The Bird of the Week – Week 101 – Meve’s starling

In the north of Namibia there are several long-tailed, glossy starlings, one of the most striking being the Meve’s starling. This impressive bird has a very long, tapered tail that distinguishes it from the other glossy starlings and which contributes significantly to its overall length of 34 cm.

Meves starling

The sexes of the Meve’s starling are alike in plumage and the males are slightly larger than the females. Overall it is a glossy blue and the lower back and tail coverts have a purple tint. The graduated tail is blue-violet with darker cross-barring. Bill, legs and feet are black and eyes are dark brown.

Meves starling

Meve’s starlings favour a habitat with tall trees, such as mopane, baobabs and ana trees. In the southern African region they are limited to the far north and outside of the region their range extends northwards as far as Malawi and Zambia.

Their call is a “chwee chwirr chwee“, although they have a variety of other calls and high pitched sounds.

Meves starling

Meve’s starlings may be found in small groups of up to ten birds, and are often found together with other species of starlings. They spend a fair amount of time on the ground, where they feed on insects and termites, and they are known to follow large mammals, including elephants, to take advantage of the insects that are disturbed by their passing.

They are monogamous and build a cup-shaped nest in a natural tree cavity. The female lays a clutch of between three and five blue eggs that hatch after an incubation period of about 18 days. Their nests may be parasitized by the Great spotted cuckoo (Clamator glandarius).

Meves starling

The scientific binomial for the Meve’s starling is Lamprotornis mevesii; Lamprotornis from the Greek for a “Bright or shining bird”; and mevesii after Friederich Meves, one time curator of the Royal Museum in Stockholm. Thus the name just describes a glossy or shining bitd, of which there are many. Not very diagnostic!

Meves starling

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