Violet-backed Starling/Witborsspreeu

The male is unmistakable with its glossy amethyst head, upperparts and upper breast, down the back to the tail. The wings and front of the neck are all purple or violet, and may appear bluish or coppery at certain angles, depending on the direction of the light. The iridescent feathers of the male change colour, from almost black to bright violet under these conditions.  Underneath, from the bottom of the neck to the vent, the male is a clean white.

The female is exactly the same size and shape, but is a brown bird with a rufous crown, and the white from the base of the bill to the vent is densely streaked dark brown on breast and upper  belly. Both male and female have bright yellow eyes. Because they are usually seen together, the differences in the sexes help make identification certain. Flight feathers are blackish brown. In both sexes the bill is black, the eyes brown, the iris has a bright yellow outer ring. The legs and feet are black.

These starlings are intra-African breeding migrants in southern Africa, from Senegal and Somalia. It is present from tropical Africa from September to April, and widespread in southern Africa, north and central Namibia, north and east Botswana, Zimbabwe, and central and southern Mozambique. In South Africa, it is found in the Limpopo, Gauteng, Mpumalanga, Swaziland and KwaZulu-Natal, and sporadically into northern Eastern Cape. Small numbers appear year-round in the northern regions. Their preferred habitat are savanna, woodland, riverine forests and gardens. The general habit of these colourful starlings is to occur in pairs or small family groups when breeding. It forms small flocks of less than 20 birds when roosting communally. While in Southern Africa, it moves locally, following fruiting cycles of trees.

Their diet consists mainly of fruit and also insects. It forages arboreally by taking insects off leaves and branches  or hawked in flight, insects include termite alates. It eats fruits of Stinkwoods, Cats whiskers, Shepherds-Tree, Mistletoes and wild mulberry and is particularly fond of indigenous fig trees with small fruit.

Their call is a single high-pitched whistle by the male, sang in a series of nasal whistles.  It often falls prey to Peregrine Falcons.

Violet-backed Starlings breed from October to January, are monogamous and solitary nesters. Its favourite nest is a natural hole in a tree 2 to 6 m above ground. In open areas without suitable natural holes in trees, hollow round fence posts are used for nesting. Both sexes line the nesting hole, using coarse plant material. The base lining is usually dung, forming a flat base on which nesting material is placed. Finally green leaves are brought in before the eggs are laid. Sometimes the same nest is used in successive seasons. Because they cannot excavate its own hole in a tree, it is obviously dependant on the availability of natural holes or the abandoned nesting holes of birds such as woodpeckers and barbets. Round fence poles in many cases give these starlings breeding opportunities in areas where no natural holes occur in trees. A clutch is normally two to three pale blue eggs, spotted with reddish brown, particularly at obtuse end. Incubation of 14 days by the female only, male providing food to the incubating female.The nestling period is 18 to 21 days, fed by both adults, primarily on insects. The adult male contributing less to feeding than female. They are not co-operative breeders, despite a male or female bird foraging with the breeding pair. When chicks are large and strong enough to scramble up to the nest hole entrance, they would stick their heads out waiting to be fed.  Nests may be parasitized by Lesser and Greater Honeyguide. They are not threatened, most breeding sites are in protected areas.

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