The Indian myna (Acridotheres tristis) belongs to the Starling family; a group of birds which includes another invasive species, the Common Starling (Sturnus vulgaris).
The Indian Myna was introduced to Australia from southern Asia in the 1860's as a biological control agent. Birds were released in Melbourne to control insect pests in market gardens and also in Cairns to control the Cane Beetle. From these points, they rapidly established along the eastern coast of Australia, including Tasmania and are spreading to other parts of the country, with recent sightings in Darwin, Adelaide and Perth.
Indian Mynas in Austraila – Current Distribution
Indian Myna birds are commonly found in urban environments. They often congregate around shopping centres, schools and picnic areas scavenging for food. They can often be seen perched on power lines and roof tops and in open grassy areas where they hunt for insects and worms. They frequent backyard gardens to exploit left over pet food. Mynas also thrive in rural landscapes where agricultural activities provide them with a range of habitats and feeding options. They often congregate near cattle farms and dairies where feedlots are readily accessible. Racing stables, piggeries and farms with poultry coops are also prime scavenging areas for Indian mynas.
If you are unsure of whether you are looking at an Indian myna or native Noisy miner, observe what the bird is feeding on. The native Noisy miner belongs to the honeyeater family of birds and can be often seen foraging for nectar on flowering shrubs. If the bird you are observing is feeding on pet food, meat scraps or stock feed, then it is more likely to be the Indian myna.
Behaviour & Habits
Indian Mynas are ominivorous scavengers, able to utilise a wide range of food types including insects, meat, fruits, vegetables, pet food and stock feed. They favour open grassy areas, rarely venturing into closed canopy forests. At night they gather to sleep in communal roosts under bridges, in large dense trees, or empty buildings.
The Myna's behaviour is seasonal. They form breeding pairs from September to March and can raise multiple clutches per year, with 4-5 chicks per clutch. After March, the Mynas join larger groups and move to communal roosts where they can number in the hundreds. They split up in the mornings, travelling in small family groups to look for food and often visit regular feeding sites.
Indian mynas are non-migratory, however resident populations are highly mobile and display local seasonal movements between known habitats.
The Problem with Indian Mynas
Indian Mynas are a highly invasive species and have become a serious problem in both urban and rural landscapes. They are opportunists, able to adapt to a range of conditions and to exploit a wide variety of different food types. Indian mynas were recently ranked third on the “List of the World's 100 Most Invasive Species” by the World Consevation Union. Their impacts include:
- Mynas are extremely aggressive, competing with native wildlife for scarce resources. They evict animals and birds from their nests, attack chicks of other species and breed in tree hollows rendering them un-useable by other wildlife. This is of particular concern, as approximately 15% of our land-dwelling vertebrate species depend on tree hollows for shelter or breeding throughout some stage of their life.
- Indian mynas can form communal roosts which consist of hundreds of birds. The noise and fouling around nesting and roost sites can be considerable and in public places such as schools and shopping centres, also pose a health risk.
- Mynas are an agricultural pest, contaminating stock feed and causing damage to fruit and grain crops. Mynas have recently been implicated in bacterial contamination of milk through fouling of dairy feedlots.
Damage to infrastructure
- Myna nests can block spouting on roofs, often causing internal water damage to buildings.
- Indian Mynas are carriers of bird mite which can cause severe itching and dermatitis. They also carry other avian diseases such as psittacosis and salmonellosis which can potentially impact on human health.