Bali starling (Whitten, 1996)

Bali starling (Whitten 1996:227-231)

Bali's only endemic bird is the stunningly beautiful crested Bali starling Leucopsar rothschildi, which is white with black wings and tail tips, and has blue facial skin. It was discovered only in 1911 (Stresemann 1912), and even at that time its entire distribution was apparently confined to the western tip of the island, east to about Bubunan nearly 60 km away, where the first-known specimen was shot.

It is remarkable that there is no record of the Bali starling ever having been seen in Baluruan National Park in northeast Java, despite the fact that the vegetation and climate are very similar, the distance across the strait is less than 2km, and the distance between the two parks is only 20 km. It is possible that the starling did once live in eastern Java but became extinct long ago as a direct or indirect result of volcanic activity or when the Baluruan area was first converted to agricultural land.

whitten balistarlingdistribution 1976 01

Figure 5.18. Distributions of the Bali starling (Leucopsar rothschildi) in 1926 and 1976. According to der Paardt (1926) they were most numerous in the area shown with medium shading. It is now confined to the northern part of the Prapat Agung peninsula. (After der Paardt 1926; Sieber 1976)

By 1970 almost all the Bali starlings were confined to what was then the West Bali Nature Reserve (now National Park) in which considerable numbers of large trees were being illegally removed, and its status caused such great concern that it was protected by Indonesian law. Unfortunately, its continued popularity among fanciers of caged birds within and outside Indonesia ensured that trappers were prepared to risk being caught, and the birds' habitat of roosting and nesting at known and obvious trees had made them very vulnerable. It was declared a globally endangered species by IUCN in 1977, and in 1979 it was estimated that no more than 200 birds remained. During the 1980s the population crashed, with a study in 1986 revealing only 54 birds, and by 1990 only 13-18 individuals remained in the wild. The population increased steadily to 55 birds in late 1991, but decreased again to just 34 by the end of 1993.

Meanwhile, over 360 captive Bali starlings are now registered in Jakarta alone, and several thousand birds, most the result of captive breeding, are held overseas. Some of these captive-bred birds are being brought into genetically-appropriate groups to produce offspring for release as part of a major conservation effort led by PHPA, Birdlife International, the American Association of Zoological Parks and Aquariums, and the 'jersey Wildlife Preservation Trust, to ensure the birds' survival in the wild state. It is unfortunate that few of those people holding birds are willing to give them up for the breeding programme which is being conducted to assist the conservation of the species. The outlook for the wild starlings is not good.


  • Whitten, Tony (et al.) - The Ecology of Java & Bali, The Ecology of Indonesia Series, Volume II, Periplus Editions, 1996

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