status: Critically endangered, IUCN Endangered, ESA
Description and biology
The Rothchild's starling is also known as the Bali starling or the Bali mynah (mynah or myna is the common name for any of various Asian starlings). The color of this starling's plumage (covering of feathers) is mostly white. The bird has blue markings running through its eyes and black tips on its wings and tail. It also has a crest of feathers on the top of its head that it is able to raise and lower. An average Rothchild's starling measures 8.7 inches (22.1 centimeters) in length. It feeds mainly on insects, fruits, and small reptiles.
The starling usually breeds in colonies and makes its nest in a tree cavity. A female Rothchild's starling lays 2 to 7 eggs, then incubates (sits on or broods) them for 11 to 18 days. After hatching, the chicks leave their nest within a month.
Habitat and current distribution
The Rothchild's starling is unique to the Indonesian island of Bali, which lies off the eastern end of the larger Indonesian island of Java. It is restricted to the remaining savanna woodland in the northwestern coastal area of the island, which is situated within the Bali-Barat National Park. Biologists (people who study living organisms) estimate that fewer than 50 starlings remain in the wild.
History and conservation measures
A number of factors have played a part in the decline of the Rothchild's starling. The bird's habitat has been reduced by the clearing of forests to create farmland and other types of human settlements. A beautiful bird, the starling has always been popular with collectors. Over the years, trapping has greatly reduced the bird's numbers.
The starling is legally protected in Indonesia, and several conservation programs are in place to ensure its recovery. However, the bird is still threatened by trapping, forest clearing, and widening human settlements. One of the strongest threats in 2000 was illegal poaching for the cage-bird trade. Because of these factors, the population of the species continues to decline.
The Rothchild's starling breeds well in captivity. Despite the fact that recently begun captive-breeding programs have provided birds for reintroduction into the wild, the Rothchild's starling remains critically endangered.