit such that there are always ripe fruits throughout the year. Small groups fly in at different times of the day, adults as well as juveniles, to swallow the fruits whole. They move from fruiting branch to fruiting branch, picking the choicest fruits. Many times the fruits failed to end up inside the birds but fell on to the ground below. At times the birds hung by their feet, their heads directed downwards as they reached for fruits below (left).

These Asian Glossy Starlings, also known as Philippine Glossy Starlings, are common residents, found in almost all habitats throughout Singapore. At a glance they appear black with shiny red eyes. On closer scrutiny, the plumage is actually a dark glossy green. Hails (1987) drew attention to its plumage, that “can change from brilliant green through purple to black, depending on how the sun strikes them.” The sexes look alike except that the female is slighter smaller. The juvenile looks not at all like the adult. The cream breast is heavily streaked with black while the back is green-grey. It is often mistaken for a female by birders new to the scene.


This is a social bird that moves in compact flocks. They love to congregate on TV aerials (above) and at night they join other flocks in large communal roosts. They may even join mynas in a mixed roost. Just before descending on their favourite trees, they perform impressive aerial displays, said to attract others to join them.

The call is a ringing whistle in flight and a metallic ink when perched (Strange, 2000).

Food is a variety of fruits like tembusu (Fagraea fragrans), Alexandra palm, MacArthur palm (Ptychosperma macarthurii), fishtail palm (Caryota mitis), salam (Syzygium polyanthum), figs… The adult as well as the juvenile swallow the large Alexandra palm fruits whole, to regurgitate the seeds some time later (right, juvenile). It is possible that it also swallow other palm fruits with smaller seeds like the MacArthur and fishtail palms. It also feeds on insects, often seen feasting termites when they swarm (Wells, 2007)

The bird breeds throughout the year. Nest is a simple cavity in a tree or any man-made cavities. It also nests in the eaves of houses or even in the frond-axils of palms. Three or even four blue eggs, sparsely spotted and blotched with dark brown, are laid.

YC Wee
December 2011

1. Hails, Christopher (1987). Birds of Singapore. Times Editions, Singapore.
2. Strange, M. (2000). A photographic guide to the birds of Malaysia and Singapore. Periplus Editions, Hongkong.
3. Wells, D.R. (2007). The birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsular. Vol. II, Passerines. Christopher Helm, London.

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.

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