Violet-backed Starling

© Robert Hofmeyr


Violet-backed Starling (Cinnyricinclus leucogaster). An alternative name is plum-coloured starling.


The plum-coloured starling weighs 45 g. The bill and legs are black and the eyes have a yellow outer ring around a brown centre. The sexes are dimorphic in plumage. The male’s upperparts, including the chin, throat and wings are iridescent purple. The underparts are pure white. The coloration varies from dark to rosy depending on the light. The female lacks any of the iridescent plumage. The forehead to nape and the sides of the head is brown with a dark central streak on the feathers. The mantle, rump, wings and tail of the female are a dark brown with paler margins. The primary feathers have rufous-brown inner webs. Her underparts are white with dark central streaks which are broadest on the breast.

Plum-coloured Starling Diet

The plum coloured starling feeds on fruit. They also feed on insects which are taken off branches or hawked in flight, including termite alates.

Plum-coloured Starling Breeding

Plum-coloured starlings are monogamous and solitary breeders. They breed from October to January in South Africa and Zimbabwe, and October to February in Botswana. The nests are usually build in a tree hole, 2- 6 m above the ground and also in hollow fence posts. Both sexes carry in green leaves and other material to build the nest. Dung is used in the base of the nest. Two to four eggs are usually laid. The eggs are a pale blue colour with a spotted reddish-brown colouration on the thicker end. Incubation is done by the female only for a period of 12-14 days.

Plum-coloured Starling Behaviour

Unlike other glossy starlings, the plum-coloured starling spends little time on the ground. Generally they are found in small flocks, sometimes sexually segregated. They are usually found in pairs or family groups when breeding.


They prefer savanna woodland and riverine forests and follow the fruiting cycles of trees.

Where they are found

The plum coloured starling are found in South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.