Songs of the Hill Mynas

posted in: Videography, Vocalisation | 0

“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

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