Jeremy Lee relates his experience keeping mynas as pets after learning of the Javan Myna (Acridotheres javanicus) chick taken by a cat.
“At least you had the chick only for 14 days. When you have kept one and have taken him out on daily walks and cycling trips for a year and a cat takes it away from you…
“That’s the only sad part about keeping tame birds… they tend to have a tragic end. Keeping them in a cage is sad. But I don’t know if giving them the additional freedom at the expense of shortening its life is worth it.
“My grandma’s mynas live for more than 10 years. The last one we gave her is still alive at 12 years old. My grandma has since passed away. She loves mynas too.
“Sometime in 1991 I was in a camp in Changi, I heard the distress calls of mynas and instinct from having these birds around me made me stop what I was doing and quickly scanned the area to look at the bird that was making the call. Its gaze pointed to a cat all coiled up ready to pounce. A few metres away was a young fledgling… Without hesitation I ran to intervene. I was less than 10 metres away. I arrived within the same distance as the cat from the bird when the cat too decided to make the strike. It could not abort the strike…”
Well, Jeremy did save the myna and gives this advice:
“I never ever let any of my mynas out of my sight. Especially when young. They have not learnt about the swiftest death on four legs. Even when they are adults… I always have a special signal drained into them. They hear that signal from me… they get off the ground immediately and fly somewhere safe.
“Even then, I had a few that just never came home… probably due to cats getting them. Being alone, domesticated mynas do not have the benefit of more than one pair of eyes. Even squabbling pairs of mynas sprawled on the floor break off and take off when any myna makes a distress call.
“I recall one of my mynas had this habit of perching on the crossbar of my racing bike as we went cycling around the estate. If we came across any mynas on the ground, he would lift off from the crossbar and for that short moment would be in flight just under my chin and then it would take off like a missile and pick up a fight. Sometime if the going got rough it would come back to the perch. Any bird chasing it would just turn away. He knew where it was safe.
“Sometimes the fight got downright dirty with the birds flopping all over the floor. I got off my bike to split them up. Hard to tell who was who when sometimes I had three birds in hand, all struggling as hard. All screaming the same tune. That tune, the natural distress call of all mynas. But for my myna it seemed to be ‘let me go you fool, I want to rip more feathers out of that asshole’
“Most of the time it was 50/50. I opened one hand and the bird took off as if it had seen a ghost. The other scenario… I open one hand and the bird furiously attacked the bird in the other hand… sometimes I got cuts and nicks from the ferocity of the attack. Whatever it was… most of the neighbourhood mynas kept their distance when we were around. This was our Controlled Airspace.”
Image of Javan Myna by YC.