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Pushy myna birds a major nest pest

Date

Bridie Smith

The common myna (<i>Acridotheres tristis</i>).

The common myna (Acridotheres tristis).

THE myna bird is proving a major problem for native birds, with research showing the introduced species is squeezing out some of Australia's signature species including the laughing kookaburra, crimson rosella and sulphur-crested cockatoo.

Research by the Invasive Animals Co-operative Research Centre and the Australian National University found many native species come off second best when competing with the common myna bird for nesting sites and food.

Using 29 years' worth of data collected by the Canberra Ornithologists Group, the research measured the abundance and distribution of 20 bird species in Canberra. The data covers survey areas prior to the arrival of the myna, introduced to Canberra between 1968 and 1971. While it remained localised, the bird has now spread throughout the city and there are more than 93,000 of them.

Published in the journal PLoS One, the results show that even when taking into account the capital's urbanisation, the myna's arrival has reduced numbers of cavity-nesting birds such as the sulphur-crested cockatoo, crimson rosella and laughing kookaburra. Numbers of the crimson rosella have fallen from about 5.9 per square kilometre to 2.4 per square kilometre a year, while numbers of the sulphur-crested cockatoo have fallen by 2.0 per square kilometre and the laughing kookaburra by about 0.4 birds per square kilometre.

Eight smaller species including the grey fantail, magpie-lark, willie wagtail and silvereye also fared poorly.

''We've clearly got negative relationships between some birds and the myna,'' said lead author and PhD candidate Kate Grarock. ''Although our study focused on the city of Canberra, it is likely that similar interactions may be occurring in other Australian cities.''

The findings are notable, as change in species abundance is often slow and gradual.

However, not all native birds fared badly since the myna's arrival. Some populations have apparently increased since its arrival, including the galah, eastern rosella and Australian king parrot.

Common myna birds, native to India, central and southern Asia, were first introduced into Australia in 1862 to control insects in Melbourne's market gardens.

The mynas' aggressive nature gave them an advantage when competing for nesting sites, food and territory.

The bird has been introduced all over the world and has become established on all continents, except Antarctica.

70 comments

  • Shame their diet doesn't include cane toads..

    Commenter
    Yachtie
    Location
    Maroubra
    Date and time
    August 13, 2012, 8:34AM
    • or vice versa

      Commenter
      peterc
      Date and time
      August 13, 2012, 12:38PM
    • ...perhaps Myna Pie for Masterchef?

      Commenter
      OpenWindow
      Date and time
      August 13, 2012, 2:07PM
  • I can't walk around the suburbs without seeing one of these birds pestering me. They do disappear when it gets too cold though.

    Commenter
    Knee Jerk
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    August 13, 2012, 8:39AM
    • It seems that we have an expectation of being able to destruct and degrade habitats, yet see flocks of small native birds flitting around us whenever we venture outside. We can't have it both ways. I would assume that habitat destruction has a far greater impact on our native wildlife than has any introduced bird species. Finger-pointing at ferals can be so simplistic.

      Commenter
      redanter
      Date and time
      August 13, 2012, 11:54AM
    • I saw quite a few Mynas when I was out yesterday. I don't know what you call 'too cold' but it was damned cold in that wind.

      Commenter
      alto
      Date and time
      August 13, 2012, 1:43PM
    • @redanter indian mynahs and starlings trash the sugar cane mulch on my garden to the point where I have had to resort to extensive netting to prevent soil degradation. It's time we got rid of these rats in the sky.

      Commenter
      Bennopia
      Location
      West Footscray
      Date and time
      August 13, 2012, 1:44PM
    • @Bennopia ... you highlight my point so eloquently.

      Commenter
      redanter
      Date and time
      August 13, 2012, 2:27PM
    • I have put up nesting boxes for Kooaburras and each year, mynas kick the kooka eggs out and lay their own. My next generation boxes will have a drop down door that I can release from the ground when the myna is inside. Before any numb nut out there starts going crook about cruelty to the myna, consider what they are doing to the kookas and other birds. There is no love wasted on them in my household.

      Commenter
      snafu
      Date and time
      August 13, 2012, 2:49PM
  • Read Bryce Courtney's Matthew Flinders Cat for a great way to reduce the myna population.

    Commenter
    Deepender
    Location
    Allambie Heights
    Date and time
    August 13, 2012, 8:50AM

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