Miners vs Mynas

There’s a miner versus myna muddle that can be a bit confusing in parts of Australia: native/introduced, honeyeaters/starling family, aggressive, territorial, pests …

 

Noisy Miner 2 - Kim Wormald

Noisy Miner (Manorina melanocephala)
Canon 5D3, 1/800, f/5.6, ISO 500, focal length 400mm

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I sometimes hear people confuse Noisy Miners and Common Mynas, which is understandable as their looks and behaviours do have similarities.

The Noisy Miner, above and below, is a native honeyeater that ranges in size from 24-27cm. Noisy Miners are found in Tasmania and across the eastern mainland from South Australia to northern Queensland.

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Noisy Miner - Kim Wormald

Noisy Miner (Manorina melanocephala)
Canon 7D, 1/500, f/5.6, ISO 800, focal length 400mm

 

Noisy Miners are predominantly grey, with a whitish forehead, black head and cheeks along with a yellow bill, legs and bare-skinned eye patch. The eat nectar, fruit and occasional insects. Their untidy nests are built among the foliage of a leafy branch and are made of grasses, twigs and spider webs.

 

 

Noisy Miners - Kim Wormald

Noisy Miner (Manorina melanocephala)
Canon 5D3, 1/1250, f/6.3, ISO 1600, focal length 400mm

 

Noisy Miners are a territorial, aggressive species that even fight each other for food, as in the image above. They are often seen foraging in large groups (colonies can include several hundred birds) and are known to swoop humans, other birds and animals. They confidently attack birds larger than themselves including kookaburras and raptors.

Their numbers have rapidly increased in suburban areas with theories suggesting that this could be due to garden plantings of nectar-bearing plants that flower throughout the year. Although they are a native species, calls have been made for culling in order to protect small bush birds that are driven away when Noisy Miners colonise a new area. Associate Professor Martine Maron believes that controlling Noisy Miner numbers would be of greater biodiversity benefit than controlling the Common Myna.

 

Common Myna

Common Myna (Acridotheres tristis)
Canon 7D, 1/640, f/5.6, ISO 160, focal length 370mm

 

Common Mynas are also known as Indian Mynas or mynahs; they are members of the starling family. They are darker, browner and slightly smaller than Noisy Miners. They are not a native species, having been introduced to Victoria and Queensland during the second half of the 1800s to help reduce insect numbers in exotic garden plants and crops – what were we thinking! They are one of only three birds to have been listed by the IUCN as being among the world’s top 100 most invasive species.

Common Mynas are an aggressive species that compete with native birds for food and nesting sites. They are expert scavengers that thrive in areas inhabited by people. Unlike Noisy Miners the Common Myna nests in hollows and will forcefully evict existing tenants even if the tenants are already raising a family. This is a serious issue for our hollow-nesting native species, including those in the parrot family.

Some local shires and councils hire traps for Common Mynas or provide plans for people to build suitable traps. I know several people who successfully trap, and euthanise myna birds according to strict guidelines. Control programs are in place across many part of eastern Australia, with a particularly successful scheme reducing myna bird numbers in the Canberra/Queanbeyan area.

 

 

Yellow-throated Miner

Yellow-throated Miner (Manorina flavigula)
Canon 7D, 1/1000, f/5.6, ISO 100

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At first glance the Yellow-throated Miner looks like a noisy but they are slightly smaller with a yellow forehead, grey crown and yellow throat markings. This species lives across most of Australia but is absent from a narrow strip around the coastline from South Australia to southern Queensland, where the Noisy Miner and Common Myna are often found.
Noisy and Yellow-throated Miners’ territories do overlap in some areas so I often double-check which of the two bold species I’m looking at.
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So:
  • miners aren’t mynas, but mynas are mynahs
  • miners are native, mynas are introduced
  • miners are honeyeaters, mynas are from the starling family
  • Noisy Miners and Common Mynas are included in the Birdlife Australia list of ‘Birds behaving badly’
  • Common Mynas nest in hollows and evict sitting tenants
  • Common Mynas are currently trapped and euthanised
  • Calls have been made for Noisy Miners to be culled to promote biodiversity
  • neither species are minor birds, more’s the pity

Happy birding, Kim

 

~ Thank you for visiting and commenting

~ Further reading: Noisy Miners – Key Threatening Process, The effect of Noisy Miners on small bush birds, Canberra Indian Myna Action Group, Noisy Miners’ foraging ecology,  Birds Behaving Badly – Noisy Miners, Birds Behaving Badly – Common Mynas, “The Value of Understorey Vegetation, Land for Wildlife Queensland” opens as a PDF so needs to be typed into your search engine.

