Denver Zoo Map
March 7, 2014

Feathered Friend Friday - Lily the Golden-Breasted Starling

By Jennifer Nixon, Denver Zoo Bird Keeper

Introducing this week’s Feathered Friend, Lila, a golden-breasted starling or royal starling (Cosmopsarus regius). Golden-breasted starlings are known for their very unique plumage. Both males and females of this species possess a very bright yellow or golden patch on their chest and thighs, which makes Lila very easy to spot in our mixed species aviary. Some other important characteristics of this species are their long greenish tail that makes up 60 percent of their body length, a greenish/blue iridescent head with a purple half moon on their neck and large white eyes.

Lila can be found in the Rainforest room of Bird World, sponsored by, and enjoys eating lots of insects! You can often see her around the food bowls on the ground searching for meal worms. Lila is exceptionally smart and has been trained by the bird keepers at Denver Zoo to fly to a perch every morning to be rewarded with tasty waxworms. This behavior is important because it allows the zoo’s animal care team the opportunity to provide any routine supplements she needs to stay healthy. Lila lived in the Rainforest room from 2002 through 2006 and practiced this behavior daily. She was moved to a more private space for breeding, and during that time, she wasn’t asked to practice this behavior. She recently moved back to the Rainforest room and within one week, she was repeating this important behavior – almost like she had never stopped practicing. What a memory!

In the wild, these birds can be found in Eastern Africa in the countries of Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia. Their habitat primarily consists of deserts, savannas and dry-thorn forests. They nest in abandoned tree holes using straw, roots and leaves. They normally lay about 3-5 pale green eggs with an incubation period of about 11-18 days. Lila’s breeding season is from March through August and she prefers the nest boxes we provide above the cliffs of the Rainforest room. Golden-breasted starlings are very common within the ranges of Eastern Africa and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has listed them as Least Concern on their Red List.

The winter months are an excellent time to visit Bird World, sponsored by – a bit like a mini-tropical vacation! See if you can spot Lila in the Rainforest room. Watch for her striking, shiny metallic colors. You can also listen to their call through this link, and then see if you can hear it when you are in Bird World.


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