Where have our Common Mynas gone?

posted in: Species | 1

“The Common Myna (Acridotheres tristis) has become decidedly uncommon in Singapore. I wonder if foreign talent has displaced local talent even in beachcombing.

“Some years ago, our good webmaster raised the question of whether Common Mynas were decreasing. At that time I was still living in Serangoon Gardens and maintaining four aviaries plus another half-a-dozen breeding cages. Wild birds were always hanging around for scraps, and I used to feed my pet birds’ leftovers to them. There was about a 50/50 mix of Javan and Common Mynas then.

“Our webmaster raised this question again very recently. And the Nature Society’s recently-concluded survey on birdlife in Singapore examined it in more detail. Plus, one of the readers to this website has contacted me on the question of raising a baby mynah.

“I looked through all the photos I have taken in the past three years at my present home. And there is not a single one of a Common Myna.

“The local versus foreign debate gets really interesting at this point. Is the Javan Myna really an illegal immigrant? Or is it an undocumented long-time resident?

“Alec Fraser Brunner in ‘Common Malayan Birds’ wrote in the 1960s that the Javan Myna (he used the name Buffalo Mynah for this bird) was being replaced by the Common Myna. But even before his writing, there were records of the Javan Myna in Singapore.

“It was supposed that the Javan Myna was introduced through the pet bird trade some time in the 1920s. Escapees and released birds bred locally. But was this species already present in Singapore and Malaysia even before then? After all, they could have flown over. Indonesia is not far away.

“Even until the 1950s, both Mynas were not at all common here. I remember then that someone I knew had one as a pet, and he considered it valuable, not the case today.

“Why is the Javan considered a better pet than the Common Myna (above)? For one, it vocalises more freely, and its calls are generally more pleasant. Secondly, it does not moult in an unsightly manner. It was not unusual to see Common Mynas with bald patches, or even totally bald heads (below) and LINK.

“How did the Javan Myna turn the tables and become more common than the Common Myna? From my own observations of the freeloading birds in my garden, the Javan Myna is more daring. Many will snatch food from tables. If you feed them regularly, within weeks they will take food from your hand. When there were both species around at my former house, I noted that if I stood some distance away, Common Mynas could dominate Javan Mynas and keep them away from food.

“But whenever a human, or for that matter, a cat got close, the Common Mynas would move aside, while the immigrants were more prepared to take risks.

“I also request Dato Amar Singh to make a Myna contribution to our knowledge and let us know what is the situation with these two species in Malaysia.”

Lee Chiu San
23rd April 2015

Note: This account surfaced as a comment to the earlier post HERE. Images by Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.