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Rarotonga Starling Aplonis cinerascens Scientific name definitions

Adrian J. F. Craig and C. J. Feare
Version: 1.0 — Published March 4, 2020
Text last updated November 7, 2018

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Identification

21 cm; 77–88 g. Medium-sized, greyish-brown starling . Forehead and crown are mousy brown with faint purple iridescence; mantle, back and rump mouse-brown, edged with grey; wing and tail dull brown, paler edges on inner secondaries; chin, throat, breast and upper belly mouse-brown, broad paler tips on breast and belly, lower belly and undertail-coverts whitish; iris pale yellow, sometimes dark brown with narrow yellow outer ring; bill and legs black. Sexes alike. Juvenile unde­scribed.

Systematics History

Monotypic.

Subspecies

Monotypic.

Distribution

Rarotonga I, in S Cook Is.

Habitat

Undisturbed montane forest, also disturbed fringing forest, in rugged interior from 150 m to highest point of island (600 m). Sometimes lower, down to as low as 30 m, but much rarer in coastal areas than was previously the case.

Movement

Resident.

Diet and Foraging

Diet includes fruit and insects, also nectar. Feeds on fruit in canopy, also at flowers; gleans insects from foliage. Forages singly and in pairs.

Sounds and Vocal Behavior

Song sweet, described as the most melodious of any Raro­tonga bird species. Calls  include whistles  , squeaks and bell-like notes.

Breeding

Season Aug–Dec. Nest a lining of dead leaves and plant fibres in tree hole 4–6 m above ground, with apparent preference for native trees (e.g. Bischofia javanica, Homalium acuminatum and Hernandia moerenhoutiana); nest-hole reused in subsequent years. Clutch at least 2 eggs. No other information.

VULNERABLE. Restricted range species: present in Southern Cook Islands EBA. Population currently thought to be stable. Considered abundant in 1904, and population of several thousands estimated in 1973, but by 1984 no more than c. 100 individuals; the most recent estimates are of c. 500 birds. Habitat destruction and introduced rats (Rattus) believed to be the main threats. Seems to have disappeared from lowlands in 1970s, possibly owing to aggressive competition from introduced Acridotheres tristis, which apparently has not penetrated forested uplands.

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

Recommended Citation

Craig, A. J. F. and C. J. Feare (2020). Rarotonga Starling (Aplonis cinerascens), 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. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.rarsta1.01