Red-winged Starlings (Onychognathus morio) are regular visitors to our garden, their numbers waxing and waning with the seasons. I find that their glossy-black feathers make them difficult to photograph and their brownish-red wings that are most beautiful when seen in flight – also a challenge to catch on film.

The males and females are easily told apart for the males have black heads, while the females sport an ash-grey head and upper breast.

While Red-winged Starlings are known to nest in rock cavities on cliffs in their natural environment, they have easily adapted to urban environments and commonly nest under eaves and in ducts or vents of tall buildings. This messy habit of theirs does not endear them to their suburban hosts!

While this omnivorous species of birds eats fruit, berries and happily destroy flowers to get at the nectar, their young are fed on a high protein diet consisting of worms and insects. I have often observed the Red-winged Starlings taking small pieces of meat from the feeding tray and flying off with them – presumably for their youngsters. I have featured this one with the deformed foot before.

They also peck at parasites on large mammals, such as this one giving a similar coloured cow a thorough going-over.

While they are often seen feeding in trees – they weigh down our Natal fig tree during the fruiting season – Red-winged Starlings also forage on the ground, moving with bounding hops. This male has pounced upon a crumb of fruit cake that fell on the patio.


  1. I miss the trees in our yard at our old house where so many different birds nested and now the new owners cut off every tree and shrub…..it is now a bird desert……thanks for beautiful photos.


    • I am so pleased you like them. Isn’t it frightful the way some people destroy trees and shrubs, thereby creating an environmental desert, as you point out.


  2. Starling are such smart birds. I like how they hang out together and are so vocal. This one with the red wing patches is quite handsome. We only have the European Starling in our country. They nest in a hole in a support post for the electric wires right across the street from my front door. I whistle at them each time I go out front. They know me. If I forget to whistle they send up a loud call to get my attention.

    Liked by 1 person

    • We also have the European Starlings here – not happily so for we have several indigenous species too. Your anecdote about whistling is a delightful one – thank you for sharing it.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I have only seen this bird once and that is also the sum total of the photos I have! The shot of the bird on the cow is an absolute gem. You should have it framed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The Mynahs have made themselves at home in parts of this country too – and are not particularly well received for we have a number of indigenous starlings that they compete with.


  4. They are lovely birds with a lovely call too. Only very rarely have I seen one fleetingly pass by in our garden although they are about in other suburbs. I also like the colour coordination of the starling and the cow, and the cow’s expression is priceless.


  5. We often see starlings here in our area, but not sure if it’s the same species as this one. Will have to observe them a bit. I also like the photo of the one on the cow! Beautiful photos Anne!


  6. Gee, we just have the “Plain-Jane” Starlings, although when the sun hits them just right, they are iridescent. I like the photo with the cow and yes, they do match!


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