Species group: Starlings and Mynahs
Other common names: Myna Bird; Mynah Bird; Greater India Hill Mynah (G. r. intermedia); Java Hill Mynah (G. r. religiosa); Andaman Hill Myna (G. r. andamanensis); Great Nicobar Hill Myna (G. r. halibrecta)
Scientific name: Gracula religiosa
The Hill Mynah, particularly the Greater India Hill Mynah, was once the most popular soft-billed bird in captivity, thanks to its ability to speak in a clear, human-sounding voice. Unfortunately, its popularity as a pet is falling, thanks to the one-two punch of too few captive breeders and its susceptibility to iron storage disease. The Hill Mynah is classed as an exotic songbird because of its specialized voice box, and it can learn to sing as well as to speak. Be aware that you must expose the bird to the voice lessons while it's young. An adult bird probably can't learn to speak or sing songs it never heard in its youth.
The Common Hill Mynah (Gracula religiosa), is now considered to have seven or eight subspecies although some people have suggested as many as 12. In the 20th century, the Greater India Hill Mynah (G. r. intermedia) and the Java Hill Mynah (G. r. religiosa) were the most frequently seen subspecies in captivity in the United States.This species is widely distributed throughout Asia, including the Indian subcontinent, China, Southeast Asia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and a number of other island chains. They are birds of the moist forests that like to follow the fruiting of their favorite food trees, and they can be found in both foothill and mountainous habitats.
Wild Hill Mynahs haven't been legally imported into the United States for at least two decades, but they remain hugely popular in their Asian homelands, and they have been under assault by over-collecting for the pet trade.
An instantly recognizable chunky mynah with glossy black plumage, bright orange bill, and peculiar-looking yellow wattles.
300 - 400 grams (10.6 - 14 oz.)
21 - 40 centimeters (8.3 - 15.7 in.)
10 - 20 years
Behavior / temperament:
India Hill Mynahs are capable of a very loud whistle, and almost everyone suggests that you never wolf whistle in the bird's hearing, because they could pick up the sound and repeat it over and over. Many people suggest that you do not teach the birds to whistle or sing at all, because they may prefer these musical sounds to learning to speak. Instead, if you want to help your mynah develop its highest talking potential, start as early possible. Give regular voice lessons, bearing in mind that several short lessons each day is better than one long overwhelming session, since birds have short attention spans. The person in the home with the clearest speaking voice should give the lessons. You can also back up the lessons by playing recordings.
We all know parrots that won't speak to strangers. The India Hill Mynah doesn't suffer from shyness, and they are noted for being willing to speak freely in front of new people. However, do not allow strangers to grab at the bird or do anything else to cause it to lose its confidence. Do not expect to be able to teach an older mynah to speak if it isn't speaking already. They have to hear a sound early in their development, or they will never be able to produce it themselves.
Like all frugivores, the Hill Mynah has loose, squirtable droppings that create a real mess if you don't set up an easy-to-clean flight or aviary. These birds exercise by leaping from perch to perch or by flying, and it is cruel to confine them to a too-small cage. A minimum size for a single pet would be 24”w x 24”d x 24”h with no more than 1” bar spacing, but it's really only acceptable if you can allow your bird lots of time out of the cage. You need a den or screened porch or similar location with a cleanable floor. A longer flight in a central location, such as an easily cleaned family or rec room with quarry tile floors, would be ideal. These intelligent birds need to be at the center of family life, where they can hear and learn, especially when they're younger.
You must take exceptional care with your Hill Mynah's diet, because these birds are susceptible to iron storage disease, which may be linked to diet or at least exacerbated by the wrong diet. Most people recommend a diet that includes pellets and mixed fresh fruit salad with a smaller amount of vegetables and greens in the mix. The pellets must be a low iron specialty pellet intended specifically for mynahs, not dog biscuits or pellets intended for parrots, which may include harmful amounts of iron. Since vitamin C may increase the absorption of iron, you should also avoid feeding citrus fruit such as oranges, tangerines, or lemons. Live food such as mealworms should be a treat offered rarely.
Iron storage disease doesn't seem to occur in the wild, even though many captive birds seem to have a genetic predisposition. It appears that wild Hill Mynahs frequently eat a fig that is naturally high in tannin, a chemical that interferes with the absorption of iron. As it happens, good old-fashioned black or orange pekoe tea – not any fancy herbal tea – is also high in tannin. Therefore, some zoos and breeders have experimented with the use of tea in the drinking water to reduce softbilled bird's ability to absorb harmful amounts of iron. In one experiment, the keepers added just enough tea to tint the drinking water a faint shade of brown. The water with tea is offered for one month, and then the pure water is offered for another month, and so on. The bath water is offered separately, in a shallow dish for splashing. When you select your mynah, it is imperative to talk to the breeder and to a good avian vet about the very latest research into the proper diet for your pet.
