The Wattled Starling (Creatophora cinerea) is a small African bird. It is also called the Locust Bird.
The Wattled Starling is grey-brown with black wings and a black tail. It has a white rump and short wings. It has a pale pink-white beak, pale pink-grey legs, and dark eyes.
When males are ready to breed, the skin on their heads becomes yellow with twisted black wattles (hanging or drooping skin).
It grows to about 21 centimetres (8.5 inches) tall.
The Wattled Starling is usually quiet, with only a few squeaky whistles, hisses, or cackles.
It is common in eastern Africa and southern Africa. It prefers grasslands, acacia savannahs, open woodlands, and farmlands.
It is a nomadic bird, following swarms of locusts. It is common in a region for a few days, or a month, and then vanishes – often for several years.
It eats locusts (grasshoppers) and other insects. It also eats fruit, seeds and berries.
The Wattled Starling nests in colonies of several hundred birds. Both the male and female pair makes an untidy nest of grass and straw in a thorny bush or on the ground. It has to make the nest quickly because it follows the swarms of locusts and must be prepared to move away from the area rapidly, whenever the locusts move.
Females lay 2-5 pale-blue eggs, which hatch after about 11 days. The chicks leave the nest after 13-16 days – even before they can fly. Therefore, eagles eat many of the chicks.
Photographer: Martina Nicolls
Martina Nicolls: SIMILAR BUT DIFFERENT IN THE ANIMAL KINGDOM