We used nuclear and mitochondrial genes to generate a phylogenetic hypothesis for the Palearctic–Oriental starlings and mynas (genera Sturnus, Acridotheres, Leucopsar, Creatophora and Fregilupus: Sturnidae). Our results indicate that the group has undergone a rapid diversification in Asia since the late Miocene. A reassessment of the morphological and ecological characters used in previous taxonomic revisions shows that all characters are highly homoplastic. We suggest that the elevated morphological and ecological plasticity favoured the adaptation of starlings and mynas to the local environment, the exploitation of all niches and their successful radiation in south-east Asia. Under the current limits the genera Sturnus and Acridotheres are not monophyletic, and we propose a revised phylogenetic taxonomy for the entire clade. We confirm that the extinct Fregilupus varius is a starling and it colonized Réunion Island (Mascarenes) by transoceanic dispersal from Asia.