~ If you would like a weekly email letting you know that lirralirra has been updated please use the ‘subscribe’ box above right

~ You may be interested in the facebook group Ethical Bird Photography, or Australian Wildlife Women

 

 

9 comments to Miners vs Mynas

  • Even though I am not an Aussie I so enjoy your informative posts. Always so thoughtfully written and the photos are always amazing of course.

  • Noisy miners are great, they are not a problem except where humans have created a problem by having a monoculture backyard of red bottlebrush and large flowering grevilleas. Where I live the Noisy is low on the pecking order. I have a diverse plant species so have a diverse variety of birds, insects and other critters.
    The Indian Myna thrives on human lifestyle and it’s aggressive and territorial behaviour is an extreme threat to our native wildlife. Mynas kill to eliminate other species in it’s area,they do not kill for food as our Maggies, Butcher birds etc but just for territory. Mynas out-breed our native birds, take over tree hollows and good roost trees and compete for food so there is more pressure for our native birds, mammals, micro-bats, snakes, lizards and frog species to actually survive. Humans should do something to maintain the balance of natives versus the Myna. A well organised trapping program can offer individuals an opportunity to make a difference and help our natives. A program is about education, humane practices, welfare of the birds and correct euthanasing.

    • lirralirra

      Hi CIA, it’s great that your property supports diversity, I wish that was the same everywhere! Current research confirms what you said about gardens planted with an abundance of nectar-producing plants, and lacking an extensive under-storey, being particularly attractive to Noisy Miners. Research has also confirmed that the presence of Noisy Miners has a significant impact on small bush birds, some argue that the impact is greater than the impact of Common Mynas. It’s a shame as I imagine that many people have planted their gardens with the hope of attracting birds and butterflies. Ideally people will be educated to plant a wider range of plants that more accurately reflect natural diversity but in the meantime I wonder what you believe should be done about the imbalance, if anything.

  • Mike H

    Alyssa a large study in suburban Sydney actually found that Noisy Miners (and Currawongs if I remember right) had a significant impact on small native bird species while Common Mynas did not. That’s not to say Common Mynas don’t have an impact (they clearly do) but that things are much more more complicated and that the justification for permitting (encouraging!) the general public to catch and kill Common Mynas is dubious at best.

    • lirralirra

      I agree with you Mike regarding the complexity of the situation. There were a lot of comments on Facebook relating to the post, many that were diametrically opposed to each other, but some made me think that citizen science could provide some valuable information to researchers.

  • And the Indian mynahs are just being themselves. The problem is one that WE produced. As we do so many others. Sometimes I think about our species – one of the noisiest, most invasive, destructive of them all.
    And you are right about the Indian Mynah program here. One of my brothers participated and was intrigued to watch adults teaching and coaxing the young out of traps…
    I am really torn about this (and similar) issues.

    • lirralirra

      The miners and mynas are just being themselves, and humans are definitely cause of many issues – I heartily agree with both points. It would have be fascinating to watch adult mynas teaching and coaxing the young of the traps, I can’t help but think of the situation anthropomorphically – they are clever birds. It was so short-sighted to bring them here.

  • Alyssa

    I knew that mynas are a big problem but I didn’t know that miners were also causing problems other that just being noisy. I love miners, I think they are so gorgeous. I’ll admit that I really like mynas as well. I know they are terribly destructive but when I look at one I see a little Tyrannosaurus Rex…

    • lirralirra

      If only humans treated our environment with the respect it deserves we wouldn’t be facing so many dilemmas! Deliberately introducing non-native species has had some disastrous consequences, and vegetation clearing/planting that is out of kilter with the natural environment is another culprit. One thing I think most of us would agree on, is that it’s not the fault of the individual species that are in the spotlight. Mike, above, has mentioned you in his comment.

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