Written by Elaine Radford
sociable bird, bright yellow wattle, favorite phrase, fun guy
average bird keeper, extremely loud cuckoo, large enough cage, droppings
soft bird pellets
Humor with Plato
Plato, God rest his soul, was an unplanned pet. We got him from a Badjao trader from the ports of Zamboanga. The mynah had a price tag of more or less 20 bucks ($). I literally saw a business opportunity since mynah birds can go as high as 500 bucks in the bigger cities. Since we were heading for Manila...
So faith found me and my brother sharing a ship-liner cabin with a black bird. The next morning found us waking to shrill human cries of "Last table setting. Last table setting. First class passengers. Last table setting". Wonder of all wonders. My brother with his jaw hanging in astonishment proceeded interviewing the mynah.
Brother: "Anong pangalan mo?" (what is your name)
Bird: "Plato my name is"
Brother (muttering): "Ang galing ng ibon na ito ah." (This bird is smart)
Plato: "English man. English."
We realized we had in our hand a bird answering a Tagalog question in English with a touch of Yoda. If that is not bilingual, I don't know what is. Come to think of it, the trader was wearing an old battered Darth Vader t-shirt. The rest is history. I mean, who in his right mind sells a bird with this talent.
Plato would have been boring if he could not mimic human speech. Although I've often wondered if he ever understands what he says. I can remember so many funny conversations between him and Granny.
Granny: "How is our little birdy birdy?"
Plato: "Shut up old woman"
Granny: "Tumahimik ka diyan, batukan kita eh! Bastos! " (You shut up or I'll bash your head! Very Rude!)
Plato: "Pangit! Pangit! Pangit!" (Ugly! Ugly! Ugly!)
Granny: "Sinong pangit?" (Who's ugly?)
Plato: "Tingin ka sa salamin!" (look in the mirror)
Well Plato got his soft orange beak duct taped for several minutes. Do you know what he muttered when the tape was removed?
You've gotta admit there's some kind of logic here.
Plato's diet was simple: bananas, mangoes, vegetables, the occasional beetle thrown in by the kids, soft bird pellets low in iron (as advised by my vet friend).
We let Plato go out of his cage thrice a week to get some exercise. He was chased once by our Labrador and got cornered on top of a bookshelf. The lab and the mynah were literally barking at each other, a loud and low bark answered by a shrill bark. Amazing isn't it?
The last word he croaked before he left for bird heaven was: "Nevermore". He probably leaned this from my Pop who dreamed of teaching Plato the poem "The Raven" by reading it aloud.
I've always thought birds were boring pets. But Plato proved me wrong..
From Froknoy Sep 24 2013 7:15AM
The major impact of a mynah experience
CuckKOOOO cried George. CuckKOOOO, I heard again as I was walking up the hill towards the origin of the sound feeling slightly embarrassed. George was our Indian Hill Mynah bird. He lived in his cage in the kitchen of our first floor flat. I was at least 150 yards away from home when I had heard him through closed windows. The embarrassment came because I realised that most of my neighbours could hear George loud and clear too.
Keeping large tropical birds was my father in laws hobby. Colourful macaws and white cockatoo’s were what he kept mostly but he had also acquired George. As a novelty probably. Mynah birds were noted for their ability to talk so it was the notion of owning a talking bird appealed to him as it did to me. One day father in law asked my wife and I if we would like to look after George while they went on holiday. I jumped at the chance and, at first, liked the idea so much that I persuaded him to let me keep George and not return him after the holiday.
Mynahs look like and are about the same size as blackbirds. They have a bright yellow wattle each side of their head which seems to give them character. Very popular in the early twentieth century I believe but not so much by the time we had George in the 1970’s. In fact I’ve not seen another one being kept as a pet since then. Might be the fact they can be noisy and we live in more densely populated areas now.
They are also very messy. Unlike many seed eating cage birds mynahs eat a lot of soft fruit as well. So their cages need cleaning out quite often. Every two or three days we cleaned Georges’ cage out. We lined the bottom of his cage with newspaper. Fortunately, it was at a time when there were several free newspapers being delivered in our area so we didn’t run short. We did let him out for a fly around the flat now and again. It could be difficult to get him back him in his cage sometimes and we had to clear up after some of his droppings were left where we didn’t want them.
We found out that for a mynah to be able to talk well, they have to be around a lot of talking early on in their lives to be able to pick up all the language. Unfortunately, George had not been well educated so had a fairly limited vocabulary and was not a young bird either. We did manage to teach him a few words over the eighteen months we had him but his favourite sound was that extremely loud cuckoo sound. We eventually gave him back to father in law..
From Tony Crofts Dec 29 2012 10:08AM