Wednesday, July 30, 2014

White-cheeked Starling (Sturnus cineraceus)

(24 cm.) White cheek on black head; white rump; grey back; orange bill and legs.

Often animal species fulfill specific ecological needs within their given range. They perform a task that is required to sustain the delicate balance of nature between food producers/consumers and predators/prey. Birds such as starlings are active insect consumers which help to control the populations of the insects they consume. In western China, a species of starling, the Common Starling, performs the task of controlling the insect population in open habitats such as fields and farmland. In Eastern China, this task is taken over by another member of the family, the White-cheeked Starling.

The White-cheeked Starling is named for the white spot on the side of its face, or “cheek”. Males and females are similar in appearance, while the female of the species possesses duller plumage.

The breeding range of this species includes Northeast China, Korea and Japan and parts of Siberia. In wild areas, it is an adaptable bird which can live in woodland and open country. Its adaptable nature makes it an ideal city-dweller where it can find parks and gardens. It is often seen in city parks along the East Coast of China in the company of Yellow-billed Grosbeaks with which it forms loose feeding flocks in winter.

This species is an omnivore, like other starlings. It eats a wide variety of plant and animal matter, but it is especially fond of fruit and crickets.

Like other starling species, this bird is a hole nester which builds a nest in a cavity in a tree. Often it can use holes that once served as nesting places for woodpeckers that have since been abandoned.

A noisy and gregarious bird, the White-cheeked Starling’s conspicuous behavior has garnered it attention from birders and non-birders alike. The pop culture sensation, “Pokemon,” features a character called, “Starly” which is based entirely on this species.

White-cheeked Starling (Photo by Brian Westland)

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