The Common Mynah
The common or Indian mynah (Acridotheres tristis) is a native species of south Asia, from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India, through to southwestern China and Indochina. However, humans have introduced this species far beyond its original, natural range, especially during the mid- to late-nineteenth century.
The common mynah has a dark-brown plumage, with a black head, throat, and upper breast, and a yellow beak, feet, and skin around the eye. A conspicuous white patch is visible under the wings when the bird is in flight.
The common mynah is a rather omnivorous bird, eating a wide range of invertebrates, fruits, and seeds. When hunting for insects, the common mynah probes the ground with its closed bill, and then withdraws its beak while closely inspecting the hole, to see whether anything edible had been exposed.
The natural nesting sites of the common mynah are cavities in trees, either natural, or excavated by other species of birds, such as woodpeckers. However, in some of its introduced habitats where it lives in proximity to humans, the adaptable common mynah will also nest in holes in walls and buildings. Because the common mynah is a loosely colonial nester, large populations may breed in places where there are suitable nesting and foraging habitats.
The common mynah has been introduced to various places in the tropics beyond its natural range, including islands in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic Oceans. This species now occurs in Madagascar, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, the Hawaiian Islands, Saint Helena, Mauritius, Fiji, Tahiti, the Marquesas, Singapore, Hong Kong, and many other non-native places. The common mynah was introduced to these places because it was believed that this bird would provide a useful service by eating pest species of insects that dwell in the soil, especially in orchards.
However, to say the least, these many introductions of the common mynah were severely misguided, and unfortunately this bird is often considered to be a pest in its novel habitats. The common mynah causes especially important damages in orchards of soft fruits and berries, such as bananas, papayas, guavas, pineapples, apples, and others. If common mynahs are abundant, they can cause enormous damages to these fruits by probing with their beaks, eating only a small quantity of the tissue, but greatly reducing its potential value in the marketplace.
Common mynahs are also considered pests where they develop large, communal roosts, which can involve dense aggregations of thousands of birds. These are considered nuisances because of the raucous noise, and the copious excrement that can accumulate.
Although the common mynah causes significant damages, it also provides some useful services. These birds do eat significant numbers of insect pests, although this benefit is generally considered to be far smaller than the damages that the common mynah causes. Also, the common mynah is one of the few nonhuman animals that can tolerate the harsh environments of tropical cities and towns. Just by being around, these birds provide a certain aesthetic benefit.
The common mynah is one of very few species that have greatly benefited from the sorts of ecological changes that humans are causing on Earth. Because the common mynah is relatively well adapted to habitats that humans create, it has become a rather "successful" bird—a winner in a world that is becoming incredibly dominated by humans, and ecologically degraded their activities.