There is one curious bird in the starling family — lane, which causes an ambiguous reaction in people. Some treat her with adoration for her amazing ability to repeat different sound combinations (including people's speech). Others are fighting the lanes, considering them the worst enemies that damage agricultural land. What is the lane actually and what is their role in the ecosystem of different countries?
Origin of the species and description
The genus Acridotheres was classified by the French ornithologist Maturin Jacques Brisson in 1816 and was subsequently designated as a common myna. The name Acridotheres combines the ancient Greek words akridos “locust” and -thēras “hunter”.
Maines (Acridotheres) are closely related to a group of terrestrial starlings from Eurasia such as the common starling, as well as African species such as the glossy starling Lamprotornis. They seem to be one of the most developing bands in recent times. All African varieties are descended from ancestors who arrived from Central Asia and adapted to wetter tropical conditions.
Likely , they were isolated within their range of placement when evolutionary fragmentation affected the wattled starling and Sturnia species at the start of the early Pliocene, when the Earth moved into the last ice age 5 million years ago.
The genus contains ten species:
- crested myna (A. cristatellus);
- jungle myna (A. fuscus);
- white-fronted myna (A. javanicus);
- collared myna (A. albocinctus);
- pot-bellied myna (A. cinereus);
- large myna (A. grandis);
- black-winged myna (A. melanopterus);
- big-breasted myna (A. burmannicus);
- coastal myna (A. ginginianus);
- common myna (A. tristis).
The other two species, the red-billed starling (Sturnus sericeus) and the gray starling (Sturnus cineraceus) are the main ones in the group, but they are much closer to the genus Lepidoptera from the peacock-eye family and the subfamily Arsenurinae. It is believed that they are mistakenly assigned to the genus Acridotheres.
Appearance and features
Maina is a bird from the starling family (Sturnidae). They are a group of passerine birds often referred to as “Selarang” and “Teck Meng” in Malay and Chinese respectively, due to their high numbers. The Maines are not a natural group. The term “myna” is used to refer to any starlings in the Indian subcontinent. This territorial range has been colonized by the species twice during the evolution of starlings.
They are medium sized birds with strong legs. Their flight is swift and direct, and they are sociable. Most species nest in burrows. Some species have become famous for their imitative skills.
The most common types of myna have a body length of 23 to 26 cm, and weigh from 82 to 143 grams. Their wingspan ranges from 120 to 142 mm. The female and male are mostly monomorphic – the male is only slightly larger and has a slightly larger wingspan. Common lanes have a yellow beak, legs, and skin around the eyes. The plumage is dark brown and the head is black. They have white spots on the tips of their tails and other parts of their bodies. In chicks, the heads have a pronounced brown color.
The plumage of birds is less shiny, with the exception of heads and long tails, unlike their ancestors. Main is often confused with noisy black-capped manorines. Unlike common mynes, these birds are slightly larger and mostly grey. The Bali myna is an almost extinct species in the wild. An omnivorous open woodland bird with a strong territorial instinct, the myna adapts very well to urban environments.
Where does myna live?
The mines are native to South Asia. Their natural breeding range stretches from Afghanistan through India and Sri Lanka to Bangladesh. Previously, they were present in many tropical regions of the world, with the exception of South America. The common myna is a resident species in India, although east-west movements of birds have been occasionally reported.
The two species are widely represented elsewhere. The Common Myna has been introduced and introduced to Africa, Hawaii, Israel, southern North America, New Zealand and Australia, while the Crested Myna is found in Vancouver, Colombia.
Sometimes the bird appears in Russia. Its amazing vitality helps to quickly increase populations. A steady increase in numbers can be observed in Moscow. The ancestors of the local colonies were mynas, purchased in pet stores by inexperienced animal lovers to teach them the language.
These birds have such abilities and for some time, thanks to persistent advertising, many residents of the capital acquired exotic lanes. However, over time, feathered students found themselves on the street – living together with this extremely loud bird is unbearable, you need to be a truly persistent enthusiast or deaf in both ears to enjoy her company.
Common myna occupy a wide range of habitats in warm areas with access to water. In its natural range, the myna lives in open agricultural areas on farmland. They are often found on the outskirts of cities in household plots, in the desert or in the forest. These birds tend to avoid dense vegetation.
Myna's initial range covered:
- Sri Lanka;
- Thailand Peninsula;
- Ryukyu Islands;
They are most common in dry woodlands and partially open forests. In the Hawaiian Islands, feathered specimens have been recorded at an altitude of 3000 meters above sea level. Mynas prefer to spend the night in isolated stands of tall trees with a dense canopy.
What does myna eat?
Mynas are omnivorous creatures, they eat almost anything. Their main diet consists of fruits, grains, larvae and insects. In addition, they prey on eggs and chicks of other species. Sometimes they even go to shallow water to catch fish. But most often the myna feeds on the ground.
In residential areas, birds will eat anything from edible garbage to kitchen waste. Birds also eat small mammals such as mice, as well as lizards and small snakes. They are lovers of spiders, earthworms and crabs. Common myna feed mainly on grains and fruits, as well as flower nectar and petals.
Myna diet includes:
- terrestrial arthropods;
- aquatic or marine worms;
These birds are of great benefit to the ecosystem, destroying locusts and catching grasshoppers. Therefore, the genus received its Latin name Acridotheres, “grasshopper hunter.” Myna consumes 150,000 insects a year.
These birds are important for pollination and seed dispersal of many plants and trees. In the Hawaiian Islands, it disperses the seeds of Lantana Camara and also helps control worms (Spodoptera mauritia). In the areas where they were introduced, the presence of mynes has negatively affected local bird species, due to their hunting for eggs and chicks.
