Amethyst Starling: Holder of All the Colors of the Galaxy in Its Feathers

Amethyst Starling: Holder of All the Colors of the Galaxy in Its Feathers

photo: Jenny, via Flickr


photo: Jean-Michel Fenerole,

amethyst starling, violet-backed starling, Cinnyricinclus leucogaster

photo: Ion Moe

Habitat: Sub-Saharan Africa
Status: Least Concern

Here’s the unbelievably striking Amethyst Starling or Violet-backed Starling (Cinnyricinclus leucogaster). The purple and indigo feathers are quite a sight to behold amongst the common greens and browns found in its grassy environment. It almost looks like the colors of a galaxy are trapped within each iridescent feather. Iridescence in bird feathers is due to microstructures of the feather refracting light much like a prism. According to fossil evidence, birds have had these structures in their feathers for at least 40 million years.

amethyst starling, Cinnyricinclus leucogaster

However, the above photos are only of male Amethyst Starlings… take a peak at the female:

Boringggg! This is a great example of sexual dimorphism – differences in appearance between the two sexes of a species – where, as usually is the case, females pale in comparison to the brightly colored males.
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  • rebecca

    You would be fan of phalaropes then – one of the few groups of birds in which the females are the pretty ones.

  • lalligood

    If you want an equal balance of pretty dimorphic male & female birds, check out the Eclectus parrot. (Despite the “eclectic” sounding name, people can own these parrots as pets.) The males are bright green with yellow/orange beaks while the females are red/bluish-purple with black beaks. Also their feathers are very fine–almost hair-like!

  • CarlyB

    thanks you guys! This info is really helpful and interesting!! :)

  • yuki

    some species of birds lose their breeding colors after breeding season, for one.

    and two, of course the girls are less brightly colored! they’re the ones who have to stay safe and alive to lay eggs after all the breeding hubbub! even the eclectus parrot – the females are serious homebodies, since nests are difficult to come by, and their bright red and blue colors are hard to see when they’re in a dark hole in a tree. the males usually feed females, and are green to camouflage themselves in the trees.

  • Anonymous

    …also, look at the bright side: females don’t care because they’re the ones who choose who they’re going to procreate with!! :)

  • Bryan

    Beautiful birds, I just saw a bunch of them at my local zoo a few weeks ago

  • Mike

    Interesting! I hope that everyone’s weekend is both great and safe!

  • Arwen

    A truly spectacular bird! However, am I right in thinking that the last photo of a male shows a bird that is missing the top part of his beak? It certainly looks rather odd…

    Such a wonderful site, this! Thank you for sharing all those amazing creatures with us!

    • Arwen

      Sorry, that should be the p enultimate photo of a male…

  • Mike

    I hope that everyone’s weekend was both great and safe,even though I am a day late.