Common myna (Acridotheres tristis)
|Also known as:||common mynah, crested myna, house myna, house mynah, Indian myna, Indian mynah|
|Size||Length: 25 cm (2)|
|Weight||82 - 143 g (2)|
Classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).
An aggressive and confident bird, the common myna has adapted well to the urban environment, making it one of the most abundant and familiar birds in Asia. This well-known bird has distinctive chestnut-brown upperparts, with a glossy black head, brownish-black upper-wings and a white-tipped black tail (2). The bill, legs and the bare skin around the eyes are bright yellow, and bristly feathers on the forehead form a short crown (2) (3) (4). This large, stocky myna also has contrasting white patches on its wings, which are most visible when the bird is in flight (2) (4). The male and female common myna are very similar in appearance, although the male is usually slightly larger, but the juvenile bird is duller than the adult, with browner plumage, and lacks the glossy sheen on the head (2). Like other birds of the Sturnidae family, the common myna has large and strong feet that allow it to walk on the ground rather than hop, while the stout, straight bill enables it to be fairly flexible in its food choice (5). The common myna is highly vocal at all times, and can also be identified by its ceaseless, loud chattering of various conversational-like gurgles and whistles, and it is even capable of learning to mimic human speech when in captivity (2).
The common myna is native to much of Central, South and Southeast Asia, ranging from Afghanistan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan eastwards through India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka to China and Indochina (6). It has been deliberately introduced to control pest insects in a large number of countries, including Australia, New Zealand and the United Arab Emirates, although it has actually caused substantial damage to commercial crop plantations and is now itself regarded as a pest species (2) (6). It has also recently been recorded in northern France, and although the origins of the common myna here is unknown, it is likely that these are captive birds that have escaped and established in the wild (2).
A bold and aggressive bird, the common myna has a close association with human habitation and is found wherever man is within its range. It naturally occurs in open country, such as cultivated areas, floodplains and grasslands, but is now most abundant in towns and cities, where it is found around parks, gardens and refuse dumps (2) (4) (6).
A versatile and supreme opportunist, the omnivorous common myna consumes a wide variety of food types, including frogs, snails, birds’ eggs and nestlings and other animal matter, as well as fruits and seeds. Typically, it scavenges on the ground at refuse heaps in urban areas, and in rural areas it is often found following ploughs to feed on upturned insects. It also regularly settles on the back of cattle to remove ticks from them (2). During periods when insects are scarce, fruits and seeds make up most of its diet, and at such times the species can become a serious agricultural pest (6). As a highly sociable species, the common myna often feeds in small flocks, as well as gathering into large roosts that sometimes comprise tens of thousands of birds (2).
The timing of breeding in the common myna varies greatly across its range, but the breeding season generally runs from April to July in India (2). Pairs form at the start of each season and usually mate for life, with a small territory around the favoured nesting site defended each year (2) (6). The male and female cooperate to build an untidy cup-shaped nest out of twigs, grass, leaves and refuse in a cavity of a tree or building, or in a hole in an earthen bank or cliff. Usually 4 to 5 eggs are laid and incubated, mostly by the female, for 13 to 18 days. The chicks fledge after around 22 to 27 days in the nest, but continue to be fed by the adult birds for up to a further 3 weeks (2). The young birds reach sexual maturity at a year of age, with an average life expectancy of around 4 years in the wild, although some individuals may reach 12 years of age (6).
There are currently no known major threats to this hugely abundant and widespread species (7). In India, the common myna was referred to as a ‘farmer’s friend’ as it was believed to protect crops from insects, and it was deliberately introduced to other countries for this reason. However, it has established so successfully in many countries that it is now considered a pest species and measures have been taken to control its population (6). In Australia, it was introduced to Queensland to control locusts, but it has spread widely and now threatens the native fauna by predating upon other birds and competing with them for nesting sites (8). The problem is so severe that the common myna has even been listed by the IUCN as one of the World’s 100 Worst Invasive Species (6).
In the absence of any major threats to its survival, the common myna has not been the target of any known specific conservation measures (7). In places where the species is considered a pest, however, measures are being implemented to eradicate it so as to protect native fauna (6). In Australia, the common myna has been both deliberately poisoned and trapped, while public education programmes have been used to try to limit the spread of the species (6) (8).
For more information on the conservation of birds, see:
Royal Society for the Protection of Birds:
American Bird Conservancy:
To find out about conservation in the United Arab Emirates, see:
The Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi:
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- Incubate: to keep eggs warm so that development is possible.
- Omnivorous: feeding on both plants and animals.
- Territory: an area occupied and defended by an animal, a pair of animals or a colony.
IUCN Red List (May, 2009)
- del Hoyo, J., Elliot, A. and Sargatal, J. (2009) Handbook of Birds of the World. Volume 14: Bush-Shrikes to Old World Sparrows. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
- Kumar Shrestha, T. (2001) Birds of Nepal: Field Ecology, Natural History and Conservation. R.K. Printers, Kathmandu, Nepal.
- Grewal, B., Harvey, B. and Pfister, O. (2003) A Photographic Guide to the Birds of India: and the Indian Subcontinent, Including Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives. Princeton University Press, New Jersey.
- Perrins, C. (2009) The Encyclopedia of Birds. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Global Invasive Species Database – Acridotheres tristis (September, 2010)
BirdLife International (September, 2010)
Common Indian Myna Web Site (September, 2010)