Crested or Chinese Myna

posted in: Morphology-Develop., Species | 3

“I was up in Penang Island for a day to conduct a busy workshop for parents of children with special needs. I managed to get there early and spent 15 minutes checking out the lovely, green venue.

“Spotted more than 10 Crested Mynas (Acridotheres cristatellus) at the site, with 2 different pairs nesting.

“The others were a gregarious bunch feeding on the ground while making loud calls. There is a well-established feral population on the island that dates possibly back to the 1950s or even 1920s (See Wells 2007). It was the commonest Myna I saw around the residential areas while driving to the venue. The sub-species is presumed to be A. c. brevipennis.

“Some observations about the plumage:
1. The white patch on the wings is not always seen when they are not flying.
2. The bill is described as ‘ivory-white’ by most guides. This implies it not really white but with a clear yellow tint. The bill can look darker yellow or lighter, partly due to lighting but there is also some variation among birds (see all images).
3. At the base of the lower mandible is a sweet ‘pink’ blush, best seen when the light is not too harsh. It can look orange in some lighting.
4. The vent is black unlike the Great or White-vented Myna (Acridotheres grandis).
5. Very distinctive amber-yellow iris.”

Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS
Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia
7th April 2018

Location: Penang Island, Malaysia
Habitat: Urban environment

Wells, D.R., 2007. The birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsular. Vol. II, Passerines. Christopher Helm, London. 800 pp.

3 Responses

  1. Lee Chiu San

    Before many of the restrictions were placed on the import of birds, the Crested Myna (Acridotheres cristatellus) was widely available in the pet trade. It was considered a better talker than the Javan (Acridotheres javanicus) or the Jungle Myna (Acridotheres fuscus) and at $25 apiece back in the early 1980s, was certainly a lot more affordable than a Hill Myna (Gracula species) the lowest-priced species starting from $150.

    The birds I used to see in the shops then were imported from Vietnam or South China, and were very distinctive, with extremely pale bills and feet. They were sold under the trade name of “Ivory billed mynas”.

    In Amar’s series of photos illustrating this article, only one bird displays the pale ivory coloration on the beak. And even that bird has legs that are darker than what I remember the imported birds to have.

    Which makes me wonder if there has been hybridization between the feral population in Penang and the native mynas? After all, there could not have been many escapees or released birds in the original feral population.

    They could have interbred with other local myna species.

    While on this subject, I have often wondered about the validity of treating the Javan myna (Acridotheres javanicus) and the Jungle myna (Acridotheres fuscus) as separate species.

    The Javan (also known as the White Vented Myna) was introduced into Singapore, probably through the pet trade. The Jungle myna was supposed to have been present here during historical times.

    Mynas are the most common birds in Singapore, except for the Common Myna, (Acridotheres tristis) which is now uncommon.

    I cannot help but notice that many of the Javan Mynas you see nowadays lack the white vent that gave the species its other name.

    Is the Singapore population becoming increasingly hybridized, or is the separation of the two species not valid, and should the Javan and the Jungle Mynas simply be treated as colour variations of a single species?

  2. Subaraj Rajathurai

    Sorry Chiu San. Just a couple of points.
    1. Crested Myna – As we used to have feral birds in Singapore which either died or were trapped out, I am quite familiar with the species. It is also the dominant myna in Hongkong. I do not see any sign of hybridisation in Amar’s photos….perhaps just different races involved. I remember that even back in the 1980s, this myna was very common in Penang.

    2. Javan Myna – This species is actually only native to Java, Bali. It was introduced to Sumatra. In Singapore, the bird was first noticed in the 1920s but misidentified as Buffalo (Jungle) Mynas. The truth is that Jungle Mynas never occurred south of northern-most Johor and the Singapore birds were always the introduced Javans….which have now spread north and taken over nearly two-thirds of Peninsula Malaysia. There was always a wide regional gap between Javans and Jungles until man interfered!

  3. Lee Chiu San

    Thanks for your observations Subaraj. You are right in that the Crested Myna has either died or been trapped out. I have not seen one on the loose for a very, very long time.
    However, take another look at Amar’s photos, especially the second and third. What I remember of the Crested Myna is that it has very pale legs and beak. As pale as ivory, hence the trade name. The birds in the two photos that I mention have legs and beak that look distinctly yellowish.
    Now, about the Javan Myna and the Buffalo (Jungle) Myna. Take a good hard look at the next flock you see. I have about a dozen free-loading at my house every day. I notice that quite a number have hardly any white on the vent. So, are they Javan Mynas or Jungle Mynas? Or hybrids? Or was the separation into two species not valid and the birds are merely displaying local or individual colour variations?

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