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Species Guide

Long-tailed Starling

Aplonis magna

The long-tailed starling, known scientifically as Aplonis magna, is a rather impressive member of the starling family, Sturnidae. This bird is notable for its considerable size, measuring from 28 to 41 centimeters in length, which includes its remarkably elongated tail. The tail itself is a defining feature, particularly in the nominate race where it can be as long as, or even longer than, the body. In contrast, the subspecies brevicauda sports a tail that is merely two-thirds the body length. Both sexes of this species are similar in appearance.

Identification Tips

Upon observing the long-tailed starling, one is struck by its lustrous black plumage with an oily green sheen that covers its body. The subspecies brevicauda is slightly less glossy than the nominate. A bronze hue adorns the gloss on the head, and the fore-head feathers are bristled, adding to its distinctive look. The bird's feet and bill are a deep black, while the iris of the eye is a rich brown.


The long-tailed starling is quite adaptable, making its home in a variety of environments. It can be found at all altitudes within its range, from natural forest and forest edges to human-modified secondary forests and even gardens.


This species is endemic to the Schouten Islands, located off West Papua in Indonesia. This region is recognized for its significant bird endemism. The long-tailed starling is divided into two subspecies: the nominate race inhabits Biak, while brevicauda is found on Numfor Island.


In the wild, the long-tailed starling is a conspicuous bird, often seen perched openly in trees, reminiscent of a drongo's stance. They are known to cock and fan their large tails. These birds are typically observed in small groups or pairs, actively foraging for fruit in trees and the undergrowth.

Song & Calls

The vocalizations of the long-tailed starling include a series of loud warbles. Additionally, it emits a descending slurred "cheeeuw," contributing to the auditory tapestry of its habitat.


Details on the breeding habits of the long-tailed starling are scarce. However, it is known that they nest high in the trees, a strategy that may offer some protection from ground-based predators.

Similar Species

While the long-tailed starling was once considered part of a superspecies with the shining starling, it is now recognized as a distinct species. Its unique tail length and glossy plumage set it apart from other starlings.

Diet and Feeding

The diet of the long-tailed starling primarily consists of fruit, which they seek out both in the canopy and the undergrowth of their forested and garden habitats.

Conservation status

Despite its limited global range, the long-tailed starling is not currently considered threatened by human activities. It remains common within its range and is thus classified as Least Concern by the IUCN.

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Long-tailed Starlings on Birda


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