Species Profile and Threats Database

For information to assist proponents in referral, environmental assessments and compliance issues, refer to the Policy Statements and Guidelines (where available), the Conservation Advice (where available) or the Listing Advice (where available).
In addition, proponents and land managers should refer to the Recovery Plan (where available) or the Conservation Advice (where available) for recovery, mitigation and conservation information.

EPBC Act Listing Status Listed as Extinct as Aplonis fusca
Adopted/Made Recovery Plans
Federal Register of
    Legislative Instruments
Declaration under s178, s181, and s183 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 - List of threatened species, List of threatened ecological communities and List of threatening processes (Commonwealth of Australia, 2000) [Legislative Instrument] as Aplonis fusca.
List of Migratory Species (13/07/2000) (Commonwealth of Australia, 2000b) [Legislative Instrument] as Aplonis fusca.
List of Migratory Species - Amendment to the list of migratory species under section 209 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (26/11/2013) (Commonwealth of Australia, 2013af) [Legislative Instrument] as Aplonis fusca.
Non-statutory Listing Status
IUCN: Listed as Extinct (Global Status: IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: 2013.1 list)
NGO: Listed as Extinct (The Action Plan for Australian Birds 2010)
Scientific name Aplonis fusca [25895]
Family Sturnidae:Passeriformes:Aves:Chordata:Animalia
Species author Gould, 1836
Infraspecies author  
Other names Aplornis fusca [83432]
Distribution map Species Distribution Map not available for this taxon.
Illustrations Google Images

New South Wales: At the subspecies level, Aplonis fusca hulliana is listed as Extinct under the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995.

The Tasman Starling was a medium-sized bird with dark, blackish-brown plumage and contrasting red or orange eyes. It was about 20 cm long, roughly similar in size to the familiar Common Starling Sturnus vulgaris.

On Lord Howe Island, male Tasman Starlings had a dusky blackish-chestnut head with a strong green gloss, dusky grey upperparts with a faint green gloss, ash-brown upperwings and tail, and olive-grey underparts. Females were ash-grey on the head (which had a slight green gloss), with ash-grey upperparts, buff sides of the body and pale ash-grey on most of the underparts (except for the belly which was buff), ash-brown wings and uppertail, and buff undertail (Hutton 1991; Schodde & Mason 1999).

On Norfolk Island, male Tasman Starlings had sooty-grey upperparts, with a slight green gloss on the head and wing coverts, and dull olive-grey underparts. Females had dark grey upperparts, with a light gloss on the head, and ash-grey underparts with a fawn or buff tinge. It had bright orange-red eyes (Hull 1909; Schodde & Mason 1999).

The Tasman Starlings on Norfolk Island had darker, sootier plumage than those on Lord Howe Island, and had smaller bills (Mathews 1928). Tasman Starlings occurred in pairs and flocks (Hull 1909; Hutton 1991).

The species was recorded only on Norfolk and Lord Howe Islands, in the southwest Pacific Ocean (Hull 1909). It is now considered to be extinct (Garnett & Crowley 2000).

Though the Tasman Starling was formerly often kept in captivity (Etheridge 1889), there are no current captive populations of this species, and none were reintroduced into the wild.

There have not been any comprehensive surveys for this species. There have, however, been a number of ornithological surveys on Lord Howe Island since the 1920s when the species became locally extinct (Disney & Smithers 1972; Recher 1974; Recher & Clark 1974). Similarly, there have been a number of ornithological surveys on Norfolk Island since the species became locally extinct (Bell 1990a; Robinson 1988; Schodde et al. 1983; Smithers & Disney 1969) but no sign of the species have been found on either island.

The species formerly occurred in large numbers on Lord Howe Island; the population is said to have been in the thousands (Etheridge 1889; Hutton 1991). There were no population estimates of the Norfolk Island subspecies.

The Tasman Starling occurred in two subpopulations, one on Lord Howe Island and the other on Norfolk Island (Hull 1909). Each population was considered a distinct subspecies (Schodde & Mason 1999).

The Tasman Starling was last recorded on Lord Howe Island in 1918 (Hindwood 1940), and on Norfolk Island in 1923 (Schodde et al. 1983). The species was formerly the most common bird on Lord Howe Island (Hutton 1991). The decline of the species on Lord Howe Island must have been extremely rapid, as Starlings were common between 1913 and 1915, but were extinct by 1918 (Hindwood 1940; Hutton 1991; McAllan et al. 2004); their decline was so quick that it was not noted in any contemporary ornithological literature.

