Influx of Black-Bellied Starlings West of Range
Every so often we find ourselves with an influx of birds to an area out of their general range. Some years back the Western Cape had a number of African Openbills show up, and this year there has been an expanse in the movement of Black-Bellied Starlings. Black-Bellied Starlings usually extend about as far west as the Garden Route, near George and perhaps Mossel Bay. However, this year started off with a record in March of an individual which was located in a garden in Gordon’s Bay, more than 350 kilometers further west than their normal range.
In May another record of a slightly out of range Black-Bellied Starling was reported out of Stilbaai. A lot closer to regular range than the Gordon’s Bay bird, but still outside of where they are typically found. Then in the first week of July 3 birds were reported out of a garden in Standford, about 300 kilometers west of the typical range. This was then followed up by another 3 birds a few days later being reported out of a garden in Bot Rivier, located about half way between Gordon’s Bay and Stanford.
It is possible that the three individuals reported in Bot Rivier are the same three that were seen in Standford the week prior, though that doesn’t take away from the fact that there seems to be an influx of this species to the west of its range.
Whether this movement is due to current climate conditions, or whether it is a more permanent move west by the species is known. However, given the rapid rate at which they have moved west, it seems unlikely to be a permanent expansion of range. It is however worth mentioning that two birds with a somewhat historical range overlap with the Black-Bellied Starling is the Grey Sunbird and the Amethyst Sunbird. Both these species have been documented moving further west, though at a fairly slow pace. Collared Sunbird can also be mentioned, as they have moved their range further west in recent years.
The Amethyst Sunbird, once a bird that extended as far west as the South Coast, is now a fairly common bird in parts of Cape Town, and is very common as close as the Helderberg basin.
At this point, no conclusion can be drawn from the expansion of these birds. However it will remain a topic worth keeping an eye on and see whether this is simply a case of a few birds moving outside of their normal range, or whether we possibly have a more permanent shift occurring.