Tanzania plays host to a wide variety of Starlings, over twenty species in fact. In California we have the feisty intelligent generalist European Starling. Singularly beautiful as individuals but glared at by many a birder for their stubborn survival streak which can play havoc with the delicate nesting strategies of pre-established locals. Above is the shatteringly beautiful Hildebrandt’s Starling photographed at the Serengeti’s Naabi Gate.

This is the Ruppell’s Long-tailed Starling, a glimmering blue-black bird with a creamy white eye, reminiscent of the Brewers Blackbird but comparatively a little more scarce.

Not scarce in any sense of the word is the splendid Superb Starling. It is a showstopper, and for many, a car-stopper. Guides are wonderfully patient with you if you stop to photograph this stunner. It’s only later that you realize this is bird is absolutely everywhere and not the slightest bit shy.

It is also a superb survivor and I was there shortly after a new batch had fledged so the parents were busy finding food.

This parent in the Serengeti arrives in style with a meal.

Almost instantly the clumsy but determined fledgling clamors up the branch to claim its prize. I could watch scenes like this all day. Getting a glimpse into the workings of the world by witnessing a family of starlings foraging together is a real treat.

Back at the Naabi Gate, the starlings find a treat of their own. The scene is immediately more familiar to me, a starling working on a chicken wing in the parking lot. Makes me a little homesick actually.

Next time out on January 20th we’ll explore Shrikes on patrol in the Serengeti.

Written by Walter
Walter Kitundu is an artist and designer, instrument builder and bird photographer. As an artist he has created hand built record players powered by the wind and rain, fire and earthquakes, birds, light, and the force of ocean waves. Walter has performed and been in residence at art centers and science museums internationally. He has performed with the renowned Kronos Quartet, bassist Meshell Ndegeocello, the electronic music duo Matmos, and the legendary Marshall Allen - in venues from Carnegie Hall to a high school library in Egilstaadir, Iceland. In 2008 Walter became a MacArthur Fellow. Walter loves photographing birds and is an ongoing volunteer with the Golden Gate Raptor Observatory. He was hooked when a Red-tailed Hawk landed at his side, ate a caterpillar, then refused to leave. He is a Senior Design Developer for the Studio Gallery at the Exploratorium in San Francisco where he designs and builds environments for learning. You can see more of his work on his blog, Bird Light Wind.