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Violet-backed Starling - BirdForum Opus

Photo © by rudydbn
Mkhuze, KwaZulu-Natal, January 2006

Alternative name: Amethyst Starling, Violet Starling

Cinnyricinclus leucogaster


16cm. An unmistakable Starling:


  • Iridescent metallic purple head, throat, back and tail
Photo © by George Koninis
Kruger National Park, South Africa, December 2013
  • Deep purplish blue wings
  • White breast and belly, occasionally lightly streaked
  • Iris with yellow outer ring and dark inner ring


  • Brown head and back with streaked appearance (more uniform in arabicus)
  • White belly, heavily streaked

Juveniles are similar to females.


Found in Africa south of the Sahara and in the southwest of the Arabian Peninsula.

Widespread and common to abundant in its range.


C. leucogaster; year-round
C. leucogaster; summer
C. leucogaster; outside breeding season
Maps/Texts consulted2

Photo © by Steve G
Masai Mara, Kenya, August 2007



There are three recognized subspecies[1]:

  • C. l. leucogaster:
  • C. l. verreauxi:
  • C. l. arabicus:


Mountain cliffs, savanna woodland (avoids thick evergreen forests), gardens, bushland near fruiting trees.



The diet includes fruit, especially figs, and some insects.
Forages mainly in trees and spends only little time on the ground.
Often associated with Greater Blue-eared Glossy-Starling and sometimes with Wattled Starling.


They nest in tree holes lined with green leaves. The clutch consists of 2-4 pale blue oval eggs with reddish-brown spots. Incubated by the female for 2 weeks. Both adults care for the young for 3 weeks, feeding them mainly insects. Brood parasitism by Lesser Honeyguide recorded, possibly also host to Greater Honeyguide.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, B.L. Sullivan, C. L. Wood, and D. Roberson. 2013. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: Version 6.8., with updates to August 2013. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Del Hoyo, J, A Elliott, and D Christie, eds. 2009. Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 14: Bush-shrikes to Old World Sparrows. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions. ISBN 978-8496553507
  3. Avibase
  4. Paradise Earth
  5. BF Member observations

Recommended Citation

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