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    Common Myna Arcidotheres tristis  
    Mystery Bird July 2004  
Common Myna Acridotheres tristis copyright Nikhil Devasar
  The shot shows a relatively small bird (compared with the grass leaves) and with a rather stocky build. Most striking is the spiky black head with the appearance of earmuffs at the side and contrasting with the purplish-brown body, albeit over-lit in the foreground. The yellow legs look strong suggesting a bird that spends a lot of time on the ground. Even from a rear view there should be no difficulty about identifying this as a Common Myna Acridotheres tristis. A side view would show the bare yellow face patch, which is bordered with thick feathers creating the earmuff impression from the rear. It would also show the white wing patch, whitish vent and white tipped black tail. In the Delhi area in recent years a few birds have been seen that are completely bare-headed (presumably as a result of some skin infection). Even they are identifiable from their general coloration and build.

Common Mynas are very familiar birds and their adaptation to human environments has made them very successful. They have been introduced successfully into several

  parts of the world, notably South Africa, and are spreading naturally westwards through Russia.  
Common Myna Acridotheres tristis
copyright Sudhir Shivaram
Common Myna Acridotheres tristis
copyright Nikhil Devasar
  In the Delhi area the smaller, bluish grey Bank Myna Acridotheres ginginianus is also adapting to human environments and is a familiar sight around village teashops picking up dropped food. Because it is more gregarious than the Common Myna it usually outnumbers its larger cousin in the countryside. Whereas Common Mynas will nest in almost any sort of hole in a building, tree or nest box, Bank Mynas nest colonially in earth and sand banks. They are quick to exploit any such situation such as new road or building footings and seem to manage to bring off at least one brood before the site has disappeared. Apart from being bluish grey their bare ear patch and bill are much deeper orange than those of the Common Myna.  
Common Myna Acridotheres tristis
copyright Sudhir Shivaram
  In the Himalayan foothills the Jungle Myna Acridotheres fuscus can be very common but it is rather variable in appearance. It is similar in colour to the Bank Myna but larger, with no bare face patch and with a distinct bulge on its fore crown. The base of its bill is blue. There have been a few reports from Delhi of this species but it is likely they are escapes or releases from captivity. In the northeast care needs to be taken to separate the extremely similar White-vented Myna (sometimes confusingly called the Great Mynah) Acridotheres cinereous. This is more uniform blackish grey with a more contrasting white vent and no blue on the bill. The fore crown tuft also looks larger. Even rarer in Assam and Manipur are the distinctive Collared Myna Acridotheres albocinctus and the striking Golden-crested Myna Ampeliceps coronatus.

To the general public however the myna par excellence is the huge Hill Myna Gracula religiosa, which is an increasingly scarce resident of the foothill forests from eastern Uttaranchal eastwards. (race intermedia) with other races in the Eastern Ghats (peninsularis) and the Andamans (andamensis). The race in the Western Ghats and Sri
  Lanka (indica) is probably best treated as a separate species while Sri Lanka also has an endemic the Sri Lanka Myna Gracula ptilogenys. These Gracula mynas with their glossy black plumage, yellow bills and head wattles are extremely popular cage birds worldwide, not least because of their uncanny ability to quickly learn to imitate the human voice and other sounds. I recall one in an Oxford pub, which would copy what customers were saying only much more loudly, often causing considerable embarrassment! Sadly though their popularity means that they are still captured illegally and this certainly affects the wild population in some areas.  
Jungle Myna Arcidotheres fuscus copyright Sumit Sen
White-vented Myna copyright Sujan Chatterjee
Hill Myna Gracula ptilogenys copyright R. K. Gaur
  Some of the closely related Sturnus starlings are sometimes referred to as mynas but they have finer, less decurved bills and lack the white wing patches. The Brahminy and Rosy Starlings are the most myna-like in bill-shape while the Pied and Common Starlings have decidedly long pointed bills.
Brahminy Starling Sturnus pagodarum
copyright Peter Phillps; 2005
Chestnut-tailed Starling Sturnus erythropygius
copyright Sumit Sen
Common Starling Sturnus vulgaris
copyright Sumit Sen
Rosy Starling Sturnus roseus
copyright Sudhir Shivaram
Asian Pied Starling Sturnus contra
copyright Sumit Sen
  delhibird would like to thank the photographers mentioned against the photographs for allowing us to use their pictures

Text by Bill Harvey
Editor: Bikram Grewal


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