• Charlotte Chapple

It’s all in the name

Now lockdown has eased in Wales, my family and I have been enjoying day trips out. One of my favourite day trips, and a must do over the summer break, is a visit to Chester Zoo. Due to the pandemic, the zoo closed its doors to visitors on 21st March, and on the 3rd June revealed that the coronavirus pandemic had already cost the wildlife charity a staggering £5 million! The Zoo was in dire need of support. After releasing a statement on the Zoo’s Facebook page announcing fundraising efforts to help save the zoo, A crowdfunding page was set up on Wednesday 3rd June after the Chief operating officer Jamie Christon, said the zoo could face a year end debt of £24m. The Zoo is dear to many people and it shows through the fact that on the crowdfunding page, more than £1m was raised in 24 hours. My family and I decided to do our bit to help and each adopted an animal, in my case a Jaguar as they’re undeniably my favourite big cat.

Luckily, after months of uncertainty, Chester Zoo reopened to visitors on Monday 15th June and we were quick to book our much anticipated day out. As some of you may know from my previous blog last summer titled “Crazy (big) Cat Lady: A Day Trip To The Zoo”... I love big cats, and the zoo has many of the iconic species; Lions, Tigers, Jaguars and Cheetahs. Like always, I was extremely excited to see these animals on my visit and was lucky to photograph all of them except the tigers, who must have been doing what cats are best at, hiding in plain sight.


However, it wasn’t these magnificent beasts that stole the show on this particular day, rather it was a small, vibrantly coloured bird called a Superb Starling… and yes that is it’s actual name. But what a fitting name for such an eye catching creature. One of the first things you will notice about the Superb Starling (Scientific name: Lamprotornis Superbus) is, you guessed it, its amazingly vibrant colouring. Adult birds, like the one I saw on this day, have a black head, iridescent blue-to-green back and upper breast, with darker blue tinge on the nape. The upper wing is glossy, metallic green, with black spots on the coverts’ tips. The tail is relatively short and glossy blue-green. These birds are often known as "glossy starlings" due to the intense sheen to their plumage. The belly is a golden orange, separated from the blue breast by a white streak. Another distinguishing feature is the piercing, pale creamy-white eyes that radiate a fierce, uncompromising intelligence that is a little unnerving.

The Superb Starling is, as the name suggests, a member of the starling family of birds. It can commonly be found in North East Africa, including Ethiopia, Somalia, Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania. The Superb Starling is abundant and widespread in its range and the species is not threatened at this moment. It is even said that the bird can be seen so often in Kenya, that you are required to keep your eyes closed in order to avoid seeing the bird, though I have to admit I’m not sure as the reasoning behind that.


After a while, the starling became accustomed to our company as he/she (they both have very similar markings and it hard to tell them apart) began to forage for materials to build a nest with. At several points, he/she would just stop and look as us seemingly posing for the camera and showing of its beautiful colouring, which I just found enticing and enthralling. Soon enough though, the bird flew off to return to its nest and my parents and I moved on too.

It was a great day out and I managed to get some brilliant photos of many of the animals, including the big cats and even the elusive Jaguars. This time around however, the Superb Starling really stole the show and I will never forget the first moment I caught a glimpse of its shimmering feathers through the leaves.

Sources:

Chester Zoo. Latest News. Tag Coronavirus. [online] Available at: https://www.chesterzoo.org/news/tag/coronavirus/

Chester Zoo. Latest News. Chester Zoo Told to Prepare to Remain Closed Indefinitely [online] Available at: https://www.chesterzoo.org/news/chester-zoo-told-to-prepare-to-remain-closed-indefinitely-putting-the-future-survival-of-the-zoo-at-risk/

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. [online] Available at: https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/22710767/119270077

The Zoo: Belfast Zoological Gardens. Our Animals. Superb Starling. [online] Available at: http://www.belfastzoo.co.uk/animals/superb-starling.aspx

Beauty of Birds. Superb or Brilliant Starlings. [online] Available at: https://www.beautyofbirds.com/superbstarlings.html


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