Gracula religiosahill myna

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Geographic Range

Gracula religiosa (otherwise known as the Common Hill Myna, Common Grackle, or the Talking Myna) is native to eastern India, southern China, Indochina, Thailand, Malaysia, and the Phillippines. This species however has been introduced and successfully established in other areas, particularily Florida, Hawaii, Japan, and Puerto Rico (Feare, 1999).

Habitat

The Hill myna is found either on hills between 300 and 2000 m. high or at sea level (Feare, 1999). It prefers areas where rainfall and humidity are both high, therefore inhabiting most of the jungles, evergreen, and wet deciduous forests in its range. The myna is common at forest edges, clearings or thinned areas, and cultivated areas such as coffee plantations (Feare, 1999).

Physical Description

The Hill myna averages 27-30 cm in length. It has a glossy black appearance with feathers that vary in undertone. The crown, nape, and breast has a purple glow while the rest of the body is tinted with green and the tail is polished turquoise. The wings are black with a white patch on primaries 3-9. The face consists of a red bill that fades into a yellow hooked tip and fleshy wattles, or flaps of bare skin, that extend out to the middle of the nape (Feare, 1984).

Reproduction

The breeding season for the Hill myna varies slightly depending on range, but most breed in April-July. A monogamous pair searches for a small hole in a tree at the forest edge. Both sexes fill the hole with twigs, leaves, and feathers (Feare, 1999) and the female produces ~2 eggs that are blue with brownish spottings. The female spends more time incubating than the male, however, both parents tend the young equally when they hatch. The young fledge after a month and soon after the parents begin a new clutch. The Hill myna averages 2-3 broods annually (Anonymous, 2000).

Behavior

As mentioned above, the Hill myna is monogamous. During the non-breeding season large flocks accumulate together, but the couples are still obvious. Several pairs may nest in one tree without territorial aggression, but most space their nests about

1 km apart (Feare, 1999). Females instigate copulation by stretching horizontally and flapping their tail up and down very quickly (Bertram, 1970).

The Common Hill myna is almost completely arboreal. It prefers perching on the highest point of an exposed dead branch (Feare, 1999). Unlike other mynas and starlings that walk, this Myna hops sideways on branches.

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

The Hill myna is generally an arboreal frugivore, but also includes nectar, insects, and lizards in its diet. Figs are eaten most frequently, followed by berries and seeds from a variety of trees and shrubs. Most of the insects eaten are gleaned from trees, but it has been known to catch winged termites in the air (Feare, 1999).

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Although the Hill myna doesn't have an original song, it is one of the most famous songbird mimics. Its ability to mimic human speech, bird calls, and a wide variety of other sounds has made this bird more demanded than the parrot (Orenstein, 1997). This demand has led to the creation of industries that harvest and prepare juveniles for the pet trade.

In north eastern India, the HIll myna used to be caught for food. In fact, curried myna was a favorite among the people there (Feare, 1999).

Finally, the Hill mynas frugivore diet aids in the pollination of forest trees and in seed dispersal.

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

The large demand for the Hill myna has caused competition amongst hunters, but there has not been a major conflict between the natives yet. There may be concern for strife if the myna population decreases far below the demand.

Conservation Status

Due to their large exploitation for trade, the Hill myna population has declined. Forest destruction and habitat loss further this rate to a possible level of concern. Currently however, little is being done to conserve this species.

Contributors

Kelly Sims (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Terry Root (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

Glossary

acoustic

uses sound to communicate

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

endothermic

animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

forest

forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.

iteroparous

offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

oriental

found in the oriental region of the world. In other words, India and southeast Asia.

World Map

oviparous

reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.

rainforest

rainforests, both temperate and tropical, are dominated by trees often forming a closed canopy with little light reaching the ground. Epiphytes and climbing plants are also abundant. Precipitation is typically not limiting, but may be somewhat seasonal.

sexual

reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

tactile

uses touch to communicate

visual

uses sight to communicate

References

Anonymous, "Starlings and Allies" (On-line). Accessed September 22, 2000 at http://users.bart.nl/~edcolijn/sturnida.html.

Bertram, B. 1970. The vocal behavior of the Indian Hill Myna, Gracula religiosa.. Animal Behavior, 3: 79-192.

Feare, C. 1984. The Starling. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press.

Feare, C., A. Craig. 1999. Starlings and Mynas. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.

Orenstein, R. 1997. Songbirds: Celebrating Nature's Voices. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books.