It has been suggested that the extinction of the Tasman Starling on Norfolk Island was caused by the introduction of competitors such as the Common Blackbird Turdus merula, Song Thrush T. philomelos and Common Starling Sturnus vulgaris (Garnett & Crowley 2000). However, there is a gap between when the species was last seen on Norfolk Island (1923) and when its absence was noted (Smithers & Disney 1969). During this time Black Rats Rattus rattus were introduced (in the 1940s) (Robinson 1988) and this is a more likely explanation of their extinction on Norfolk Island (Garnett & Crowley 2007; Garnett 2007, pers. comm.). The species became extinct on Lord Howe Island because of predation from introduced Black Rats (Hindwood 1940).

Lord Howe Island was gazetted as a World Heritage Area in 1982, long after the subspecies became extinct. Similarly, though reserves, including a national park, exist on Norfolk Island, these were declared many years after the Tasman Starling became extinct.

On Lord Howe Island, the species formerly occurred in native forests (Etheridge 1889) but was mostly recorded in banana plantations and other orchards or crops, as well as gardens (Etheridge 1889; Hindwood 1940; Hull 1909). On Norfolk Island, the species inhabited rainforest dominated by Norfolk Island Pines (Smithers & Disney 1969).

The age of sexual maturity, life expectancy and natural mortality of the Tasman Starling are unknown.

Tasman Starlings were probably able to breed at any time of year, but most records are from late September to late December (Knox & Walters 1994; McAllan et al. 2004). Nests were open structures made from twigs and pieces of grass (Hindwood 1940; Hull 1909). These nests were built on a dead branch, the trunk of a dead tree-fern or in a tree-hollow, some within easy reach from the ground. The same nest site was used year after year. Clutches of between three and five bluish-green eggs with scattered red blotches were laid in the nests (Hindwood 1940; Hull 1909; Hutton 1991; North 1890).

The diet of the Tasman Starling consisted mainly of native and cultivated fruit, especially bananas, but also peaches and strawberries. Some also ate snails and the eggs of other birds (Cleland 1911; Etheridge 1889; Hindwood 1940; Hull 1909; Hutton 1991).

Tasman Starlings fed in flocks or pairs, usually taking fruit from trees, though some ate from a bunch of bananas that was left hanging from the verandah of a house (Hull 1909; Hutton 1991).

Populations of Tasman Starlings on both Lord Howe and Norfolk Islands were regarded as sedentary (Higgins et al. 2006b).

There is no information about the home ranges or territories of the Tasman Starling, but it is known that nesting sites were used year after year (Hull 1909).

The Tasman Starling was distinctive, as it was the only species of starling to occur on Norfolk and Lord Howe Islands until the arrival of the Common Starling Sturnus vulgaris in the 20th century (Higgins et al. 2006).

The species was formerly readily detectable: it was numerous, inquisitive, bold and noisy, and considered especially tolerant of people; it was often encountered in gardens (Etheridge 1889; Hull 1909; Hutton 1991).

While numerous searches have been undertaken over the past 50 years on both islands, none have recorded the Tasman Starling (Garnett 2007, pers. comm.).

On Lord Howe Island, the main threat to the species was predation by the introduced Black Rat Rattus rattus, which caused the almost immediate extinction of the population there (Hindwood 1940). The population on Norfolk Island probably also became extinct due to predation by Black Rats (Garnett & Crowley 2007; Garnett 2007, pers. comm.). The population on Norfolk Island was possibly also adversely affected by clearance of native habitat for agriculture, and competition from introduced European competitors such as Common Blackbirds Turdus merula, Song Thrushes T. philomelos and Common Starlings Sturnus vulgaris (Garnett & Crowley 2000). The species was last recorded on Lord Howe Island in 1918 and on Norfolk Island in 1923 (Hindwood 1940; Schodde et al. 1983).

The Action Plan for Australian Birds (Garnett & Crowley 2000) also provides summaries of the ecological and biological data for the two subspecies of Tasman Starling.

The following table lists known and perceived threats to this species. Threats are based on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) threat classification version 1.1.

Threat Class Threatening Species References
Uncategorised:Uncategorised:threats not specified Aplonis fusca in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2006ba) [Internet].

Bell, B.D. (1990a). The Status and Management of the White-breasted White-eye and Other Birds on Norfolk Island. Report to Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service, Canberra.

