This stunning starling qualifies as Critically Endangered because it has an extremely small range and a tiny population which is still suffering from illegal poaching for the cagebird trade. Releases of captively bred birds have boosted the population, but it is uncertain how many of these have yet bred successfully in the wild. In due course, if the population continues to grow and trapping pressures can be brought under control, the species may warrant downlisting.
Sibley, C. G.; Monroe, B. L. 1990. Distribution and taxonomy of birds of the world. Yale University Press, New Haven, USA.
Distribution and population
25 cm. Medium-large, stocky starling. Almost wholly white with long, drooping crest, black wing-tips and tail tip. Blue bare skin around eye and legs, yellow bill. Similar spp. Black-winged Starling Sturnus melanopterus has shorter crest, much larger area of black on wings and tail and yellow eye-ring and legs. Voice Variety of sharp chattering calls and an emphatic twat.
This species is endemic to the island of Bali, Indonesia
, where it formerly ranged across the north-west third of the island. It has perhaps long been uncommon (numbers in the early 1900s, the period of discovery, have been retrospectively guessed at 300-900, although this is thought to be a gross underestimate), but has declined drastically in population and range. Illegal poaching reduced numbers to a critically low level in 1990, when the wild population was estimated at c.15 birds. Conservation intervention coupled with the release of a few captive-bred birds raised this to between 35 and 55. However, despite excellent breeding success and continuing conservation efforts, the population continues to fluctuate and fell to six birds in 2001 (P. Benstead verbally 2003). Continuing releases have raised numbers in West Bali National Park, such that surveys in March 2005 found 24 individuals (P. Wood in litt.
2005) and in 2008 the population here was believed to be around 50 birds (G. Dijkman in litt.
2007, 2008). However, it is uncertain how many of these released birds have bred successfully in the wild and therefore can be regarded as "mature individuals" following IUCN guidelines. A population has been introduced on Nusa Penida Island (apparently not part of the native range) derived from captive individuals. The population appears to have adapted to the island and is breeding, with a total of 65 adults and 62 young present in 2009 (G. Dijkman in litt.
2007, 2008). Around 1,000 individuals are believed to survive in captivity. There was an apparent sighting of a pair of birds in East Java, but this has not been confirmed and is likely to be escaped or released captive birds (A. Blakemore in litt
. 2011).Population justification
There were an estimated c.50 individuals in the West Bali National Park in 2008 (Dijkman in litt.
2008). On Nusa Penida, the population was recorded as 65 adults and 62 juveniles in 2009 (C. Kenwrick in litt.
2009). However, given that the population estimate should only comprise of mature individuals, and the IUCN stipulates re-introduced individuals must have produced viable offspring before they are counted as mature individuals, the current population of 115 individuals should be considered a maximum, and as such the population is precautionarily assumed to be fewer than 50 individuals and mature individuals.Trend justification
The wild population has been maintained only by release of captive birds, so is essentially gradually declining. However, signs from the reintroduced colony on Nusa Penida and West Bali National Park are promising, with both populations breeding and apparently increasing.Ecology
In the breeding season (usually October and November), it inhabits fire-induced open shrub, tree and palm-savanna and adjacent closed-canopy monsoon-forest (tropical moist deciduous), below 175 m. In the non-breeding season, birds disperse into open forest edge and flooded savanna woodland. In the past they also occurred, and even nested, in coconut groves near villages. Previously thought to rely on cavities excavated and vacated by other birds, released individuals on Nusa Penida have nested in sugar palm, coconut and fig trees (G. Dijkman in litt.
2007, 2008). Threats
Its decline to virtual extinction in the wild is primarily attributable to unsustainable, illegal trapping in response to worldwide demand for the cage-bird trade. This threat continues despite the fact that the whole population is now confined within a national park and has been the subject of a specific conservation programme. The park and programme have, however, suffered from repeated mismanagement and corruption. In 1999, while black-market prices soared (US$2,000 in mid-1990s), an armed gang stole almost all the 39 captive individuals in the park awaiting release into the wild. These serious problems are compounded by habitat loss. With the population now at such a critically low level, other threats may include genetic erosion, interspecific competition, natural predation and disease. Trapping is recently suspected to have taken place among the released population at Nusa Penida (M. Halaouate in litt.
2013).Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix I. The species has been protected under Indonesian law since 1970, while the remaining wild population occurs entirely within Bali Barat National Park. Since 1983, the Bali Starling Project has helped to improve the guarding of the park, bolstered the wild population through release of captive-bred birds, and provided the foundation for the development of the Bali Starling Recovery Plan. A population was introduced to Nusa Penida Island (apparently not part of its native range) by Begawan Foundation, derived from captive individuals. Reintroduction has continued through the work of the Friends of the National Park Foundation (I. G. N. Bayu Wirayudha in litt. 2012). By the end of 2009 65 birds had been released at Nusa Penida and at least 62 chicks were reported to have fledged in the wild up to 2011 (Collar et al. 2012). In 2006 a local regulation was passed to make protection of birds obligatory by all village residents on Penida, in return for support including local education and sustainable livelihoods projects (Friends of the National Parks Foundation undated). A government scheme allows locals to get captive birds on 'breeding loan' and give a small proportion of the offspring to Bali Barat National Park and sell the rest commercially (Collar et al. 2012). As many as 126 birds have been released in the park, but these have been 'hard releases' with no monitoring of survival (Collar et al. 2012). In addition, the Wildlife Conservation Society continues to operate wildlife crime market/trade surveillance and enforcement at key trading hubs in Indonesia (N. Brickle in litt. 2007). Soft releases with provision of food, water and nest boxes have recently taken place at four resorts along the north coast (Collar et al. 2012).
Conservation Actions Proposed
Continue to monitor population trends closely, in particular to determine whether released birds are breeding successfully. Improve genetic diversity of released populations by introducing unrelated individuals. Commence strict implementation of the Bali Starling Recovery Plan. Continue to monitor the success of the release on Nusa Penida, in particular investigating interactions with native flora and fauna, as well as those with local agricultural activity. Encourage community work to improve habitat conditions (I. G. N. Bayu Wirayudha in litt. 2012).
Related state of the world's birds case studies
BirdLife International. 2001. Threatened birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book. BirdLife International, Cambridge, U.K.
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.
Friends of the National Parks Foundation. undated. Bali Starling Conservation Project on Nusa Penida. Available at: http://www.fnpf.org/what-we-do/nusa-penida-bali/wildlife/bali-starling-conservation-project. (Accessed: 07/10/2013).
Further web sources of information
Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE) species/site profile. This species has been identified as an AZE trigger due to its IUCN Red List status and limited range.
Click here for more information about the Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE)
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
Search for photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection
Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Bird, J., Davidson, P., Derhé, M., Pilgrim, J., Symes, A., Tobias, J. & Khwaja, N.
Benstead, P., Blakemore, A., Brickle, N., Dijkman, G., Wood, P., Kenwrick, C., Bayu Wirayudha, I. & Halaouate, M.
BirdLife International (2015) Species factsheet: Leucopsar rothschildi. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 03/07/2015.
Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2015) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 03/07/2015.
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.
Additional resources for this species