WORLD WAR M – The Invasion of the Indian Myna Bird

 

‘You can have native birds or Indian Mynas – but not both.’                                                                                                 – Ian Fraser

 

In early 2014 I had the pleasure of working with the Canberra Indian Myna Action Group (CIMAG) and its well accomplished committee members. This non-profit community group was established in April 2006, and aims to educate the public on the destructive impact of the Indian Myna bird (Acridotheres tristis) and actively reduce their numbers in Canberra.

Learn more about CIMAG and the Indian Myna here. See videos from Indian Myna conferences and Indian Myna researchers here.

Indian Myna (Acridotheres tristis) (Photo by Geoffrey Dabb; from http://indianmynaaction.org.au/)

Indian Myna (Acridotheres tristis)
(Photo by Geoffrey Dabb; from http://indianmynaaction.org.au/)

 

Why did I choose to volunteer with CIMAG?

As a born and bred Canberran, you’d assume that I’d be afraid of swooping Magpies in spring, but, no. There is nothing more frightening for me than being stared down by an Indian Myna. And rightly so! They are everywhere; and are very territorial! Feeling partially responsibility as a human for their introduction, I enlisted for the war against these home invaders and baby killers.

 

Trapping Indian Mynas – a direct way to tackle population numbers

My first day with CIMAG was spent with Bill Handke (CIMAG President). We travelled to the Canberra gaol to collect Indian Myna traps which inmates had made. Their unique design lures birds into the contraption, and there is no escape. These birds are then gassed (humanely of course) which puts them to sleep in approximately 7 seconds. Trapping has a direct effect in reducing numbers and relies on willing members of the community to trap and kill Indian Mynas in their yards. Thanks to CIMAG’s efforts, Indian Mynas have gone from being #3 feral bird pest in Canberra, to roughly #26 in only 8 years!

Indian Myna Traps – birds are enticed into the traps with food and cannot escape back through the chute.  Image from http://indianmynaaction.org.au/

Indian Myna Traps – birds are enticed into the traps with food and cannot escape back through the chute.
Image from http://indianmynaaction.org.au/

 

But are traps enough?

You’d be surprised to hear, as I was, that Indian Mynas outcompeted the cane toad in receiving the 2005 Pest of Australia award. Indian Mynas aggressively take over and defend several tree hollows, despite only using one nest. If nests are already occupied, Indian Mynas will evict the occupants (including native birds such as parrots and kookaburras, and sugar gliders), and often kill their young.

I photographed these three Indian Myna refugial nests (below). Indian Mynas use cockatoo feathers to deter other birds from invading their nests. It is presumed that Indian Mynas have learned this nest-defending technique, which portrays that one of Australia’s most aggressive bird species occupies the nest.

I photographed these three Indian Myna refugial nests (below). Indian Mynas use cockatoo feathers to deter other birds from invading their nests. It is presumed that Indian Mynas have learned this nest-defending technique, which portrays that one of Australia’s most aggressive bird species occupies the nest.

 

Original photo – this galah had a lucky escape. It is only a matter of time before an Indian Myna takes over this hollow.

Original photo – this galah had a lucky escape. It is only a matter of time before an Indian Myna takes over this hollow.

 

So, no, trapping isn’t enough! We must inhibit their breeding!

I was fortunate enough to also work alongside Daryl King, Bruce Lindenmayer and Bill Handke once again who took me around Belconnen, Weston and Tuggeranong, and Kambah (respectively). They taught me how to spot Myna refugial nests. As opposed to typical roost or nesting areas, refugial nests are usually a breeding pair’s founding nest, located near human colonisation, which are used for several years.

Original photos of natural (tree hollows) and artificial (structure – e.g. in roofs) Indian Myna refugial nest sites in Belconnen.

Original photos of natural (tree hollows) and artificial (structure – e.g. in roofs) Indian Myna refugial nest sites in Belconnen.

I established the geographic coordinates of each refugial nest.

I used geo-coders to determine the exact coordinates of trees which had Indian Myna refugial nests.  This reference is of this old Red-Box Gum (pictured with nest visible) in Ordell Street, Chapman.

I used geo-coders to determine the exact coordinates of trees which had Indian Myna refugial nests.
This reference is of this old Red-Box Gum (pictured with nest visible) in Ordell Street, Chapman.

I then geo-coded the Indian Myna refugial nests I had located, and then went home to work on inputting the coordinates into a GPS mapping system. The result (see screen shot below) demonstrates the geographic data points that I had configured, depicting the exact locations and dispersal of refugial nests against a satellite of Belconnen. Belconnen is fortunate enough to have very old trees with important hollows, however Mynas have taken over a significant number of these. Daryl and I were lucky enough to spot a breeding pair of Mynas who had overtaken a Kookaburra nest and had thrown their chicks ‘overboard’ – so to speak! These geo-coded maps of refugial nest locations will assist CIMAG in their efforts to locate and trap these birds, and disrupt their nesting and breeding patterns.

I used http://www.gpsvisualizer.com/ to create this map.

I used http://www.gpsvisualizer.com/ to create this map.

 

I hope that my work experience has enlightened you, as it did me, about one of Australia’s most active serial killers.

The Myna is not a minor problem.

 

References

Canberra Indian Action Myna Group Inc. n.d. Who are we?; An Obnoxious Invader that’s a Threat to our Wildlife; Indian (Common) Myna-Acridotheres tristis; Strategy; and Trapping Matters, viewed 14 April 2014. http://indianmynaaction.org.au/

Schneider, A. 2013, GPS Visualizer, viewed 22 March 2013. http://www.gpsvisualizer.com/map_input

Special thanks to Daryl King, Bruce Lindenmayer, Bill Handke, the CIMAG committee members, and all those who provided me with their personally recorded information on Indian Myna nesting, refugial, and roosting sites. Thank you for sharing your valuable knowledge with me. The countless hours and efforts you have all put into assisting me with my work experience is greatly appreciated.

 

Further Information

Canberra Indian Action Myna Group Inc. webpage – http://indianmynaaction.org.au/

Canberra Indian Action Myna Group YouTube site – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCtM453NJsyhHhbY5DrCt7qQ

GPS Visualiser used to place geo-coded refugial sites on a satellite image – http://www.gpsvisualizer.com/map_input

Information on Myna intelligence and learning by Andrea Griffin – http://andreasgriffin.weebly.com/

 

Melissa D’Amico – U4849283

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About Biodiversity Conservation Blog

I am an Associate Professor at The Australian National University and convene a (very awesome) course called Biodiversity Conservation. Myself and students in the course contribute to this blog.
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One Response to WORLD WAR M – The Invasion of the Indian Myna Bird

  1. Really enjoyed reading this Melissa. Did you have a read of any recent research by Kate Grarock on this species and the effects of its control in Canberra? Phil

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