IUCN threat status:

Vulnerable (VU)

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Biology

The shy and inconspicuous nature of the Rarotonga starling and the ruggedness of its montane habitat contribute to the lack of information on this species. It has been seen either alone or in pairs, searching for nectar, fruit and insects in the forest canopy (2). The favoured food of the Rarotonga starling is the nectar of the endemic Rarotonga fitchia (Fitchia speciosa) which as a large, spiky orange flower with copious amounts of nectar from April to June. So important is this mutualistic relationship that the flower of the fitchia is always bent back towards the branch to enable easy access as the starling stands on the branch (4). Historically, it was reported that the nectar from the bright red flowers of the coral tree, introduced by the Polynesians, was also one of the starling's preferred food, but there are much fewer coral trees on the island today (5). The Rarotonga starling is a territorial bird, which returns to the same nest to breed year after year. Eggs are laid between August and December, generally in clutches of more than one (2). The territorial behaviour of the Rarotonga starling led to its reputation as the fugitive's friend, as the bird would call when other people entered its territory thus warning the fugitive of danger. "'I'oi karanga", the starling warns, is a famous traditional saying (4).

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Source: ARKive

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