on 18th July 2012

“Selected lowland primary and secondary forests and along its foothills, are possible locations to hear distinctively loud and noisy calls of Common Hill-mynas (Gracula religiosa). Malay villagers know them well for their ringing ‘tiong… tiong…’ calls known to them best as, Burong Tiong Besar.

“These birds often socialise in pairs and small communal flocks. They live mainly on high tree canopies, rarely build own nests but preferred disused nesting cavities of other species or in tall natural, dead tree cavities to breed their young.

“These sub-species religiosa found in this region – Perak, Peninsular Malaysia is that of the larger and thicker billed variety, with separated yellow head wattles (left).

“They are often heard, their vocalisation well documented, popular as caged birds and pet trade but not easily seen closed-up in the wild. As such, opportunities to observe and study their habits in their natural habitats have been few and far in between.

“Not many details on behavior got written about them either but interesting enough, these noisy grackles were documented during the classical art period of the Chinese Tang Dynasty (618-907AD) to read poetry!

“What do they do and how do they spend their lives in the wild on tree tops and making all those noises?

“This opportunity came as an accidental find while trying out my GPS gismo that finally got resurrected from my drawer. It brought me to designated off point Malay kampong (village) area less travelled by birders/photographers– Kledang-Sayong Forest Reserve – a supposedly huge, green lung area that encompasses a long stretch of mixed forests hill range in Perak Peninsula Malaysia or what is to be left of it in the near future.

“A small, restless flock of Common Hill-mynas having sensed my presence was flying from tree canopy to another. They finally settled on some tree branches about 30 metres high.

“Some ornamental bush plants fronting me provided hide and reasonable views for observation. Here are some described images of two adult bonding pairs found tolerating/ accepting each pairing’s presence on their separate perch (right).

“Their comfort behavior, apart from grooming themselves, included allopreening or mutually preening – “I scratch yours, you scratch mine.”

“Showed here is the male affectionately allopreening the female (below left).

“Two floppy, yellow wattles of the adult female bird (rear) hung so cutely like a solicitor’s bib. They contrasted well with the black, glossy plumage of this 29-34.5cm forest bird as she lowered her head (below right). |

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“Affection was also observed and bonding appeared strong (below left).

” I wonder if Common Hill-mynas pair for life?


“It was also noted the birds stretched their wings and legs frequently. Such comfort behavior provided a flash glimpse of their large, white winged patch (above right).

“Is there any sex differentiation between the pairs?

“The image on the left shows the male appearing a larger bird with a bulkier and more convex upper mandible and of deeper colouration.

“Do join me to read the highlights in Part 2 with many images to witness a rare playtime behaviour not documented before.”
Avian Writer Daisy O’Neill
Copyright article and copy images:
Courtesy of Daisy O’Neill Bird Conservation Fund
Penang Malaysia

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.

Other posts by YC Wee

9 Responses

  1. This sighting was in M’sia. Does anyone know if S’pore has a wild hill myna population of any sort? I’ve not seen any to date.

  2. You can sometimes come across the Hill Mynah in the Singapore Botanic Gardens. There used to be a small population in the Seletar West Farmway area, but ever since land clearing started there earlier this year, I have not heard their calls.

    1. I used to keep a hill mynah. I got it when it was a baby – it didn’t even have feathers yet. It lived for 14 years. I asked the man at the bird shop how long these birds usually lived, and he said up to 25 years.

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