Know your Myna Birds @ Your garden

Myna birds are one of the best impersonators in all of the animal Kingdom. Apart from the Lyrebirds of Australia, Myna's sit comfortably on the avian impersonation throne. This skill has meant that they are one of the most common and most loved cage birds in the world, especially by those with a more wicked sense of humour who end up teaching the birds to say, how shall I put it - 'unusual' phrases - especially for when their mates or better still, the local vicar pays them a visit.

But did you know that your surrounded by Myna's in Korat? The city is full of them, and obviously not in cages as in the west, but in your garden, in the parks, on the roads, everywhere! So I thought it's about time to learn how to recognise them and distinguish the different species.

All species are stocky, medium sized birds with strong bills and legs and relatively short legs. They all have a strong direct flight on broad, rounded wings. They feed mainly on insects and fruits, and are gregarious and noisy. They often roost communally in huge numbers. They build untidy stick nests in trees and palm crowns or nest in holes. There are 27 species of Myna's worldwide of which five can be found in Thailand.

The most common is the Common Myna. Now before you all think of the name as obvious, did you know that the Common Gull is far less common than most resident gull species in the UK and Western Europe? Anyway, back to Thailand - the Common Myna is the bird we are all used to seeing in cages, entertaining anyone who will listen, in our home countries. They have dark brown body plumage, with a blackish grey head with bright yellow facial skin around the eye. Their throat and upper breast is also blackish grey and they have white underwing coverts and a white tail tip.

The second most common Myna is the White-vented. They are all black in colour apart from a white vent, white tail tip and a yellow bill. They have a conspicuous black crest on their forehead. Even though they are nearly all black I personally find them a much more striking bird than the Common Myna.

The third and much, much rarer Myna you'll find around and occasionally on the outskirts of the city is the Golden-crested Myna. The male has glossy black plumage with a yellow crown, and yellow sides of head and throat. The female is similar but the yellow on her head is restricted to the crown and to a diamond shaped patch on her throat. They both have small, pale yellow wing patches in flight.

Finally and even rarer still is the Hill Myna. They are large and thickset, with a glossy black body, yellow face wattles and a large, thick, pinkish orange bill. They have conspicuous white wing patches in flight.

There is a fifth species called the Jungle Myna, but they only occur on the Thai peninsula so you are very unlikely to find one wandering around Yamo looking for a juicy insect so I won't go into detail. But apart from the Jungle Myna, you should now know the differences between the rest of these wonderful mimics.

So the next time you see a plump medium sized bird hopping around on the ground, take a closer look, it will probably be a a myna bird, then you can impress your other half by telling her exactly what species it is. She probably won't be impressed, but at least you'll get another one of the all to frequent 'Farang are very strange' stares which is always worthy of an internal chuckle in my opinion.     FF

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