Last month I was photographing in the late evening when I found few of these Chestnut-tailed Starlings on a tree. There were a bunch of them hopping around searching for insects under the bark. They were very active and the light was fading. I used my Canon EOS 5D Mark III with Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L II IS USM and Canon EF 2X III Extender to capture these birds. Unfortunately I had forgotten to change the camera mode from Aperture priority. So camera tried to go down on shutter speed to 1/160th of a second and captured the picture. I did notice the slight motion blur which was present on most of the photos. 1/160th on a handheld effective 600mm lens is a disaster. 1/500th is minimum I use most of the time. even at that lower speed active bird’s movement causes blur in the picture. I usually shift either to Shutter priority or Manual mode to get a higher shutter speed I want. Failing to do it that day, cost me quite a few precious pictures. A lesson well learnt.
The Chestnut-tailed Starling or Grey-headed Myna (Sturnus malabaricus) is a member of the starling family of perching birds closely related to Myna’s. It is a resident and partially migratory species found in wooded habitats in India and Southeast Asia. Even though the species name Sturnus malabaricus refers to the bird from Malabar region (western coast of India), It is a resident of north-eastern India and migrates to south only during the winter. The sub species Sturnus malabaricus blythii is resident in Malabar region and is often treated as a full species, the Malabar Starling (Sturnus blythii) thus increasing confusion.
There are three subspecies of the Chestnut-tailed Starling:
- Sturnus malabaricus malabaricus: It is the nominate species. North-eastern India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and north-western Burma.
- Sturnus malabaricus nemoricola: Southern China (incl. Taiwan), Burma, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia.
- Sturnus malabaricus blythii: Western Ghats in India.
The bird I had on that day was Sturnus malabaricus malabaricus. It is resident in North-eastern India and sometimes migrates to south India during winter during its non breeding season.
Sturnus malabaricus blythii is sometimes considered a valid species, the Malabar White-headed Starling or White-headed Myna (Sturnus blythii), instead of a subspecies of Sturnus malabaricus. As Sturnus malabaricus malabaricus only visits the range of blythii during the non-breeding period of winter, the two are not known to interbreed.
The adults have a total length of approximately 20 cm (8 in). They have grey upperparts and blackish remiges, but the colour of the remaining plumage depend on the subspecies. In the nominate subspecies and blythii, the underparts (including undertail) are rufus, but in nemoricola the underparts are whitish tinged rufus (especially on flanks and crissum). The nominate and nemoricola have a light grey head with whitish streaking (especially on crown and collar region). In blythii, the head and chest are white. All subspecies have white irides and a yellow bill with a pale blue base. The sexes are similar, but juveniles have whitish underparts and just chestnut tips to the tail feathers.
The Chestnut-tailed Starling’s nest is typically found in open woodland and cultivation. The Chestnut-tailed Starling builds a nest in hole. The normal clutch is 3-5 eggs. Like most starlings, the Chestnut-tailed Starling is fairly omnivorous, eating fruit, nectar and insects. They fly in tight flocks and often rapidly change directions with great synchrony.