Starlings are absolutely beautiful! / by Chris Maynard

 Color chart of starling feather colors

Color chart of starling feather colors

Starlings are absolutely beautiful! More than 100 species of starlings share the world with us. The one we know and usually don’t like in North America is originally European, its namesake.  In Australia and other places another starling, the common myna is not native and not well liked.

But in Europe, Asia, and especially Africa, lots of often gaudy beautifully metallic species roam around and get respect with names like Splendid Starling and Superb Starling.

A PhD candidate at the University of Akron, Rafael Maia is doing some research on the metallic coloring of starling  feathers. He measured their reflectance and structure under a scanning electron microscope. He is investigating how these bird’s metallic colors change and at least in some birds seem to be getting more complex (more beautiful) in over time as they evolve in response to sexual selection. I am borrowing some of his research feathers to photograph and hope to soon have a large and colorful composite photo of all the starling feathers. He plotted the colors of the starling feathers on this color chart, the white dots being the non-metallic ones.