Reports of an unwelcome avian invader have increased across the Whitsundays over the past six months. Sightings of Indian Mynas (Acridotheres tristis) have been reported in Cannonvale, Bredalbane, Blacks Beach, and at other sites around Mackay and the Pioneer Valley. Large flocks of more than 20 birds have also been reported flying over Proserpine.
In 2000, the Invasive Species Specialist Group and International Union of Conservation in Nature (IUCN) named Indian Mynas as one of the world’s worst invasive species (Lowe et al. 2000). The species has established in many cities around Australia, including just North of the Whitsundays in Townsville. Indian Myna populations have the capacity to increase rapidly, laying between two and seven eggs per clutch. One breeding pair can explode to a population of 13,000 birds within 5 years.
Sometimes confused with native species, including the mostly grey Noisy Myna, the Indian Myna can be distinguished by it’s distinct chocolate brown body, black head and neck, yellow eye patches, yellow feet and legs. A distinct white patch is also exposed on each wing when the bird is in flight. Indian Mynas are not fussy eaters and will opportunistically forage for food, competing with native species for fruit, flower nectar, insects and seeds.
There are concerns about the impact these birds may have on native species in the Mackay Whitsunday region. While research shows that competition between Indian mynas and native birds in urban areas remains contested (Lowe et al. 2011 and Grarock et al. 2012), a study by Grarock (et al. 2012) observed that Indian mynas do have a significant negative impact on native species nesting in hollows and cavities. Grarock’s research also demonstrated that the invaders threaten bird species smaller is size than the myna.
The arrival of Indian mynas to the region is also bad news for some mammal species. Aggressive nesting Indian Mynas have been known to evict nesting possums and gliders from tree hollows.
Dale Mengel, a resident of Proserpine, who reported a sighting of more than 20 birds flying over Proserpine in February, has again witnessed more than 30 birds in Proserpine in March. Mr Mengel shared concerns that this indicated the birds are beginning to colonise the area and hoped that something could be done to prevent their impact on native species.
Daryl Barnes, President of Bird Life Mackay describes Indian Mynas as ‘aggressive, pompous, domineering, adaptable, unafraid, smart and noisy’. Bird Life Mackay have joined the Mackay Regional Pest Management Group in seeking to collate reports of sightings across the Mackay and Whitsunday Region.