Character and lifestyle features
Common lanes are social animals. Young birds form small flocks after leaving their parents. Adults feed in flocks of 5 or 6, consisting of individual birds, pairs and family groups. Outside of the breeding season, they live in large groups that can range from tens to thousands. Such habitation is useful for protection from predators. During the breeding season, the myna can be aggressive and violent, competing with other pairs for nesting sites.
These birds are often described as tame and sociable. They participate in alloprining in pairs. Some species are considered talking birds for their ability to reproduce various sounds and human speech.
Little is known about the lifespan of birds. It is generally accepted that the average life expectancy for both sexes is 4 years. Lack of food or other resources is the limiting factor for the survival of the lanes. Other factors influencing the mortality rate are poor choice of nesting sites and adverse weather.
Mynas communicate by voice with other individuals and other bird species. They have a wide range of alarm sounds that can alert other birds. During the day, couples resting in the shade also produce “songs” by semi-bowing and curling their feathers. When danger approaches, the lanes emit shrill cries.
Parents sometimes produce a special warble when approaching their nest with food. This signal leads to the fact that the chicks begin to beg in advance. In captivity, they are able to imitate human speech. Males sing more often. Flocks of birds engage in loud choir singing during sunrise and sunset.
Social Structure and Reproduction
The lanes are usually monogamous and territorial. Hawaiian couples stay together all year round. In other areas, pairs form in early spring. During the breeding season (October to March), competition for nesting sites intensifies. Sometimes fierce battles can take place between two couples. Male courtship is characterized by tilting and shaking the head, accompanied by a trill.
Maina fights very aggressively for nesting sites in hollows, chasing competitors and even throwing chicks of other birds out of the nest.
Mynas reach sexual maturity at about 1 year of age. Females lay four to five eggs in a clutch. The incubation period is from 13 to 18 days, during which both parents incubate the eggs. The chicks can leave the nest about 22 days after hatching, but they still won't be able to fly for another seven days or so. It is reported that depending on the geographic location, the mynas breed between 1 and 3 times per season.
In their native range, the birds start nesting in March, and breeding lasts until September. Even after the chicks leave the nest, the parents can continue to feed and protect these young for 1.5 months after hatching. Both parents play an equal role in building and protecting the nesting territory. They incubate the eggs together, but the female spends more time in the nest. She alone incubates all night, and the male only a little time during the day.
The chicks hatch blind. Both parents feed the young for almost 3 weeks in the nest and 3 weeks during the fledging period after they leave the nest. Parents carry food to their chicks in their beaks. After the young chicks become independent, they sometimes continue to feed with their parents and the parents continue to protect them from predators. Some young birds start mating when they are only nine months old, but do not often tend to breed in their first year.
Main Natural Enemies
Little is known about myna predators. Native snakes may attack birds and possibly take their eggs. Also nest destroyers are the brilliant raven (Corvus splendens) and domestic cats (Felis Silvestris). In addition, the Javan mongoose (Herpestes javanicus) raids nests to take chicks and eggs. Humans (Homo sapiens) on some Pacific islands eat these birds. Mynes live together for protection from predators, forming numerous flocks. They warn each other with alarm sounds of impending danger.
But besides this, people seek to destroy the lanes, because. they crowd out representatives of the local fauna. For years, birdwatchers have watched in desperation as the myna begins to dominate its artificial settlements, occupying city after city. Seeing this feathered influx of birds that captured peaceful cities with their hoarse calls and bad attitude towards other bird species, people began to build a retaliatory strike.
However, lanes are very intelligent and often elude pursuers using their intelligence and difficult to learn behavior. They quickly learn to avoid any trap set for them and, if caught, warn their comrades to stay away by issuing loud distress calls.
But lanes have weaknesses and have been cleverly exploited in a new trap specially designed for catching these birds. The trap is now undergoing its first large-scale test. It is relatively low-tech, but is based on a solid understanding of the biology and behavior of lanes.
A distinctive feature is that it offers the birds a home away from home by inviting the birds and enticing them to stay. Birds eat for several days, and once trust is established, they are easy to catch. Sometimes a couple of birds are placed in a trap to lure others. As long as it is dark and the birds are sleeping quietly, the top of the trap containing the birds can be removed and the birds are humanely killed with carbon dioxide. The trap can be used again the next day.
Population and species status
Mynes are able to establish themselves in almost any habitat and, as a result, have become an invasive species in areas outside their natural range. They are considered pests because they eat the grains or fruits of agricultural crops such as fig trees, etc. Maina are also considered a disturbing species due to the noise and droppings they make close to human habitation.
The range of the myna is expanding at such a rapid pace that in 2000 the IUCN Species Survival Commission declared it one of the world's most invasive species. This bird has become one of three birds included in the top 100 species that have an impact on biodiversity, agriculture and human interests. In particular, the species is a major threat to the ecosystem in Australia, where it has been named “Worst Pest/Problem”.
Myna thrives in urban and suburban environments. For example, in Canberra between 1968 and 1971, 110 heterosexual individuals of the species were released. By 1991, the Myna population density in Canberra averaged 15 birds per square kilometer. Three years later, a second study showed that the average population density is 75 birds per square kilometer in the same area.
The bird owes its evolutionary origins to its success in adapting to the urban and suburban areas of Sydney and Canberra. Developing in the open forest areas of India, the myna has adapted to the high vertical structures and little to no vegetation found in city streets and urban nature reserves.
Common myna (along with European starlings, house sparrows and wild mountain pigeons) damages city buildings. Its nests block gutters and downspouts, causing trouble on the outside of buildings.