Although this starling was common until recently, the paucity of records in the field and the increasing rarity of individuals in the cage-bird trade suggest that it has undergone an extremely rapid decline over the past 13 years (three generations). As such, this species qualifies as Critically Endangered, and urgent conservation action is required to halt its unsustainable exploitation for trade.
Sibley, C. G.; Monroe, B. L. 1990. Distribution and taxonomy of birds of the world. Yale University Press, New Haven, USA.
Distribution and population
23 cm. Medium-sized, stocky, piebald starling. Entirely clean white apart from black wings and tail. Also white rump, tail tip, median coverts and primary bases. Mantle colour varies racially between slate-grey and white. Adults have a short white crest, naked yellowish or pinkish skin around eye and yellow bill and legs. Similar spp. Bali Starling Leucopsar rothschildi has black restricted to tips of wings and tail, much longer white crest, blue eye-ring and blue-grey legs. Voice Loud, harsh whistles.
The species is endemic to the islands of Java and Bali, Indonesia
, also occurring on adjacent Madura and Nusa Penida, and (perhaps only as a vagrant or escapee) on Lombok. There are three subspecies, nominate melanopterus
in most of Java, tricolor
in south-east Java and tertius
on Bali (Collar et al.
2012). Its range has changed little over recent decades (and may indeed have expanded owing to increased cultivation), but it has undergone a widespread rapid decline since at least the 1960s. It was formerly common in the plains of East Java, and locally common in central and west Java, but is now rare and very localised throughout. A similar decline has also occurred on Bali and Nusa Penida, and there are very few records from Madura or Lombok. A survey of 33 historical locations revealed just 32 individuals at only three locations (Muchtar and Nurwatha 2001)
. Despite regular checks of several bird markets in Java this species is rarely recorded, and according to sellers they are now very difficult to find (J. Eaton in litt.
, and only small numbers were sighted in 2009 at Pulau Dua, Baluran National Park, Alas Purwo National Park (all on Java), and at the Menjangan Jungle Beach Resort and Uluwatu on Bali (J. Eaton,
M. Iqbal, S. Mahood and S. Winnasis in litt.
. In 2007 it was been reported as having declined to "a few hundred individuals" on Java (Braasch 2007), and the wild population of tertius
on Bali is now thought to number a maximum of 100 birds, all in Bali Barat National Park (Collar et al.
2012). Regular sightings from Muara Angke in Central Jakarta (Java), probably relate to escaped individuals (N. Brickle in litt.
. Population justification
The population is best placed in the band 1,000-2,499 individuals, based on estimated declines of 80% over the past 10 years (three generations), and an assessment of records and surveys listed in BirdLife International (2001). This equates to 667-1,666 mature individuals, rounded here to 600-1,700 mature individuals. Surveys are urgently required to accurately assess the global population size.Trend justification
A decline of 80-100% over the past 13 years (three generations) is inferred from the increasing rarity of this species in the cage-bird trade on Java (J. Eaton in litt.
2009), as well as the paucity of records in the field. Given that demand for the species in the cage-bird trade is not likely to decrease, this rate of decline is projected to continue into the future.Ecology
Small flocks forage on the ground in a variety of habitats, particularly agricultural and livestock-grazed areas, chiefly in the extreme lowlands, although occasionally up to c. 1,300 m in West Java and 2,400 m in East Java. It also inhabits primary and secondary monsoon forest, including teak forest (where it was locally abundant), forest edge and open woodland, uncultivated bushy valleys, and even (formerly at least) urban suburbs. Some flocks on Bali were thought to make significant local movements, following the flowering and fruiting of trees.Threats
Capture for trade is the primary threat, and the main cause of its decline. However, the numbers currently entering trade are worryingly low (Muchtar and Nurwatha 2001, J. Eaton in litt.
. In June 2014, 152 captive bred individuals were among nearly 160 threatened birds stolen from the Cikananga Conservation Breeding Centre near Sukabumi, setting the highly successful breeding programme there back by several years (Kullmann 2014). This species is one of the most popular cage-birds on Java, an island famed for its huge bird markets and very high cage-bird ownership. Surveys conducted in July 2014 in three shops in Jakarta found the average unbartered price per bird was US$ 220, the high price indicating the species's scarcity in the wild (Shepherd et al. 2015). It has been suggested that excessive use of pesticides may present a significant threat, as the species habitually forages in open agricultural areas. Finally genetic integrity has been lost due to the widespread mixing of the the three subspecies when birds escape (Muchtar and Nurwatha 2001, Collar et al. 2012).
