MADANG, PNG — Down at Jais Abin resort today, I got out of the water early to do a little birding. I’d seen dark, noisy birds flying around in the trees, and I wanted to know what they were. I finally found a flock feeding on berries in a fruiting tree, and though they were numerous, they were surprisingly hard to observe as they crawled among the leaves.
Most of the birds were dark above and pale with dark streaks below. They had bright red eyes set in dark masks, and their bills were stout. I wondered if they were orioles, which in the Old World are very different from our icterids. Then I saw similar birds that were glossy blue-black and also had bright red eyes. Were these the males and the others females? I wasn’t sure.
When I got back to my field guide that evening, I learned that the birds were Singing Starlings. Thinking back, I could see their resemblance in some ways to the starlings I knew, though they were notably different in structure, proportions, and behavior. Their loud calls had not struck me as particularly musical, and I wondered where the “singing” moniker had come from. The streaked birds were immatures; the glossy birds were the adults.
While at the resort, I also took some pictures of the caged birds near the parking lot.