Tag Archives: Birdwatching

violet-backed starling (Cinnyricinclus leucogaster)

The Violet-backed Starling belongs to the family of birds classified as Sturnidae. This species, also known as the Plum-coloured Starling or Amethyst Starling, is the smallest of the Kenya starlings, reaching only about 18cm in length. It is a successful breeder, and is fortunately not listed as a threatened species.

The sexes are strongly sexually dimorphic, meaning that there is a distinct difference in the appearance of the male and female. The breeding male is brilliantly coloured, with feathers an iridescent shining plum violet colour along the length of is back, wings, face and throat, contrasting with bright white on the rest of the body. Females (and juveniles) are a streaky brown and buff colour, and can easily be mistaken for a thrush.
Less noisy than other starlings, this bird is a monogamous species, and will remain so unless its mate dies. Under those circumstances it will seek a new mate in replacement. These starlings are normally seen in small flocks in summer, just before the breeding season when they will break off into pairs to nest.

Violet-backed starlings will nest in cavities such as tree holes high off the ground, holes in river banks, even in old hollow fence posts, lining the nests with dung, leaves and other plant material. They have been known to reuse nests in successive breeding seasons. The oval, spotted blue eggs are incubated for a period of roughly 2 weeks. It is believed that only the female incubates the eggs, but both adults feed the hatchlings.

Like all starlings, this species is omnivorous, eating both fruit such as mulberries and figs, and insects such as butterflies, bees, wasps and locusts. They are adept at catching prey both on the wing or off tree branches. When termites swarm, the violet-backed starlings can be found in abundance, gorging themselves on these insects, taking their prey back to a secluded area to tear and consume it.

These exquisite bird are intra-African migrants, found in much of sub-Saharan Africa – typically in woodland, grassland or riverine areas. They are eagerly awaited, common summer visitors whose brightly coloured arrival is greeted with great enthusiasm by rangers and guests at Sabi Sabi. The species moves north in winter, leaving us all longing for its bright flashes of violet colour to once more appear. Continue reading

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Yellow-breasted Apalis (Apalis flavida)

Yellow-Breasted Apalis is the commonly encountered Apalis in the field especially if you are birding arid-semi arid areas of Kenya. Its widespread distribution makes it an easy target if you are also birding mid-altitude elevation and in this context it … Continue reading

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Fan-tailed Widowbird (Euplectes axillaris)

Photo@Tony Crocetta This is an adult male fan-tailed widowbird, Euplectes axillaris, a member of the avian family Ploceidae, the weaver birds. One of its cousins is the red-billed quelea, Quelea quelea, the most abundant bird in the world.This species has … Continue reading

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Bar-Tialed Trogon (Apaloderma vittatum)

  The Bar-Tailed Trogon is a stunning secretive long tailed forest bird that sits motionless for long periods often high in the canopy.It is similar to the more widespread Narina Trogon  found both in Forest and bushlands, but with blue … Continue reading

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Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus)

The Egyptian Vulture is the smallest of all the African Vultures.This vulture flies with more wingbeats than most vultures, but takes off much more gracefully, as it is built lighter and smaller.  Once gliding, the bird holds its wings flat, … Continue reading

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Hartlaub’s Turaco (Tauraco hartlaubi)

Hartlaub’s Turaco (Tauraco hartlaubi) is a medium sized turaco, an endemic family to sub- Sahara Africa. In Kenya it is a resident breeder in the Montane forests of the central part of the country.

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Golden-winged Sunbird (Nectarinia reichenowi)

Golden-winged Sunbird has a bright yellow tail and wings, the shoulders are dark gray, the dark gray extending to the nape and throat, while the head and downturned beak are lighter gray. The tail is long and ends in two … Continue reading

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