Common Myna – a new bird species for Zambia

Courtesy of Clement Tang

Courtesy of Clement Tang

On 30 October 2015 a pair of Common Mynas, Acridotheres tristis were found at a nest in the Nkanga River Conservancy near Choma by Daniel Green of Chenga Farm. This appears to be the first record of the species in Zambia. [See Postscript].

Common Myna is listed by IUCN – the World Conservation Union – amongst the ‘World’s 100 worst’ invasive alien species, sharing this dubious honour with only two other bird species [1]. Native to Asia, the Common Myna is an intelligent, adaptable, fearless starling that often lives in close association with people. An omnivorous scavenger, it feeds mainly on fruits, seeds and insects. It nests in cavities, often in buildings or trees, or in dense vegetation. Outside the breeding season the species may form noisy communal roosts numbering thousands in urban parks and gardens [2].

The Common Myna is now found on every Continent except South America and Antarctica. Colonisation of Africa by this species began in 1902 with the escape of some captive birds in Durban, South Africa. It is now abundant throughout much of South Africa and is spreading rapidly northwards. First seen in Botswana in 1975 it appeared in Zimbabwe in the early 1980s, Lesotho in 1994, Mozambique in 1997 and Namibia in 2004 [3]. In 2011 a pair bred in Hwange National Park [4], increasing to three pairs in 2014 [5]. It has been reported recently near Kazungula and in Kasane [6, 7].

It is widely believed the Common Myna competes with and eventually displaces local birds. However, adverse effects on indigenous wildlife in South Africa are poorly documented and most descriptions are of an anecdotal nature. In Botswana, Common Mynas have been observed sitting outside the nest holes of Red-billed Wood-hoopoe Phoeniculus purpureus, Red-billed Oxpecker, Buphagus erythrorhynchus and Amethyst Starling, Cinnyricinclus leucogaster preventing the adults from feeding their chicks, which starved to death [7]. In Zimbabwe, they successfully evict Crested Barbet, Trachyphonus vaillantii, House Sparrow, Passer domesticus and Red-billed Buffalo-weaver, Bubalornis niger from their nests [8].

BirdLife Zimbabwe cautions that the Common Myna is set to become a serious alien invader, posing a threat to some indigenous bird species [9]. The birds at Chenga Farm were shot, but their future colonisation of the Conservancy will threaten this stronghold of Zambia’s only endemic bird, the Zambian (Chaplin’s) Barbet, Lybius chaplini (see Post 12 February 2014 New funding for Zambian Barbet conservation).

Postscript

The first Common Mynas seen in Zambia now appear to have been single birds at Sinazongwe (Tertius Gous) and Livingstone (Rory McDougall) in October 2014.  (Rory McDougall, 14 November 2015).

Common Myna on Chenga Farm

Common Myna on Chenga Farm

References

[1] IUCN Invasive Species Specialist Group 2015. View 100 of the World’s Worst Invasive Alien Species

[2] Global Invasive Species Database. Acridotheres tristis.

[3] Peacock, D. S., Rensburg B. J. van and Robertson, M. P. 2007. The distribution and spread of the invasive alien common myna, Acridotheres tristis L. (Aves: Sturnidae), in southern Africa
South African Journal of Science, 103: 465-473.

[4] Facebook, 2015. Fans of Hwange National Park 17 August 2012.

[5] Zambezi Travel and Safari Company Zambezi Blog 21/11/14

[6] NewsDay 27 April 2013. Mynas may be a major threat!

[7] Tyler, S.J. 2015. Common Mynas continue to spread. Babbler 61: 39-40.

[8] Mundy, P. 2015. Common Myna – Report Presented to the BLZ AGM. The Babbler, Newsletter of BirdLife Zimbabwe. August/September 2015.

[9] The Standard, 13 April 2014. Exotic Myna bird causes problems.

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