The Common Myna Bird (Acridotheres tristis) is a member of the same family as the starling. Its home range stretches from Iran in the west to Japan in the east, but it has spread far beyond its natural homelands and continues to do so. Climate change is accelerating this process.
The Common Myna
The common myna’s original preference was for open woodland, but, like many other birds, it has adapted to the human environment. It is now perfectly happy in urban areas. It is a sociable bird, but only with other common mynas. They flock together, feed together, and hunt together, but they are extremely hostile to other birds. The myna is highly territorial and will not tolerate competition.
It appears that the myna mates for life, and breeds throughout the year if conditions are favorable. It will build its own nest but will take over those of other birds and use nesting boxes, forcing other birds out of its territory.
People have helped the common myna dramatically increase its habitat. Basically, humans have acted as vectors for common myna spread in two ways. Firstly, they have introduced common mynas into zoos or as pets. Some of these have escaped and quickly established colonies. Secondly, because these birds are omnivorous, people have imported them to control insect pests on farmland. This second reason is ironic because the common myna has become a pest in its own right.
Nowadays, the common myna happily inhabits territories from Canada to Australia. It is a highly adaptable bird and climate change poses no threat to it. On the contrary, warming temperatures help it extend its range.
For this article, we will take a brief look at just three countries. But their experiences have been repeated all over the world.
In much of Australia, the common myna is about as popular as a rat. According to Wikipedia, it made its first appearance in the decade from 1863 in Melbourne, where well-meaning growers introduced it to control insects in market gardens.
It was then taken to Queensland to help keep grasshopper and cane beetle populations down. In both cases, the common myna did its work well but it has spread from the tropical north to the temperate south. In 2008, Australians voted it the ‘Most Important Pest in Australia.’ In Australia, as with everywhere else, the common myna is a considerable threat to crops.
Zafrir Rinat, writing for haaretz.com, titled his piece about the common myna: “Aggressive Bird Launches Hostile Takeover of Israel’s Skies.” This title tells us a lot about how we view the myna. Rinat notes that the myna escaped from zoos and, in just twenty years, had colonized most of the country. Sadly, the myna bird did so at the expense of native birds.
In South Africa, the common myna escaped from captivity in 1902. It has now established itself all over the country but is most common in urban areas. Again, it has displaced native birds through its aggressive behavior and is considered to be a pest.
Climate Change And The Common Myna
The Common Myna belongs to the family Sturnidae, and there is some evidence that climate change is having, or soon will have, an adverse effect on them. Factors such as changing rainfall patterns are interrupting their breeding patterns. However, the common myna is largely immune to such changes. This is due to two factors:
- Adaptability: The common myna’s original homelands have a wide variation in climate, and the bird proved to be adaptable to most of them. It does not take well to extreme cold, but its natural range will increase as the planet warms. Of course, the common myna will suffer in areas that are threatened with desertification as its habitats degrade and there is less prey.
- Urbanization: The common myna likes people, or rather, it likes human habitats. Nest sites are easy to find in built-up areas, and food is readily available. Climate change will force people to relocate away from rising sea levels. The common myna will simply follow them. Also, cities are growing, thereby offering larger spaces for the common myna to colonize. The bird’s population is only limited by food availability; as cities grow, so will the urban common myna population.
In 2000, the myna bird won the distinct honor of one of the 100 worst invasive species on the planet. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature, the organization that made the list, is right to do so. The bird drives away native species and consumes vast quantities of their natural prey. Many countries recognize the expanding threat that the common myna poses and are taking steps to control the population. So far, it must be said, with little success.