©al mawash hani
The Superb Starling has one of the most complicated and fascinating lifestyles of any bird species. It is a cooperative breeder, which means more than two individuals care for the young at a nest. Cooperative breeding occurs in less than 4% of all bird species. While the typical cooperative breeder lives in small family groups, the Superb Starling lives in large social groups with as many as 30 or more birds — often extended families of parents, step-parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, nieces, and nephews. Within these groups, usually two to four pairs build nests inside thorn-encased acacia trees. Both males and females may help raise the young of the breeding pairs. Although most of these helpers are aiding their own parents, they often help at multiple nests simultaneously.
Even other breeders have been known to help at nests that are not their own.
In Kenya, cooperative breeding occurs in numerous species of birds and even some mammals, such as hyenas and wild dogs. We are not really sure why cooperative breeding is so common there, but the answer may have something to do with the East African environment. For many months each year the savanna is dry and barren, and the timing and intensity of rain are quite variable from year to year. Without helpers to feed nestlings in times of food shortage and to protect them from the ever-present nest predators such as snakes, hawks, and small mammals, most pairs might rarely fledge young. And because groups consist of close relatives, individuals may be more willing to forgo breeding on their own to help raise the offspring of their kin instead.