Common Indian Myna’s – Brenda

The sixth Wildlife Rehabilitation Conference, was held in Canberra mid-year [2008]. One of
the presentations was on the introduced Indian Myna, now mostly referred to as the
Common Myna, the damage it is causing in that area and what the Common Indian Myna
Action Group [CIMAG] are doing about it. These birds are now settled over much of our
State and yearly are causing our native species more and more problems.
Indian Mynas were released in Canberra in 1968 somewhere around 100 years after first
arriving in Australia. They are now spread across all suburbs of Canberra and in urban
nature reserves and have become a great threat to native wildlife – particularly the hollow
nesting birds and small mammals as well as endangered and vulnerable endemic insects.
Also their habit of occupying and fouling backyards, shopping centres and school yards
means that the general community sees them as a major nuisance, their domineering nature
which results in driving small native birds out of domestic gardens is loathed.

There are three main elements in the strategy being used to tackle the problem of the
mynas.
1. raising public awareness that Indian mynas are a serious environmental threat and a
potential human health risk, not simply a backyard nuisance;
2. informing the community/business and government agencies on how to reduce
mynas’ feeding, breeding and roosting opportunities – thereby reducing their
numbers and spread; and
3. humane trapping method.
CIMAG has many members most are involved in the trapping programme. Mass
participation in trapping requires traps being easy to operate and people having a simple,
cheap, practical, quick and humane method for disposing of trapped birds. Using small,
effective, easy to build and manage traps, some 17,500 mynas have been removed from the
Canberra area by CIMAG members [up to early 2008]
Where backyard trapping has been intense, mynas are only occasionally seen and members
report small native birds have returned to gardens and rosellas are back in backyard nesting
boxes and tree hollows. The change has been quite profound.
As an indication of the success in controlling the spread and in reducing myna numbers, and
therefore their threat, the Canberra Ornithologists Group Garden Bird Survey showed for
the very first time in its 25 year history that myna numbers actually dropped across Canberra
in 2007.

Other important aspects of CIMAG’s approach have been the establishment of good
networks with the ACT government, local government agencies, RSPCA, academics and
researchers at the Australian National University and the Co-operative Research Centre for
Invasive Animals as well as conservation and community groups.
Community action needs to operate on a sound scientific basis and in conjunction with
animal welfare bodies. A collaborative arrangement with RSPCA is seen as extremely
important in gaining public respectability and acceptance of CIMAG’s objective and its
programme. CIMAG and RSPCA have developed a ‘Protocol of Animal Welfare’ and is
signed by all CIMAG trappers to ensure they are aware of their obligations and responsibility
to manage the mynas humanely and in accordance with sound animal welfare practices.

Other important aspects of CIMAG’s approach have been the establishment of good
networks with the ACT government, local government agencies, RSPCA, academics and
researchers at the Australian National University and the Co-operative Research Centre for
Invasive Animals as well as conservation and community groups.
Community action needs to operate on a sound scientific basis and in conjunction with
animal welfare bodies. A collaborative arrangement with RSPCA is seen as extremely
important in gaining public respectability and acceptance of CIMAG’s objective and its
programme. CIMAG and RSPCA have developed a ‘Protocol of Animal Welfare’ and is
signed by all CIMAG trappers to ensure they are aware of their obligations and responsibility
to manage the mynas humanely and in accordance with sound animal welfare practices.

  • A few interesting facts on our most hated pest species –
  • The Indian Myna is classed as one of the 100 most invasive species in the WORLD
  • Their native home is tropical southern Asia from Iran to India and Sri Lanka
  • They were brought into Melbourne in the 1860’s to eat insects in the market gardens. This
    failed!
  • They were then taken to Queensland to eat insects in the cane fields. This also failed!
  • In recent times they have arrived in Darwin, Perth and Tasmania.
  • They have been reported in Adelaide.
  • Not only do Indian Mynas take over nesting hollows from native birds, they kill nestlings and
    destroy eggs
  • Indian Mynas are considered the most hated pest in Australia beating cane toads, feral
    cats and foxes [ABC Wild Watch Quest for Pests 2005]
  • They pose major threats to many bird/mammal species, eg the nationally endangered Superb Parrot, the threatened Brown Treecreeper, Glossy Black Cockatoo, parrot species,lorikeets, kookaburras, sugar gliders and possums to name just a few, also the Golden Sun Moth as well as endangered or threatened invertebrate species, eg native grasshoppers and crickets.
  • Indian Mynas are noisy, territorial and not afraid of humans, in large numbers they aggressively take over and defend a territory, evicting mammals or birds already in hollows by harassing them until they leave. Not only do they kill nestlings or build their own nests on top of them but they will also block entry to hollows ensuring the inhabitants die of starvation, they then lay their own eggs in the hollow. Although they only lay eggs in one nest they will defend several hollows during the breeding season thus excluding native species from nesting sites. They usually raise two broods each year.
  • ~ They pose a potential health risk to humans – from bird mites and faeces dust – this is due to the close association with human activity, eg scavenging around outdoor cafes and other eating places and on patios.
  • As well as using hollows they will also nest in roof spaces and cavities, their nests are large and untidy, they use sticks, straw, feathers and other rubbish such as paper and plastic to construct the nest, as well as the fire risk the nest becomes an entry point allowing bird mites into the house.
  • There is evidence their aggressive nature – chasing native birds from an area – results in loss of tree health and vigour as the insect gleaning native birds are no longer able to reduce the insect numbers on trees, Yellow Box and Red Gum grassy woodlands as well as other areas may be at risk.

The trip to Canberra to attend the wildlife conference passed without incident although when
the Virgin Blue attendant looked at my ticket and said ‘oh you’re going on a small plane” I
had vivid memories of my previous trip to Canberra some 11 years previous, so when Lynne
and I were called to gate 6 for boarding I wouldn’t have been surprised to find myself walking
out onto the tarmac and seeing a tiny plane amongst all the big shiny machines sitting alone
puffing steam and repeating monotonously ‘I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.’ We were
safe, it wasn’t the 32 seater I’d been expecting. We boarded with Lynne hooting with
laughter as I told her of my last trip to Canberra in the company of my daughter and 8 month
old granddaughter [1998].

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