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the web of life in southern Africa

Creatophora cinerea (Wattled starling) 

Lelspreeu [Afrikaans]; Unowambu, Uwambu [Xhosa]; iMpofazana [Zulu]; Leholi (generic term for starlings) [South Sotho]; Kwezu elimhlope [Tsonga]; Lelspreeuw [Dutch]; Étourneau caronculé [French]; Lappenstar [German]; Estorninho-carunculado [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Passeriformes > Family: Sturnidae

Creatophora cinerea (Wattled starling) 

Wattled starling in non-breeding plumage, Niewoudtville, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

Creatophora cinerea (Wattled starling)  Creatophora cinerea (Wattled starling) 

Wattled starling. [photo Callie de Wet ©]

Wattled starlings, just south of Kimberley, Northern Cape, South Africa. [photo Andries Steenkamp ©]

Distribution and habitat

Occurs from Ethiopia and Kenya through Tanzania, southern DRC and Zambia to southern Africa. Here it is locally common across much of the region, generally preferring sparse woodland and other open habitats, such as grassland and cultivated areas.

Distribution of Wattled starling in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project (© Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  

Predators and parasites

Flightless young have been recorded as prey of the following birds:

Movements and migrations

It is nomadic, moving around in response to insect abundance in different areas.


It mainly eats insects, fruit, seeds and nectar, doing most of its foraging on the ground, plucking prey from the surface or proving the ground to catch burrowing arthropods. It may occasionally forage in the intertidal zone, and it often follows game and livestock, removing ectoparasites from their skin.  The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • Invertebrates
  • Plants
    • nectar
      • Erythrina caffra (Coast coral-tree)
      • Schotia brachypetala (Weeping boer-bean)
      • Acrocarpus fraxinifolius (Pink cedar)
    • seeds
      • Pollichia campestris (Waxberry)
      • maize
    • fruit
      • Ziziphus mucronata (Buffalo-thorn)
      • Azima tetracantha (Needle-bush)
      • grapes
      • Ficus (figs)


  • Monogamous and highly colonial, nesting in colonies within which laying dates and other breeding activities are completely synchronised.
  • The nest is a bulky, domed structure within an entrance on the side or near the top, built of sticks and lined with grass and feathers. It is typically placed in a tree (especially Acacia) conjoined to other nests in the colony, forming one large interlocking mass.
  • Egg-laying season peaks from September-December in the Western Cape, later in summer rainfall areas, from January-March.
  • It lays 2-5 eggs, which are incubated by both sexes for about 11 days.
  • The chicks are fed by both parents on a diet of mainly insects, leaving the nest after about 13-16 days, before they can fly.


Not threatened.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town.