Common Starling - Taxonomy - Subspecies

Subspecies

There are several subspecies of the European Starling, which vary in the iridescence of adult plumage. With gradual variation over geographic range and extensive intergradation, the subspecies are said to be clinal. Acceptance of different subspecies varies between different authorities.

  • Sturnus vulgaris vulgaris Linnaeus, 1758. Common Starling. Most of Europe, except the far northwest and far southeast; also Iceland and the Canary Islands, where it is a recent colonist. Introduced populations worldwide also belong to this subspecies.
Nominate subspecies. The gloss is green on the head, belly and lower back, bronzy purple on the neck to upper chest and back, and purplish on the flanks and upper wing-coverts. Inconspicuous light buff fringes are present on the under wing-coverts. In eastern parts of range, more purplish and less bronzy gloss.
  • Sturnus vulgaris faroensis Feilden, 1872. Faroese Starling; sometimes misspelt faeroensis or faroeensis. Faroe Islands.
Slightly larger than nominate, especially bill and feet. Adult with darker and duller green gloss and far less spotting even in fresh plumage. Juvenile sooty black with whitish chin and areas on belly; throat spotted black.
  • Sturnus vulgaris zetlandicus Hartert, 1918. Shetland Starling. Shetland Islands.
Like faroensis but intermediate in size between that and vulgaris. Birds from Fair Isle, St Kilda and the Outer Hebrides are intermediate between this subspecies and the nominate and placement with vulgarisor zetlandicus varies according to authority. Dark juveniles are occasionally found in Scotland and southwards, indicating some gene flow from faroensis or an original polymorphism that became dominant in faroensis.
  • Sturnus vulgaris granti Hartert, 1903. Azores Starling. Azores.
Like nominate, but smaller, especially feet. Often strong purple gloss on upperparts.
  • Sturnus vulgaris poltaratskyi (Finsch, 1878). Eastern Bashkortostan eastwards through Urals and central Siberia, to Lake Baykal and western Mongolia.
Like nominate, but gloss on head predominantly purple, on back green, on flanks usually purplish-blue, on upper wing-coverts bluish-green. In flight, conspicuous light cinnamon-buff fringes to under wing-coverts and axillaries; these areas may appear very pale in fresh plumage.
  • Sturnus vulgaris tauricus Buturlin, 1904. From Crimea and E of Dnieper River eastwards around coast of Black Sea to W Asia Minor, though not in uplands where replaced by purpurascens.
Like nominate, but decidedly long-winged. Gloss of head green, of body bronze-purple, of flanks and upper wing-coverts greenish bronze. Underwing blackish with pale fringes of coverts. Nearly spotless in breeding plumage.
  • Sturnus vulgaris purpurascens Gould, 1868. E Turkey to Tbilisi and Lake Sevan, in uplands on E shore of Black sea replacing tauricus.
Like nominate, but wing longer and green gloss restricted to ear-coverts, neck and upper chest. Purple gloss elsewehere except on flanks and upper wing-coverts where more bronzy. Dark underwing with slim white fringes to coverts.
  • Sturnus vulgaris caucasicus Lorenz, 1887. Volga Delta through eastern Caucasus and adjacent areas.
Green gloss on head and back, purple gloss on neck and belly, more bluish on upper wing-coverts. Underwing like purpurascens.
  • Sturnus vulgaris porphyronotus (Sharpe, 1888). Western Central Asia, grading into poltaratskyi between Dzungarian Alatau and Altai.
Very similar to tauricus but smaller and completely allopatric, being separated by purpurascens, caucasicus and nobilior.
  • Sturnus vulgaris nobilior (Hume, 1879). Afghanistan, SE Turkmenistan and adjacent Uzbekistan to E Iran.
Like purpurascens but smaller and wing shorter; ear-coverts glossed purple, and underside and upperwing gloss quite reddish.
  • Sturnus vulgaris humii (Brooks, 1876). Kashmir to Nepal.
Small; purple gloss restricted to neck area and sometimes flanks to tail-coverts, otherwise glossed green.
  • Sturnus vulgaris minor (Hume, 1873). Sind Starling. Pakistan.
Small; green gloss restricted to head and lower belly and back, otherwise glossed purple.

Several other forms have been named, but are generally no longer considered valid. Most are intergrades from where the ranges of various subspecies meet.

  • S. v. ruthenus Menzbier, 1891 and S. v. jitkowi Buturlin, 1904 are intergrades between vulgaris and poltaratskyi from western Russia.
  • S. v. graecus Tschusi, 1905 and S. v. balcanicus Buturlin and Harms, 1909 are intergrades between vulgaris and tauricus from the southern Balkans to central Ukraine (where there is some intergradation with poltaratskyi too) and throughout Greece to the Bosporus.
  • S. v. heinrichi Stresemann, 1928 is an intergrade between caucasicus and nobilior in northern Iran.
  • S. v. persepolis Ticehurst, 1928 from southern Iran (Fars Province) is very similar to vulgaris; it is not clear whether it is a distinct resident population of simply migrants from southeastern Europe.

Read more about this topic:  Common Starling, Taxonomy

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