Conservation and Research Actions Underway
The species has been nominally protected under Indonesian law since 1979. It occurs in at least three protected areas, Baluran National Park and Pulau Dua Reserve, Java (B. van Balen in litt. 2007), and with a maximum population of 24 birds at Bali Barat National Park, Bali, (Muchtar and Nurwatha 2001). Two conservation projects have been carried out on Java: a breeding programme at the Cikananga Wild Animal Rescue Centre in Sukabumi, West Java, and planned future reintroduction of birds in Cikepuh Nature Reserve (Braasch 2007). The Cikananga breeding programme (holding birds of the nominate form) had produced over 200 chicks by early 2012, and 25 birds were released into nearby regenerating forest as a trial reintroduction in 2012, using nestboxes made in local villages (Collar et al. 2012). Two further reintroduction trials have been set up; one in Antam Pongkor Gold Mine in Gunung Halimun Salak National Park and one in the Rawadanau Nature Reserve in Banten Province, where on 25th December 2013, 25 birds were released with 21 remaining at the end of December (Tritto 2014).
Conservation and Research Actions Proposed
Conduct intensive research into the year-round ecology of the species to clarify its requirements, and the role of trapping and pesticides in causing declines. Promote widespread, strict and effective enforcement of capture and trade regulations (including CITES listing [Shepherd et al. 2015]), focusing activities on protected areas and bird markets. Implement awareness raising activities to discourage people from purchasing protected wildlife (Shepherd et al. 2015). Control use of agricultural pesticides (if these are found to be a significant constraint), especially in key areas for the species. Develop the programme of captive breeding (Collar and Butchart 2013) and increase security measures at breeding centres to prevent further incidences of theft (Shepherd et al. 2015).
BirdLife International. 2001. Threatened birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book. BirdLife International, Cambridge, U.K.
Braasch, T. 2007. Hoffnung für den Schwarzflügelstar. ZGAP Mitteilungen 23(2): 6-7.
Cikananga Wildlife Center. 2011. Cikananga Wildlife Center: Black-winged Starling. website of Cikananga Wildlife Center. Available at: http://www.cikanangawildlifecenter.com/?page_id=537. (Accessed: 31/07/2013).
Collar, N. J.; Butchart, S. H. M. 2013. Conservation breeding and avian diversity: chances and challenges. International Zoo Yearbook.
Collar, N. J.; Gardner, L.; Jeggo, D. F.; Marcordes, B.; Owen, A.; Pagel, T.; Vaidl, A.; Wilkinson, R.; Wirth, R. 2012. Conservation breeding and the most threatened birds in Asia. BirdingASIA 18: 50-57.
IUCN. 2015. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015-4. Available at: www.iucnredlist.org. (Accessed: 19 November 2015).
Kullmann, F. 2014. Verheerender Diebstahl: Fast 160 bedrohte Vögel aus Artenschutzzentrum in Indonesien gestohlen. Gefiederte Welt 138(9): 5-6.
Muchtar, M.; Nurwatha, P. F. 2001. Gelatik Jawa dan Jalak Putih: status dan upaya konservasi di Jawa dan Bali [Java Sparrow & Black-winged Starling: status and conservation effort in Java and Bali].
Shepherd, C.R., Nijman, V., Krishnasamy, K., Eaton, J.A. and Chng, S.C.L. 2015. Illegal trade pushing the Critically Endangered Black-winged Myna Acridotheres melanopterus towards imminent extinction . Bird Conservation International. FirstView Article / August 2015: 1-7.
Tritto, A. 2014. Reintroduction of the Black-winged Starling Sturnus melanopterus in West Java, Indonesia. International Zoo News 61/2(405): 85-87.
Further web sources of information
Detailed species accounts from the Threatened birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book (BirdLife International 2001).
Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species
View photos and videos and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection
Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Calvert, R., Derhé, M., Gilroy, J., Khwaja, N., Symes, A., Wright, L & Ashpole, J
Brickle, N., Eaton, J., Iqbal, M., Mahood, S., Winnasis, S. & van Balen, B.
IUCN Red List evaluators
BirdLife International (2015) Species factsheet: Sturnus melanopterus. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 26/11/2015.
Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2015) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 26/11/2015.
This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000)
Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004)
Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.
To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife
To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.
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