Amethyst Starling: Holder of All the Colors of the Galaxy in Its Feathers

violet-backed starling, amethyst starling, Cinnyricinclus leucogaster

photo: Jenny, via Flickr


photo: Jean-Michel Fenerole,

amethyst starling, violet-backed starling, Cinnyricinclus leucogaster

photo: Ion Moe

Habitat: Sub-Saharan Africa
Status: Least Concern

Here’s the unbelievably striking Amethyst Starling or Violet-backed Starling (Cinnyricinclus leucogaster). The purple and indigo feathers are quite a sight to behold amongst the common greens and browns found in its grassy environment. It almost looks like the colors of a galaxy are trapped within each iridescent feather. Iridescence in bird feathers is due to microstructures of the feather refracting light much like a prism. According to fossil evidence, birds have had these structures in their feathers for at least 40 million years.

amethyst starling, Cinnyricinclus leucogaster

However, the above photos are only of male Amethyst Starlings… take a peak at the female:

Boringggg! This is a great example of sexual dimorphism – differences in appearance between the two sexes of a species – where, as usually is the case, females pale in comparison to the brightly colored males.