CIMAG

The Context

The Indian Myna bird – 1 of only 3 birds on the World Conservation Union’s list of 100 most invasive species – is a major pest in Australia’s eastern mainland States and the ACT. By killing native chicks, taking over nesting hollows and preying on skinks and rare and endangered insects they are a significant risk to our wildlife.

By carrying pathogens, mites and disease they are a risk to human health. Their raucous calls, messy roosts, nests in roof spaces, displacement of native birds and their fouling of backyards cause a major loss of public amenity. Their pecking of grapes, figs, berries and soft-skinned fruit – as with native birds – cause horticultural loss.

Within our region, Indian Mynas are well established across south-east Asia and the Pacific Islands and New Zealand. While the Indian Myna is the only myna species in Australia, the Jungle Myna has also established in south-east Asia and the Pacific Islands, while the Javan Myna – the more aggressive – is throughout south-east Asia. These two myna species are also highly deleterious to native wildlife.

In Australia, the Indian Myna has been rated an Extreme Threat and won the dubious distinction of receiving the ABC’s Pest of Australia Award in the Wild Watch Quest for Pests 2005.  It beat the cane toad and feral cat to get this award!

In July 2021, the ACT Government become the first government in Australia to formally declare the Indian Myna a pest when the Minister for the Environment, Ms Rebecca Vassarotti, MLA, made the Declaration of the Indian Myna as a Pest Animal.

Mynas were deliberately introduced into Canberra in the 1960s – a hundred years after being introduced into Melbourne in a failed attempt to control insects in market gardens and in vineyards. (It was taken to Sydney and far north Queensland in the 1880s, again unsuccessfully to control insect pests). In Canberra it has spread widely throughout all suburbs and across the nearby region. Before CIMAG started operations in 2006, mynas had been calculated by ANU researcher, Chris Tidemann, to number around 250 birds for every square kilometre in Canberra, making it the 3rd most common bird in the Territory.

These birds are seriously bad news for our native birds and other small animals. They are fiercely territorial and use their superior numbers to aggressively defend their territory. During the breeding season a breeding pair will take over tree hollows from native birds and small animals (such as sugar gliders) after harassing and evicting them. A pair will defend up to 11 nesting hollows although they only use one to nest — this excludes native hollow nesting birds and animals from those nesting sites. They kill chicks and destroy the eggs of native birds.

 

Research by Chris Tidemann of ANU in the 1990s indicated that when mynas competed with Crimson Rosellas for nesting hollows, the mynas won out 50% of the time. When they competed with the slightly smaller Eastern Rosella, mynas won out 100% of the time. The research by Dr Kate Grarock of ANU, using the weekly survey data of the Canberra Ornithologists Group, identified many local native birds whose numbers declined as myna number built up. These include Superb Fairy-wrens, Willie Wagtails, Grey Fantails, Rufous Whistlers, Spotted and Striated Pardalotes.

Mynas also prey on native insects – in the Canberra region this includes the rare and endangered Golden Sun Moth, the Perunga Flightless Grasshopper and the Coorooboorama Raspy Cricket. Moreover, they prey on skinks and lizards, including the rare and endangered Striped Legless Lizard, and the Grassland Earless Dragon.

Add to all this, they hang around cafes and restaurants, walking all over tables in search of left-over food. It isn’t hard to see the potential public health risk they pose.

They can also pose possible fire risks to buildings through making large scrappy nests under eaves and rooflines from grass, sticks and any available rubbish they find.

A trapping program for Indian Mynas is an essential part of any strategy to control these pests. This is perfectly legal for exotic species but not for native species, and any trapping and euthanising should only be done in line with good animal welfare principles. Trapping has proven highly successful in Canberra: one member of the Canberra Indian Myna Action Group Inc trapped 665 in his backyard over six months while another member captured 40 mynas and 37 starlings in his first week of trapping.

Let’s not kid ourselves. While we probably won’t ever get rid of Indian Mynas, unless we start to reduce and control their numbers we risk losing many of our native birds — particularly parrots. One has to only go to Cairns or Fiji to see the impact of mynas on native bird numbers. However, we can at least give our native birds and animals a better chance to resist these exotic invaders by controlling their numbers and the range they inhabit. If we don’t do anything about Indian Mynas we will find less and less native birds and small mammals in our region and more and more Indian Mynas.

Further information on Indian (Common) Mynas is available from:

https://www.environment.act.gov.au/parks-conservation/plants-and-animals/Biosecurity/pest-animals/indianmynabirds

https://fennerschool-associated.anu.edu.au/myna/problem.htm

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_myna

http://www.iucngisd.org/gisd/species.php?sc=108