Christidis, L. & W.E. Boles (1994). The Taxonomy and Species of Birds of Australia and its Territories. Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union Monograph 2. Melbourne, Victoria: Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union.

Cleland, J.B. (1911). Examination of contents of stomachs and crops of Australian Birds. Emu. 11:79-95.

Disney, H.J. de S. & C.N. Smithers (1972). The distribution of terrestrial and freshwater birds on Lord Howe Island, in comparison with Norfolk Island. Australian Zoologist. 17:1-11.

Etheridge, R. (1889). The general zoology of Lord Howe Island. Australian Museum Memoirs. 2:3-42.

Garnett, S.T. (2007). Personal Communication. School of Environmental Research, Charles Darwin University.

Garnett, S.T. & G.M. Crowley (2000). The Action Plan for Australian Birds 2000. [Online]. Canberra, ACT: Environment Australia and Birds Australia. Available from:

Garnett, S.T. & G.M. Crowley (2007). The history of threatened birds in Australia and its offshore islands. In: Davis, W.E., H.F. Recher & W.E. Boles, eds. Contributions to the History of Australasian Ornithology. Nuttall Ornithological Club, Harvard, Massachusetts, USA.

Higgins, P.J., J.M. Peter & S.J. Cowling, eds. (2006b). Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds Volume 7b: Dunnock to Starlings. Melbourne, Victoria: Oxford University Press.

Hindwood, K.A. (1940). The birds of Lord Howe Island. Emu. 40:1-86.

Hull, A.F.B. (1909). The birds of Lord Howe and Norfolk Islands. Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales. 34:636-693.

Hutton, I. (1991). Birds of Lord Howe Island: Past and Present. Coffs Harbour, NSW: author published.

Knox, A.G. & M.P. Walters (1994). Extinct and endangered birds in the collections of The Natural History Museum. Occasional Publication 1. Tring, England: British Ornithologists Club.

Magrath, M.J.L., M.A. Weston, P. Olsen & M. Antos (2004). Draft Survey Standards for Birds: Species Accounts. Melbourne, Victoria: Report for the Department of the Environment and Heritage by Birds Australia.

Mathews, G.M. (1928). The Birds of Norfolk and Lord Howe Islands and the Australasian South Polar Quadrant. H.F. & G. Witherby, London.

McAllan, I.A.W., B.R. Curtis, I. Hutton & R.M. Cooper (2004). The birds of the Lord Howe Island Group: a review of records. Australian Field Ornithology. 21:1-82.

North, A.J. (1890). Descriptive Catalogue of the Nests and Eggs of Birds Found in Australia and Tasmania. Catalogue 12. Australian Museum, Sydney.

Recher, H.F., ed. (1974). Environmental Survey of Lord Howe Island: A Report to the Lord Howe Island Board. Sydney, NSW: Australian Museum.

Recher, H.F. & S.S. Clark (1974). A biological survey of Lord Howe Island with recommendations for the conservation of the island's wildlife. Biological Conservation. 6:263-273.

Robinson, D. (1988). Ecology and management of the Scarlet Robin, White-breasted White-eye and Long-billed White-eye on Norfolk Island. Report to Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service, Canberra.

Schodde, R. & I.J. Mason (1999). The Directory of Australian Birds: Passerines. Melbourne, Victoria: CSIRO.

Schodde, R., P. Fullagar & N. Hermes (1983). A review of Norfolk Island birds: past and present. Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service Special Publication. 8.

Smithers, C.N. & H.J. Disney (1969). The distribution of terrestrial and freshwater birds on Norfolk Island. Australian Zoologist. 15:127-140.

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This database is designed to provide statutory, biological and ecological information on species and ecological communities, migratory species, marine species, and species and species products subject to international trade and commercial use protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act). It has been compiled from a range of sources including listing advice, recovery plans, published literature and individual experts. While reasonable efforts have been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, no guarantee is given, nor responsibility taken, by the Commonwealth for its accuracy, currency or completeness. The Commonwealth does not accept any responsibility for any loss or damage that may be occasioned directly or indirectly through the use of, or reliance on, the information contained in this database. The information contained in this database does not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth. This database is not intended to be a complete source of information on the matters it deals with. Individuals and organisations should consider all the available information, including that available from other sources, in deciding whether there is a need to make a referral or apply for a permit or exemption under the EPBC Act.

Citation: Department of the Environment (2014). Aplonis fusca in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Canberra. Available from: Accessed Mon, 22 Sep 2014 07:33:50 +1000.