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Why Are Mynas a Problem?

 

In India, where the Common Indian Myna originated, it is called the “Farmer’s Friend” because it eats insects that destroy crop plants. The name myna comes from a Hindi word, “maina” meaning a bird of the starling family, Sturnidae, to which mynas belong. Mynas in India are also regarded as symbols of undying love, because they often pair for life and maina is also sometimes used as a term of endearment for young girls.

Common Indian Mynas and some other species of myna, particularly Indian Hill Mynas, Gracula religiosa, are accomplished mimics and can learn to talk. For this reason mynas have been taken to many parts of the world as cage birds.

Common Indian Mynas were brought to Melbourne in 1862 to control insect pests in market gardens, but even though they were not successful at this, they were taken from Melbourne to many other places in Australia, including north Queensland, where it was thought they would control insect pests of sugar cane. Cane Toads were introduced to Queensland for the same reason and have also become pests. Common Indian Mynas have established feral populations in many parts of the world.

Common Indian Mynas can be an economic problem because they damage fruit and grain crops and their noise and smell can be annoying where they are in large numbers. Mynas can also spread mites and they have the potential to spread disease to people and domestic animals. Mynas become quite fearless of people if they are not hassled and can be a problem in outdoor eating areas by stealing food off people’s plates. There are a few records of mynas attacking people, but this is not common.

Perhaps the Common Indian Myna’s most serious “crime” is that it competes aggressively with native wildlife for nesting hollows. Common Indian Mynas nest in tree hollows, or places like them, such as holes in roofs. Hollows are in short supply over much of Australia because of clearing for agriculture.

Mynas reduce biodiversity by fighting for hollows with native birds like Rosellas, destroying their eggs and chicks and stopping them from breeding. Indian Mynas are capable of evicting even large birds such as Kookaburras and Dollar Birds from their nests. They also evict small mammals, like Sugar Gliders from hollows – which commonly means a death sentence for the Gliders because they have nowhere else to go. It is not uncommon for groups of mynas to mob other birds and mammals like possums.

Sugar Glider

Sugar Glider

Crimson Rosella

Crimson Rosella

In the ACT and some other places in Australia Mynas have invaded woodland habitats. There is not much woodland left in Australia and this additional threat to native wildlife can be a serious problem for biodiversity conservation.

Feral Common Indian Mynas are a serious problem for biodiversity conservation in many countries other than Australia. In the year 2000, Common Indian Mynas were listed by the World Conservation Union (IUCN) as one of the World’s 100 Worst Invasive Species

A feral myna in Australia
A Feral Myna in Australia
Photo: Andrew Tatnell, Big Is Photographics

A myna nesting in a tree hollow
Myna Nesting in a Tree Hollow
Photo: Andrew Tatnell, Big Is Photographics

Contents of a single nest
Contents of a Single Nest
Photo: Debbie Claridge and Chris Tidemann

Myna chicks in a nest box
Myna Chicks in a Nest Box
Photo: Debbie Claridge and Chris Tidemann

Copyright (c) 1998-2005 The Australian National University
Title: Common Myna
Author: Dr Chris Tidemann, ANU SRES

 

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