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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.

The Myna Magnet comes as a complete kit (including gassing kit, feeders, perches, instruction manual and more). There is nothing else to buy – just erect and set the trap. New inserts for other pest bird species will be available in the coming months to further add to the value and versatility of this important new system.
Pest managers now have an excellent opportunity to assist clients in new markets including domestic, commercial, rural and horticultural bird management. The Myna Magnet can also be successfully used on European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris). With this tool pest managers can work closely with local councils and government departments to help reduce the devastating effects of Indian myna and starling problems in your local area.

Mynas and Miners

The common Indian myna is a medium sized chocolate brown bird, about 12 cm tall, with a black head and neck, a yellow beak, eye patch, feet and legs. White wing patches are obvious when the birds are flying. Juvenile mynas look a bit different but are also easily recognisable as mynas.

Myna Magnet

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.

 

Myna

Myna
Photo: Andrew Tatnell, Big Is Photographics

Juvenile Mynas

Juvenile Mynas
Photo: Andrew Tatnell, Big Is Photographics

Noisy Miner

 

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.

A roosting site

Indian Myna

Indian Mynas

A roosting site
Photo: Justin Politi
Photo: Andrew Tatnell,
Big Is Photographics
Photo: Andrew Tatnell, Big Is Photographics

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.
Feral common Indian mynas are a serious problem for biodiversity conservation in many countries including Australia. 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 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.

Prior to assembling and using your trap free feeding the Mynas for a week or so to encourage them is highly recommended. A piece of light coloured plastic or a large plate with the food should be placed in a position where you plan to trap.
Myna trap food
Myna trap food

 

The trap comes flat packed in one large carton, with a separate carton containing all your accessories.
Assembly is easy, just follow the comprehensive instructions supplied with the trap. The instructions should be read carefully before trapping begins. The trap is NOT an attractant for Mynas, however it will very successfully trap Mynas once they have been encouraged to use the feed supplied within the trap.

 

   
Myna Magnet comes in cartons
Myna Magnet assembly is easy

The base cage is brown and has two brown perches. The upper cage is green and has a single green perch and a mesh floor with two holes. It also has a sheet metal cover, a shade cloth wrap and two plastic food/water dishes, all will require fitting. Two Fuzzle valves will require fitting as well. These will need to have the internal springs fitted as per the instructions. The two valves then need to be fitted over the two circular holes in the floor of the top cage.

Myna Magnet parts Myna Magnet parts Myna Magnet walk-in

 

The walk-ins need to be assembled as per the instructions. Do not fit yet

 

Myna Magnet Free Feeding Mode
Free Feeding Mode

FREE FEEDING MODE

Assembled and in the free feeding position the top cage will sit at 45 degrees to the bottom cage. No walk-ins should be fitted during free feeding. Mynas entering the bottom cage can exit through the walk-in cutouts or through the open corners. Keep disturbances and interferences to a minimum during free feeding as you are actually training the birds to use the trap.

Myna Magnet Trapping Mode
Trapping Mode

TRAPPING MODE

Assembled in the trapping position the top cage will sit directly over the bottom cage. The Valves should be placed over the top perch. The walk-ins are now fitted to prevent larger birds access and to deter Mynas from leaving the bottom cage. The Mynas will tend to attempt to escape by the corners as they did during free feeding but will find the only way out is through the Fuzzle valves into the top cage.

Water and food should be provided in the top cage to make the Mynas as comfortable as possible. This will avoid any distress calls and allow more Mynas to enter the trap.

The traps are ideally operated in a 7-8 day cycle, free feeding with just the base cage for 2 days, free feeding with the top cage at 45 degrees for 3 days and finally the trapping mode for 1 or 2 days. The cycle can then begin again.

Disposal of Birds

Gassing the birds with Carbon Dioxide within the large bag provided is the best method of bird disposal. It is humane and is approved by the RSPCA. To do this place the top cage into the Gassing bag making sure the top is secured reasonably tightly. Place the gassing hose through the top of the bag and down the side of the bag to the bottom of the cage. Run the car engine or let the Carbon Dioxide flow into the bag for 4-6 minutes.

Step 1 Step 2 Step 3
Assembly Step 1 Assembly Step 2 Assembly Step 3
Step 4 Step 5  
Assembly Step 4 Assembly Step 5Photos: Chris Tidemann

Myna Magnet Trapping Cycle

 

Myna Magnet and common Indian Myna references

Mynah bird home page:
http://www.mynahbird.com

Myna Magnet information and purchasing:
http://www.pestit.com

IUCN Invasive Species Specialist Group:
http://www.issg.org

The Global Invasive Species Programme:
http://www.gisp.org

Mynas were recently voted the most unpopular feral animal in Australia:
http://www.abc.net.au/wildwatch/results/award.htm

Environment ACT:
http://www.environment.act.gov.au

Humane disposal of trapped mynas:
http://www.nhmrc.gov.au/research/awc/code.htm

http://www.rspca.org.au

Selected text adapted from a Mitigation of the impact of Mynas on biodiversity and public amenity by Dr Chris Tidemann with permission of the author, School of Resources, Environment & Society, Copyright © The Australian National University.

 

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