Common Mynas on the NSW South Coast

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Subject: Common Mynas on the NSW South Coast
From: "alan morris" <>
Date: Wed, 9 Mar 2005 09:24:55 +1100
Hi Birders,
Sset out below is an article by Jill Whitier a member of the Eurobodalla Natural History Society that appeared in her club's newsletter last year. I reproduce it here because it also sheds some light on the problem and issue of Common Mynas.

Alan Morris


When the first Common Mynas arrived in the Eurobodalla Shire (NSW South Coast), three of them in a Batehaven garden in August 1989, we threw up our hands and echoed the gloomy prognostications then in vogue, a litany of doom in store for the native birds in towns and villages. The invaders would drive all before them, steal the nest holes, and the towns would be taken over by these unwelcome foreigners. Well, that was 15 years ago, and in the last year and a half, I have been quietly observing the native birds in Moruya and Batemans Bay and delving into past records to make some comparisons between then and now.

The Mynas have not lived up to their reputation, at least not yet. Yes, there are more of the birds, though their numbers do seem to fluctuate quite wildly. Little groups are seen here and there around houses and gardens and in the industrial parts of the towns, and 37 were seen a few months ago, perched on wires near the feed store in Moruya, but the native birds in the towns and suburban housing have remained in much the same numbers as recorded year after year. Why?

If we look at the commercial parts, the shopping areas, there are no Mynas at all and just a handful of House Sparrows. Red and Little Wattlebirds, and Noisy Friarbirds in spring and summer, forage in shrubs and small trees round motels, business premises and in the few trees left in the side streets, as they always have done. Now, these are pretty aggressive birds, not averse to a set-to with an intruder, and it is difficult to imagine them fleeing from a few Mynas. Yellow-faced, White-naped, Brown-headed, New Holland and Scarlet Honeyeaters and Eastern Spinebills continue their habit of feeding in gardens and street plantings, specially when Callistemons and Grevilleas are in flower.

Silver Gulls are also a permanent feature of Batemans Bay town, and who ever heard of a gull backing away from a fight? In the suburban parts of both towns, Galahs, Crimson Rosellas and King Parrots go about their affairs. Satin Bowerbirds raid vegetable gardens, and Pied Currawongs and Magpies hold their traditional fiefdoms, as all have done in the past. Even on the grassy south bank of the Moruya River, the Silver Gulls hold the licence to patrol round picnic tables, a Common Starling or two may put in an appearance but the trees along the riverbank are the preserve of the native birds, cockatoos and parrots, thornbills, butcherbirds, honeyeaters and other species common to the district. The Yellow-faced Honeyeaters progress through this corridor on their autumn migration. We can't blame the Mynas for the absence of finches and firetails; close-mown grass never seeds in parks, gardens or on verges; and the fairy-wrens' habitats to this passion for suburban neatness. Town landscaping and native habitat make uneasy bedfellows.

So why have Common Mynas not dislodged the original inhabitants? Because they are town birds, scavengers, and they remain in the habitat with which they are familiar and in which they can glean sufficient food to survive. If they stray occasionally into open country, they make no effort to remain there and colonise. Their choice of nesting sites seems confined to garden trees and whatever holes can be found in buildings and under eaves. The hole-nesting native birds are in little danger of being turfed out of their traditional nesting sites by Mynas that don't venture into either woodland or forest to nest or forage.

Come to think of it, suitable holes have never featured large in the urban landscape and one would be hard-pressed to find traditional nest-holes in any town nowadays. The bid old trees have succumbed to the chainsaw in the name of convenience and safety; their roots buckle the concrete pavements, their branches cause havoc in the power lines and may even fall on innocent passers-by, thus causing the local council untold expense in public liability claims. A large tree in a suburban garden is no longer an asset, leaves clog the roof gutters and roots cause expensive damage to pipes and sewers. In our towns, the hole-nesting birds have long been accustomed to retiring to nearby woodland and forest to nest and raise their young and they continue to do so. The birds that forage and nest in towns and gardens have not diminished and appear to be holding their own against the incomers.

This is a well-forested, well-protected Shire, where even the coastal woodlands continue to survive pretty well. There is no shortage of nesting holes and, therefore, no conflict of interest; if there had been, we would have seen some evidence of it in the last 15 years. On present indications, the native birds seem in no danger of being displaced by Common Mynas. Jill Whiter.

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