Physical characteristics

Starlings and mynahs are small to medium-sized birds that vary in length from 7-17 in (18-43 cm). The terms starling and myna have no significance relative to their relationships with one another, but rather with the common names applied in different regions. The word starling comes from Old English and almost certainly was applied to what is now known as the European starling. The word myna or mynah comes from the Hindi word maina, which has its origins in the Sanskrit word madana meaning "joyful" or "it bubbles"; this probably refers to the bubbly notes of the hill myna. In practice, the common names of many sturnids have bounced back and forth between being starlings and being mynas. For example, the Bali myna (Leucopsar rothschildi) is often called the Bali starling. In general, however, those sturnids that look more like the European starling are referred to as starlings, and those that look a lot like the common hill myna tend to be called mynas.

Most starlings and mynas are stocky with strong legs and a strong, straight bill, a short squared-off tail, and rounded (in resident and forest species) to somewhat long (in migrant and open country species) wings. While sturnid bills are generally straight and often nearly as long as the head, they range from thin and pointed (e.g., European starling) to heavy and somewhat blunt (e.g., white-eyed starling, Aplonis brunneicapilla). Mynas often show white wing patches on the primaries. Sturnids often have long, narrow hackle feathers on the neck; those of males are generally most distinctive. Juveniles tend to have darker, duller, sometimes streaked plumage. Starlings have only one molt a year, following breeding, but seasonal differences in appearance are found in some species as a result

A brahminy starling (Sturnus pagodarum) pair in India. (Photo by Kim Taylor. Bruce Coleman Inc. Reproduced by permission.)

of wear. The European starling, for example, has white tips to body feathers in fresh plumage, giving a spotted appearance in fall and winter. These tips wear off, leaving the purple-green iridescent black plumage of the breeding season.

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