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Onychognathus nabouroup (Pale-winged starling)

Bleekvlerkspreeu [Afrikaans]; Ndjundju (generic term for starling) [Kwangali]; Vaalvleugelspreeuw [Dutch]; Rufipenne nabouroup [French]; Bergstar [German]; Estorninho-d'asa-pálida [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Passeriformes > Family: Sturnidae > Genus: Onychognathus

Onychognathus nabouroup (Pale-winged starling) Onychognathus nabouroup (Pale-winged starling)

Pale-winged starling, Beaufort West, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

Pale-winged starlings with klipspringer. [photo Callie de Wet ©]

Distribution and habitat

Near-endemic to southern Africa, occurring from southern Angola through Namibia to the Northern, Western and Eastern Cape, marginally extending into the Free State. It generally prefers habitats with rock-strewn hills and valleys, as it is dependant on them for nesting and roosting sites. It generally avoids man-made areas, although it occasionally ventures into cities in search of food.

Distribution of Pale-winged starling in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project (© Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  

Predators and parasites

It has been recorded as prey of the Falco peregrinus (Peregrine falcon).  

Brood parasites

It has been recorded as host of the Great spotted cuckoo.


It mainly eats insects, fruit, seeds, nectar and pollen, foraging on the ground or gleaning food from vegetation; it also regularly hawks prey from a perch. In addition it may remove ectoparasites from Klipspringers (Oreatragus Oreatragus) and Mountain zebra (Equus zebra). The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • Insects
  • Plants
    • fruit
      • Phoenix reclinata (Wild date palm)
      • Ficus (figs)
      • Diospyros lycoides (Bluebush)
      • Cussonia spicata (Cabbage-tree)
      • karees (Rhus)
      • Heeria insignis (Rockwood)
      • Lycium (honey-thorns)
    • seeds
      • Boscia albitrunca (Shepherds-tree)
      • Cotoneaster (Cotoneaster)
      • Crotalaria steudneri (Rattle-pod)
      • Oleo europaea (Wild olive)
      • Rhus lancea (Karee)
      • Ziziphus mucronata (Buffalo-thorn)
    • nectar and pollen of Aloe


  • Monogamous and semi-colonial, meaning that a number of breeding pairs may build their nests in close proximity to each other on a cliff.
  • The nest is a cup built of sticks and dry grass, typically wedged in a crevice cleft in a rock, or rarely in building.
  • Egg-laying season is from October-April.
  • It lays 2-5 eggs, which are incubated solely by the female for about 20 days.
  • The chicks are fed by both parents, leaving the nest after about 25 days.


Not threatened.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town.