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(Cinnyricinlus leucogaster)

The Amethyst Starling (Cinnyricinlus leucogaster) is from northern South Africa up to Senegal on the west coast across to northern Tanzania on the east coast of Africa.

Amethyst Starlings inhabit woodland, savanna forest edges and riverine habitat. Much if their time is spent in the treetops in the wild and are rarely seen on the ground.

Amethyst Starlings are sexually dimorphic.

The female usually incubates the 2-4 pale blue (with reddish-brown spots) for 12-14 days, and the male helps to feed the young, which fledge after 21 days.

Roland Cristo Amethyst Starling – Living Jewel

Cinnyricinclus leucogaster

By Roland and Ilana Cristo

There are three species and sub species in the genera Cinnyricinlus leucogaster, Amethyst Starling.

  • Amethyst Starling, Cinnyricinlus leucogaster verreauvi, from south of the equator, only differs from the nominate in that the outer tail feathers are marked with white.
  • Abbott’s Starling, Cinnyricinclus femeralis.
  • Sharpe’s Starling, Cinnyricinclus sharpii.

Their range is from northern South Africa up to Senegal on the west coast across to northern Tanzania on the east coast of Africa Amethyst Starlings inhabit woodland, savanna forest edges and rivine habitat. Much if their time is spent in the treetops in the wild and are rarely seen on the ground. Very gregarious, they pair up during the breeding season. They are a quiet bird remaining in nomadic flocks of mostly one sex. Up until 1910 only one male had been on exhibit in the London Zoo. They were first bred just prior to 1936.

When I first saw these birds I was awestruck. The male, with its almost pure white belly contrasting with the amethyst purple of the rest of his body was stunning. His colors glittered much like a sunbird or humming bird’s violet in the sunlight. The female looked much like a hen American House Finch (Carpodacus) with a finer beak and head and more white on the belly.

They are sexually dimorphic when in adult plumage. It must be remembered that the young males come off the nest looking like the hen. They do not start to get adult plumage until at least one year old. I have seen some that did not start to get their adult male plumage until three years old. This makes it imperative to have any birds that look like hens, sexed.

They reminded me very much of our American Blue bird in size and shape. After keeping the Blue-birds in the early 1950’s the only difference I see of the two is that the Amethyst are not aggressive towards their own kind or other birds as Blue birds are.

We acquired our first Amethyst in 1990. They were put into a 3’ X 16’ flight, 6’ of which is under cover and 10’ is open and planted. A nest box made of ¾ ” pine stock with inside dimensions of 5 ¾” X 7 ½” X 12″ high was installed just inside the sheltered area at about 6’ high with the entrance hole facing north. A hollow oak knot was put over the entrance hole and grass was added to the nest bottom.

Over the years, little has been written about the nesting habits of this species in captivity. Everything we were trying was from word of mouth or let’s try this theory!

They were fed a dry and moistened mix daily in individual dishes. The dry mix consisted of Kaytee Mynah pellets, Purina Nutra-blend green pigeon pellets, and Mazuri Small Bird Breeder pellets. The wet mix consisted of Kaytee Mynah pellets, Purina Nutra-blend green pigeon pellets, Science Diet, Canine Maintenance Formula (small bites), Mazuri Small Bird Breeder pellets, defrosted mixed vegetables (every other moist diet feeding), and mixed fruit. The mixed fruits used were two types of melon, peaches, grapes, pears, and papaya. A little canned dog food (chopped beef) was occasionally added to the moist mix also.

The birds would put small green leaves in the box but we never got eggs. We talked to Wayne Schulenberg, from the San Diego Zoo, and took his advice, which was given to him by an African gentleman, and put a log that looked like a fence post with a hole close to the ground. This didn’t work. We put a natural log up at about 3’ from the ground. This didn’t work either.

We were talking to Rick Jordan about his Amethyst and he said “My flight looks like a show room for nest boxes” and we concurred ours looked the same.

In 1997, we changed the hollow oak knot on the original nest to one that was pointing slightly upward. We also added green moss , like florists and nurseries use. They immediately went to nest using the modified original nestbox that was put up in 1990. I am at a loss to what actually stimulated the pair to start. Was it the changes mentioned above or the fact that we acquired another pair of Amethyst that were placed 5 flights away and in sight and sound of this pair.

This pair has nested the last 3 years in a row.

They have 3 eggs, which concur with observations in the wild. The adults cover the eggs with small green leaves picked off the plants in the aviary when the hen leaves the nest. The eggs hatch in 14 days and the babies leave the nest 16-20 days later. The parents feed them for at least another 10 days. Up until this year they have only had one clutch a year. This year they are on their second clutch.

This species is very worthy of aviculturalists attention and breeding. Although the Amethyst is still being imported in small numbers, aviculturalists should work with developing domestic lines while stock is still available. They are non aggressive and may be kept in mixed, planted aviaries. The Amethyst, along with the Royal Starling, are two of the most beautiful of the starling I’ve ever seen. They are in fact one of the most stunning birds I’ve seen. They are surely a living jewel in the sunlight. References and Sources

Williams, J.G., Birds of East Africa, Stephen Green Press.
Serle, W.; Morel, G. J.; Hartwig, W., Birds of West Africa, Stephen Green Press.
Newman, Kenneth, Birds of South Africa, Southern Book Publishers.
Delacour, J., 1936 Aviculture Volume 1, Stephen Austin and Sons, LTD., Hertford.