Family Starlings (Sturnidae)

Least Concern

Polynesian Starling (Aplonis tabuensis)


French: Stourne de Polynésie German: Südseestar Spanish: Estornino de Polinesia

Lanius tabuensis

J. F. Gmelin

, 1788,

Friendly Islands = Tonga Islands


Race manuae is rather distinctive with grey-scaled underparts, lacking white streaking except for a few pale shaft streaks; implication that it uniquely possesses a reduced (or no) pale wingpanel#R is, however, mistaken, as this is shown also by races tenebrosa and nesiotes, while claim that “its vocalizations are higher pitched than similar, presumably homologous, vocalizations of Polynesian Starlings”#R is also unfounded, since analysis of recorded evidence indicates that the only vocal difference which it may show is a higher number of notes in its song (a minor distinction requiring confirmation)#R. Races tutuilae and brevirostris have scaling on upperparts, unlike all other taxa. Race pachyrhampha misspelt in HBW. Twelve subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • A. t. pachyrhampha Mayr, 1942 – Tinakula Group and Swallow Is, in Santa Cruz Is.
  • A. t. tucopiae Mayr, 1942 – Tikopia, in SE Santa Cruz Is.
  • A. t. rotumae Mayr, 1942 – Rotuma I (N of Fiji).
  • A. t. fortunae E. L. Layard, 1876 – Wallis and Futuna Is (Horne Is).
  • A. t. brevirostris (Peale, 1848) – Samoa.
  • A. t. tutuilae Mayr, 1942 – Tutuila I, in American Samoa.
  • A. t. manuae Mayr, 1942 – Manua Is, in American Samoa.
  • A. t. vitiensis E. L. Layard, 1876 – Fiji (except E).
  • A. t. nesiotes Mayr, 1942 – Niuafo’ou, in N Tonga.
  • A. t. tenebrosa Mayr, 1942 – Tafahi and Niuatoputapu, in N Tonga.
  • A. t. tabuensis (J. F. Gmelin, 1788) – Lau Archipelago (E Fiji) and S Tonga Is.
  • A. t. brunnescens Sharpe, 1890 – Niue, E of Tonga.
  • Descriptive notes

    20 cm; 52–69 g. Medium-sized, stocky, rather short-tailed starling with relatively short bill and brown or brownish plumage. Nominate race is brown above, darker and... read more


    Dry buzzing rattle; advertising call a high-pitched double whistle, "twee-wee", repeated frequently... read more


    On smaller islands exploits all habitats, including highly disturbed areas such as regenerating... read more

    Food and feeding

    Diet mainly fruit, also insects gleaned from foliage. On Niuafo'ou I (N Tonga), took fruit of Morinda citrifolia, Cassytha... read more


    Mar–Aug/Sept in Samoa; recorded in Aug on Niue. Nest built from dry vegetable fibres, at variable height in tree hole or broken stump... read more


    Apparently resident.

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Restricted range species: present in Vanuatu and Temotu EBA, in Fiji EBA, in Samoan Islands EBA, in Rotuma Secondary Area, in Wallis and Futuna... read more

    Recommended citation

    Craig, A. & Feare, C. (2020). Polynesian Starling (Aplonis tabuensis). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 25 February 2020).