Mountain Starling
Aplonis santovestris

Passeriformes Order – Sturnidae Family

The Mountain Starling is endemic to Espiritu Santo in Vanuatu. This rare bird is restricted to the cloud forest, but a small population was found in 1991 high in the mountains.
This species has very restricted range, but it is threatened by introduced mammalian predators. It is currently classified as Endangered.

Length: 18 cm

The Mountain Starling male has dark brown forehead and crow, with some glossy feathers on crown.
On the upperparts, mantle, back and wing-coverts are dark rusty-brown, but lower back and rump are brighter. On the upperwing, primary and secondary flight-feathers are dark brown and show rusty outer webs. The short, square tail is dark brown with rusty outer webs on outer rectrices.
The underparts are chestnut-brown but the throat is mostly brownish, whereas the belly is slightly paler.
The bill is brownish-black with paler tip. The eyes are whitish. Legs and feet are pale brown to flesh-coloured.
The female resembles male but she has duller plumage.
The juvenile is not described.

The Mountain Starling is only found on the island of Espiritu Santo in N Vanuatu.

The Mountain Starling frequents the cloud forest at high elevation in mountains. It can be seen between 1,200 and 1,700 metres. It tends to remain in the understorey.  

The Mountain Starling usually gives a thin, monotonous whistle, a thrush-like call “tzee-tzee-tzee”, or a slurred “tzeetzeetzee”. This call is given from perch but also in flight. It is probably used as contact call between the birds.

The Mountain Starling feeds mainly on fruit, seeds and insects. It forages in the understorey, usually below 5-6 metres off the ground, in thick moss and epiphytes. It may occasionally perch in the canopy, but it flies quickly and directly to the subcanopy.
It disperses seeds from the eaten fruits with its dejections. It is usually seen alone or in pairs.

The Mountain Starling is resident within its range.
The flight is direct with rapid wingbeats.

The Mountain Starling is reported to nest in holes in trees, usually low from the ground.
The female lays two white eggs.

The Mountain Starling has very restricted range in Vanuatu. The species is rarely seen despite being described as widespread by local people. It was reported as locally common on Peak Santo in 2010.
The population is roughly estimated and rounded to 350/1,500 individuals. It is threatened by introduced predators such as rats, cats, dogs and pigs, and by habitat loss due to clearing of land for developments. It is sometimes hunted for food by local people.
The Mountain Starling is currently classified as Endangered.  

Fr: Stourne d'Espiritu Santo
Ang: Mountain Starling
All: Rostbürzelstar
Esp: Estornino de Espíritu Santo
Ita: Storno montano
Nd: Bergpurperspreeuw
Sd: santostare

Text by Nicole Bouglouan

Sources :

HANDBOOK OF THE BIRDS OF THE WORLD Vol 14 by Josep del Hoyo-Andrew Elliot-David Christie - Lynx Edicions – ISBN: 9788496553507

STARLINGS AND MYNAS, by Chris Feare and Adrian Craig. Christopher HELM - ISBN: 071353961X

Birds of Melanesia: Bismarcks, Solomons, Vanuatu and New Caledonia Par Guy Dutson – Editeur : Bloomsbury Publishing, 2011 – ISBN: 1408152460, 9781408152461

Avibase (Denis Lepage)

Birdlife International

HBW Alive

VESS – Vanuatu Environmental Science Society

Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia


Home page

Page Passeriformes Order

Summary cards