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Mountain Starling Aplonis santovestris Scientific name definitions

Adrian J. F. Craig, C. J. Feare, and Christopher J. Sharpe
Version: 1.0 — Published March 4, 2020
Text last updated January 17, 2018

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18 cm. Male has forehead and crown dark brown, slight gloss on crown; upperparts, including upperwing coverts, dark rusty brown, brighter on rump; primaries and secondaries dark brown with rusty outer webs; tail dark brown, rusty-brown margins on outer webs; throat brownish, underparts chestnut-brown; iris whitish; bill brownish black, paler tip; legs light brown to pinkish. Female is very like male, but has duller rufous plumage. Juvenile undescribed.

Systematics History





Espiritu Santo, in N Vanuatu.


Cloudforest above 1200 m.



Diet and Foraging

Diet includes fruit, seeds and insects. Forages generally in understorey, below 6 m. Usually seen singly or in pairs.

Sounds and Vocal Behavior

Calls described include a hissing note and a harsh call; also "tzee-tzee-tzee" given from perch and in flight, apparently as contact call.


Reported as nesting in hole relatively low down in tree; clutch of 2 whitish eggs reported. No other published information.

ENDANGERED. Restricted range species: present in Vanuatu and Temotu EBA. Poorly known. Local people described the species as widespread in W mountains; in contrast, rarely encountered by visiting ornithologists, and known from very few localities. Recorded from three of the highest mountains (Mt Watiamasan, Mt Tabwemasana and Peak Santo) in, respectively, 1934, 1961 and 1991. No more than one pair has ever been seen, and several observers have failed to find the species. However, reported as 'locally common, not rare' on Peak Santo in Aug–Oct 2010 BirdLife International (2018) Species factsheet: Aplonis santovestris. Downloaded from on 17/01/2018. . Based on an assessment of known records, descriptions of abundance and range size, global population estimated in 2017 to number 250–1000 mature individuals, which is consistent with known population density estimates for close relatives with a similar body size, on the assumption that only a proportion of the estimated range is actually occupied BirdLife International (2018) Species factsheet: Aplonis santovestris. Downloaded from on 17/01/2018. . Reports of the species being eaten by locals have been questioned BirdLife International (2018) Species factsheet: Aplonis santovestris. Downloaded from on 17/01/2018. . Introduced cats, dogs and rats (Rattus) now widespread.

Distribution of the Mountain Starling
  • Year-round
  • Migration
  • Breeding
  • Non-Breeding
Distribution of the Mountain Starling

Recommended Citation

Craig, A. J. F., C. J. Feare, and C. J. Sharpe (2020). Mountain Starling (Aplonis santovestris), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (J. del Hoyo, A. Elliott, J. Sargatal, D. A. Christie, and E. de Juana, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.