Assistance with identification of Tanzanian starling required

I received the following identification request from Geoff and Colleen Mullen, can anyone perhaps assist? They’ve also included a stork image, which I’m comfortable is an immature Saddle-billed.

Starling spp Geoff & Colleen Mullen

We have 3 different reference books here but cannot be sure of the exact ID of some birds.

Location: we are presently living in Tanzania, photos taken along the Katuma river – either at the river or on the Katisunga plains. The National Park is called KATAVI NATIONAL PARK and is slightly South West of Tanzania.

I have blown up the photos – so could be out of focus and tried to enhance to get the colours to stand out.

First is a Starling….. First book (Birds of Africa – Ian Sinclair and Peter Ryan) says MIOMBA BLUE EARED – as it has a distinct magenta breast – but the other books BIRDS OF EAST AFRICA (Terry Stevenson & John Fanshaw) does not have a Miombo but does have a SOUTHERN BLUE-EARED which is restricted to Miombo woodland, but under GREATER BLUE-EARED has that bird with Magenta breast and flank.

2nd one is a stork – immature for the above mentioned books and from some photos on the web, we feel that the birds are Imm Saddle-billed storks – but some people feel it could be the woolly-necked storks.

Please can you assist in positively identifying these birds – it would be much appreciated.

Stork spp Geoff & Colleen Mullen

Thanks Geoff and Colleen for your submission.

David Winter

4 comments to Assistance with identification of Tanzanian starling required

  • Hi David,

    Your starling photo. It has a red eye. Have you checked in Birds of Africa. I will try to find out what species is the starling.

    The 2nd photo is a imm Saddle-billed Stork. Look at the size of the bill- thick with red on the tip of the bill, black in the middle and yellow near the face.


  • both lesser blue-eared = miombo = southern = elizabeth and greater blue-eared occur in this general area. from the photo it’s not easy to judge the size of the bill. greater has a larger, stronger bill. eye colour is also variable. all the metalic colours on these starlings vary with the effect of the light, both strength and angle can cause ID issues. This is more likely to be greater than lesser but I cannot be 100% from this image. in post breeding flocks young lessers are very copper coloured below and retain copper wing covert feathers. Vocalisations split these birds quite well. greater has a harsh oriole call, lesser not. lesser sings quite softly from tree tops in the miombo. greater not. Put Geoff and Colleen in direct contact with me.

  • Many thanks for comments – pleased to get the confirmation on the Saddled Billed stork. We are now listening out for the Starling to confirm which one. Thanks again.
    Geoff and Colleen

  • Glyn Morgan

    Good Day,

    I am trying to get in contact with Geoff and Colleen Mullen. If I am correct Geoff and Colleen are from Johannesburg, SA. I am an old friend of theirs, I went to school with Geoff in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. I have not seen Geoff & Colleen since the 1990`s, I do hope that it is the same couple, and if not I apologise for wasting your time.

    Kind Regards,

    Glyn Morgan

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