Winning the war against Indian mynas
With the introduction of a scientifically designed Indian myna (Acridotheres tristis) trap - Myna Magnet, pest managers have the opportunity to help reduce or eliminate this environmentally destructive pest. This unit is the result of years of study and research at the Australian National University (ANU) and is highly effective and species selective. Pest managers can help our environment by eradicating the “Cane Toad with Wings” with this trap. The Myna Magnet is a programmed approach at winning the war against Indian mynas using a humane solution to a potentially devastating environmental problem.
Introduction to Myna Magnet
The Myna Magnet is a two chamber trap, designed specifically for Indian Mynas. It is collapsible which makes the unit ideal for setting up trapping programs and transporting between installations. The collapsibility of the trap also assists in storage between jobs.
Mynas are distinctive, because unlike most birds, they move with a jaunty walk rather than hop. European Starlings also walk rather than hop. Common Indian Mynas can be confused with Noisy Miners, Manorina melanocephala, a native Australian species that is also aggressive and often moves around in groups, as they look superficially similar.
All common Indian mynas, except females incubating eggs or young, sleep at night in communal roosts. Every night all the mynas within a kilometre or so of where they feed or nest gather at a communal roost. Up to several hundred birds may gather at these communal roosts, which are usually in trees or other dense vegetation, although roosts may also be in creepers, buildings or under bridges. There are usually several roosts in each suburb.
Communal roosts of common Indian mynas are usually quite easy to find by looking for flying mynas about half an hour before it gets dark. If you follow the line of flight you’ll soon get close enough to hear them. If there are a lot of birds in the roost you can hear them from several hundred metres away. It is rare for other birds, except sometimes a few European Starlings, to roost in myna roosts.
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. Mynas also reduce public amenity through noise at communal roosts, and fouling, with attendant risk for human and domestic animal health. There are a few records of mynas attacking people, but this is not common.
Mynas reduce biodiversity through predation and 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.
Humane killing of Mynas
Clearly, reduction of myna numbers is desirable, but is it practicable? Poisoning, habitat modification and fertility control have all been considered as possibilities for controlling mynas. Poisoning is clearly undesirable because it is non-specific, habitat modification because it would require lopping or removal of roosting trees of a huge range of species. Fertility control seems impractical, at least at the present time.
Consequently a trapping system that would be acceptable to the bulk of the community was developed. A multi-catch trap, that is selective for mynas and starlings has been developed. The traps catch common Indian mynas and European starlings yet exclude other birds by means of selective valves. The system is clean, green, safe and humane, and has met with approval from animal welfare and conservation groups and accords with the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia’s Code of Practice for the Care and Use of Animals for Scientific Purposes and the policy of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals on the Control and Use of Feral Animals.
Myna Magnet Trap Details
The system has been designed to simplify operation by one person, while retaining important features of the original design. The trap and euthanasia system are portable and multiple traps can be operated by one person. An efficient and humane euthanasia system has been designed for use in conjunction with the trap without the need for individual handling of birds. Trapped mynas are killed humanely (euthanased) by enclosing the holding section of the trap with a canvas sleeve and flooding it with industrial grade carbon dioxide.