Backyard Birds

Tristram’s Grackles or Tristram’s Starlings

Tristram’s Grackle or Tristram’s Starling, Onychognathus tristramii, is native to Israel, Jordan, northeastern Egypt (Sinai Peninsula), western Saudi Arabia, and Yemen, nesting mainly on rocky cliff faces.

The species is named after Reverend Henry Baker Tristram.


A member of the starling family, it is 25 cm long (including a 9 cm tail), with a wingspan of 44-45 cm, and a weight of 100-140 g.

The males have glossy iridescent black plumage with orange patches on the outer wing, which are particularly noticeable in flight. The bill and legs are black.

Females and young birds are similar but duller and with a greyish head, lacking the plumage gloss.

Feeding / Diet

They are omnivorous, feeding on fruit and invertebrates, and can also be observed grooming Nubian Ibex and domestic livestock for parasites.

They are becoming increasingly commensal with man, feeding in towns and villages; this has enabled a recent northward spread in their distribution.

Calls / Vocalizations

It is gregarious and noisy, with a call that resembles a wolf-whistle.

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Gordon Ramel

Gordon is an ecologist with two degrees from Exeter University. He's also a teacher, a poet and the owner of 1,152 books. Oh - and he wrote this website.

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