The genus Sturnus contains the true Starlings, birds which have a wide distribution, and are more or less familiar and well-known wherever they occur.
The Starlings may be recognized by their bright plumage, which is glossed with red, purple, and blue, and by the hackled feathers of the head, throat, and breast. They have a winter and a summer plumage, the change from the winter to the summer garb being caused by the casting of the buff tips of the feathers, and the colour of the bill changes according to season. The young are much streaked below, and do not resemble the adult till the first autumn. The sexes are closely, if not absolutely, alike.
The Starlings are gregarious. They feed chiefly on the ground, on insects and worms, but they are fond of fruit and berries, which they pick off trees. They breed in holes of trees, walls, and buildings, making a slovenly nest of straw and feathers.
In Sturnus the bill is as long as the head, broad, blunt, and straight. The nostrils are covered by a membrane which is feathered on the posterior half. The wing is very sharp, but the tail short and square.
Most of the true Starlings are migratory in a greater or less degree.
The six species which occur in India are closely allied, but they may be separated by the colour of the gloss on the feathers. This gloss varies in each species, and is in each instance correlated with a certain geographical distribution, so that we may look on these Starlings as constituting well-defined species. I have had no difficulty in separating the various species treated of here, both the colours and the dimensions being very constant in each species.
Key to the Species.
a. Head green or blue; interscapulary region red.
a1. Rump bronze-green ………………S. humii, p. 520.
b1. Rump red like the back.
a2. Wing coppery-bronze, over 5………………S. porphyronotus, p. 521.
b2. Wing bronze-green, about 4.5………………S. minor, p. 522.
b. Head purplish red; interscapulary region green.
c1. Scapulars, wings, and hack uniformly green ; under wing-coverts edged with buff ………………S. menzbieri, p. 522.
d1. Scapulars, wings, and hick not of one colour ; under wing-coverts edged with white.
c2. Back green; scapulars blue; wings red………………S. poltaratzskii, p. 523.
d2. Back green ; scapulars and wings red………………S. purpurascens, p. 524.