Songs of the Hill Mynas

on 12th February 2011

“According to Wikipedia, the Hill Mynas, now known as Common Hill Mynas Gracula religiosa, ‘…produce an extraordinarily wide range of loud calls – whistles, wails, screeches, and gurgles, sometimes melodious and often very human-like in quality. Each individual has a repertoire between 3 and 13 such call types, which may be shared with some near neighbours of the same sex, being learned when young. There is a very rapid change of dialect with distance, such that birds living more than 15 km apart have no call-types in common with one another.’ … ‘…the Common Hill Mynas do not imitate other birds in the wild, although it is a widely held misconception that they do.’

“I am doubtful about this statement as some of the calls sounded similar to those of Common Iora (Aegithina tiphia) and Black-naped Oriole (Oriolus chinensis), or is it possible that the other birds mimic its calls?

“For the past few months, a number of Hill Mynas have been coming to my condo in the evening regularly. Their presence was known immediately with their loud calls/songs. It gave me many opportunities to record their behaviours and produce a video, though it was difficult as they often went hiding behind the foliage once they found me watching them.

“In the first scene in my video with a 4-in-1 screen, the sound track was added from various recordings with environmental noise removed and the intervals between calls cut short. There was a call that sounded like siren/car alarm.

“In the scene that followed, there was a soft call that sounded like, as YC described in the BESG Blog of 25 Jan 2010, “the mooing of a cow”, while I heard it as “kwa”, the mating call of toads after rain. This was repeatedly heard subsequently, and seen when the bird vocalised. Had I not been alerted to this call by YC’s blog, I might have missed it or attributed the source to something unknown.

“In one scene, the Myna was seen pulling its own toe, possibly a comfort behaviour also seen in House Crows.

“In another scene, the Myna was toying with unripe Golden Shower Cassia fistula pods as if it was trying to eat it.

“In the final scene which was recorded at 6.45 pm, it appeared as if the Hill Myna was calling for its mate. You could hear a human-like sigh. Another comfort behaviour in the stretching and spreading of the wing and tail feathers in a Chinese fan-like manner was observed. Failing to get a response from its mate after sometime, it seemed to get increasingly agitated and finally left to roost elsewhere for the night.

Sun Chong Hong
4th February 2011

If you like this post please tap on the Like button at the left bottom of page. Any views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the authors/contributors, and are not endorsed by the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM, NUS) or its affiliated institutions. Readers are encouraged to use their discretion before making any decisions or judgements based on the information presented.

YC Wee

Dr Wee played a significant role as a green advocate in Singapore through his extensive involvement in various organizations and committees: as Secretary and Chairman for the Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch), and with the Nature Society (Singapore) as founding President (1978-1995). He has also served in the Nature Reserve Board (1987-1989), Nature Reserves Committee (1990-1996), National Council on the Environment/Singapore Environment Council (1992-1996), Work-Group on Nature Conservation (1992) and Inter-Varsity Council on the Environment (1995-1997). He is Patron of the Singapore Gardening Society and was appointed Honorary Museum Associate of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM) in 2012. In 2005, Dr Wee started the Bird Ecology Study Group. With more than 6,000 entries, the website has become a valuable resource consulted by students, birdwatchers and researchers locally and internationally. The views and opinions expressed in this article are his own, and do not represent those of LKCNHM, the National University of Singapore or its affiliated institutions.

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