These dark-plumaged birds with big yellow beaks and red-tipped, stiff tail feathers are also known as Grosbeak Starlings, Celebes Starlings, Grosbeak Mynas, Scissor-billed Starlings or Latham’s Mynas.
Their large bills remind us of the beaks of seed-eating finches, except larger – hence their common name “Finch-billed Mynas.” The name “Grosbeak” is derived from the French word “gros-bec,” meaning “big beak.”
Distribution / Habitat
Finch-billed Mynas occur naturally on the island of Sulawesi (situated between Borneo and the Maluku Islands) and nearby islands of Bangka, Lembeh, Togian, Buton and Banggai (Peleng, Banggai).
Their preferred habitats are tropical lowland areas and to a lesser extent subtropical montane or lightly wooded areas and wetlands.
The highly sociable birds usually congregate and travel in large, very noisy flocks.
- Finch-billed Mynas measure 6.7 to 8.3 inches (17 – 21 cm) in length.
Plumage Details / Adults
- plumage mostly slate-grey, darker blackish on the wings and tail;
- feathers on the rump and upper tail feathers and some feathers on the flanks have distinctive long, stiff, red tips (orange on some birds, possibly faded)
Other Physical Details
- The large bill is bright yellowish-orange, with the upper bill being strongly down-curved
- The legs and feet are orange-yellow
- Eyes (irises) are reddish
Males and females look alike.
- a browner plumage, except for red and orange-tipped feathers on the rump, upper tail feathers and flanks
- the tips of the rump feathers sometimes paler;
- bill is more slender and paler.
- eyes (irises) are blackish
Diet / Feeding
Finch-billed Mynas mostly feed on various fruits, insects and grain. They typically forage in flocks.
Breeding / Nesting
Finch-billed Mynas breed colonially together with as many or more than 100 pairs. All activities (courtship, mating, egg laying and raising of the young) appear to be synchronized – so that all the juveniles seem to be close to the same age.
They nest in colonies, which frequently contain hundreds of pairs. In 1940, Erwin Stresemann – a German ornithologist – described such a colony “as being reminiscent of a beehive, with continuous bustling activity.”
The courtship display involves the male approaching the female, making a long series of chuckling notes with his throat feathers extended.
Their tear-drop shaped nests are bored into rotting or dying tree trunks in woodpecker style and are usually situated 33 feet+ (10 meters) off the ground, extending to the top of the trunk.
Each nest cavity measures about 9.8 – 16 (~ 25 – 40 cm) in diameter with an entrance hole that is about 1.6 inches (4 cm) in diameter. The nests are usually angled downwards at 30 to 60 degrees.
Each nest is lined with dry grasses and leaves, occasionally with some green leaves added.
The average clutch consists of 2 eggs laid about 24 hours apart. An egg usually measures about 0.9 – 1 inches (24 – 26 mm) in diameter. They are pale blue with fawn and brown speckles or reddish-brown patches concentrated at the broad end.
Both parents share the incubation of the eggs for 13 – 14 days, and jointly raise the young. Most of the time, only one nestling survives to fledging. The chicks fledge when they are about 21 – 23 days old.
Calls / Vocalizations / Sounds
Grosbeak Starlings are highly vocal, and are easily heard as they forage in flocks or go about their activities at their breeding colonies.
Alternate (Global) Names
Chinese: ???? … Czech: Špacek tlustozobý, špa?ek tlustozobý … Danish: Smalnæbsstær … Dutch: Roodstuitspreeuw … Finnish: Celebesinkottarainen … French: Mainate dubitatif, Scissirostre des Célèbes … German: Finkenschnabelst, Finkenschnabelstar, Finkenschnabel-Star, Schmalschnabelstar … Indonesian: Jalak Tunggir-merah … Italian: Maina fringillina, Storno beccogrosso … Japanese: shuudammukudori, shuudanmukudori … Norwegian: Hakkestær, Smalnebbstær … Polish: szpakownik … Russian: ??????????? ??????? … Slovak: majna hrubozobá … Spanish: Estornino Culipinto, Estornino de Pico Grueso … Swedish: Smalnäbbsstare