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Asian Glossy Starling
Aplonis panayensis

Glossy Tree/Philippines Glossy/Red-eyed Starling,
Perling/Perling Mata Merah (Malay)

Asian Glossy Starlings eat mainly soft fruits (papaya, banana, mangos) and berries, and sometimes insects. They are particularly fond of figs.

Slim bodied birds with narrow wings, they fly rapidly and may travel long distances to fruiting trees. They forage high in the tree tops and only occasionally land on the ground, usually to eat fallen fruit. On the ground, they walk rather than hop, and do so awkwardly.

Like others in their family, Asian Glossy Starlings are highly gregarious. They feed and roost in flocks of about 20. The flocks are compact and move quickly. Before settling down, they often perform displays over their roosting tree; wheeling in impressive twists and forming symmetrical patterns. It is believed that this helps the flocks identify the location of the roost.

Mangrove and wetland wildlife at
Sungei Buloh Nature Park
Main features: Medium (20cm), dark glossy green plumage which appears black
asian glossy starling adult feeding juvenile
Adult (right) and juvenile (left)
Photo from Morten Strange
in poor light; eyes red. Genders look alike.

Juvenile: Upper parts blackish brown; underparts whitish streaked black.

Call: Described as metallic ink when perched; noisy piping or ringing whistle in flight.

In flight: Direct and rapid, usually at tree-top height; wings small and triangular; tail short.

Status in Singapore: Very common resident throughout the island and North and South offshore islands.

World distribution: India to the Philippines and Sulawesi.

Classification: Family Sturnidae (Starlings, Mynas, Oxpeckers). World 148 species, Singapore 9 species of which 3 are introduced.
Like their relatives the Mynas, the Asian Glossy Starling can also mimic the calls of other birds. In bright sunlight, their glossy plumage has an iridescent shine, changing to green, purple or black as they move about.

Breeding: Asian Glossy Starlings breed year round, with a peak in March-June. These gregarious birds nest in colonies preferring sheltered places high above the ground. Mainly tree holes (including holes made by woodpeckers) but also the crowns of palm trees, thickets of epiphytic ferns growing on trees, and even under the eaves of a house or other man-made structures. When a hole is used, only a bit of grass might be added. Otherwise, the nest is more elaborate, made of grass, waste paper and other rubbish. 3 blue eggs with dark brown spots are laid.

Migration? Asian Glossy Starlings don't migrate but migrating Purple-backed (Sturnus sturnius) and White-shouldered (S. sinensis) Starlings sometimes join Asian Glossy Starling flocks during the migration period.

Status and threats: Asian Glossy Starling are not at risk as they have adapted well to human habitation and large flocks can even be found in urban areas. They prosper in cultivated areas including gardens and parks. They are often considered a pest on fruit plantations.

  To buy these references & others, visit
Nature's Niche
  • Morten Strange, "A Photographic Guide to Birds of Malaysia and Singapore: including Southeast Asia, the Philippines and Borneo", Periplus, 2000 (p. 345: description, voice, habits, distribution, status, photo).
  • Morten Strange, "Tropical Birds of Malaysia and Singapore", Periplus Editions, 2000 (p. 58-59: habits, habitat, photo).
  • Lim Kim Seng, "Pocket Checklist of the Birds of the Republic of Singapore", Nature Society (Singapore), 1999 (Abundance, status, Chinese and Malay names).
  • Morten Strange, "Birds of Southeast Asia: A photographic guide to the birds of Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines and Indonesia", New Holland, 1998 (p. 90-91: photo, facts).
  • Lim Kim Seng and Dana Gardner, "Birds: An Illustrated Field Guide to the Birds of Singapore", Sun Tree Publishing Ltd., 1997 (p. 103: identification, status in Singapore, distribution, diagram, number of species).
  • G W H Davison and Chew Yen Fook, "A Photographic Guide to Birds of Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore", New Holland Publishers Ltd., 1995 (p. 132: identification, status in Singapore, distribution, photo).
  • Morten Strange and Allen Jeyarajasingam, "Birds: A Photographic Guide to the Birds of Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore", Sun Tree Publishing, 1993 (p. 58: description, distribution, habits, habitat, photo).
  • Clive Briffett, "A Guide to the Common Birds of Singapore", BP Science Centre,1992 (p. 125-126: habit, habitat).
  • Lim Kim Seng, "Vanishing Birds of Singapore", Nature Society (Singapore), 1992 (p. 16: status in Singapore).
  • Christopher Hails, "Birds of Singapore" illustrated by Frank Jarvis, Times Editions, 1987 reprinted 1995 (p. 142: habits, description, status in Singapore, and lovely drawings of the birds).
  • M W F Tweedie, "Common Birds of the Malay Peninsula", Longman,1970 (p. 54: description, distribution, habits, habitat, drawing).
  • G C Madoc, "An Introduction to Malayan Birds", Malayan Nature Society, 1947 (p. 196-197: description, habits, habitat).
  • Sir John A S Bucknill and E N Chasen, "Birds of Singapore and South-East Asia", Tynron Press, 1927, edition 1990 (p. 205-206: identification, status in Singapore, distribution, field notes on habits, drawings).
By Ria Tan, 2001