Binomial Name: Gracula indica
This loud and noisy bird belongs to the race of Starlings. The appearance is quite striking with bright yellow wattles and an orange beak contrasting with the glossy black plumage. The Southern Hill Myna is a resident breeder from the southern Western Ghats and southern parts of Sri Lanka. Earlier considered conspecific with the Common Hill Myna which is a resident breeder from Kumaon division, Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan, Arunachal Pradesh, etc., they have now been split as a separate species.
We were lucky to see a pair of this arboreal species (tree dwelling) when we visited Coorg in May 2016. The timing coincided with their breeding season in SW India. They appeared to be frequenting a ‘nest hole’ in a rather tall and thick tree. The nest hole itself was at a considerable height. The mynas appeared to be carrying nesting material and deposit it in the nest hole. Since there is no sexual dimorphism, i.e., both male and female appeared alike, we could not make out which one of the pair seemed to be actually doing the job or if it was the both of them.
The Southern Hill Mynas occur in wooded areas, such as evergreen forests or well-wooded cultivated areas like edges of coffee plantations with tall shady trees.
It was their piercing screechy kind of voice that actually first brought them to our notice. It was quite harsh. Browsing the internet, I gleaned some interesting information about their voice. Although the Southern Hill Mynas are thought to be inferior to other Hill Mynas when it comes to mimicking human speech and thus less valuable, they are apparently still caught in large numbers for illegal cage bird trade. Ali and Ripley (1972) argued that this apparent inferiority to mimic speech arose from the fact that they were caught as adults rather than nestlings. A small sample of Southern Hill Mynas caught as nestlings did become proficient talkers though they lacked the lower frequencies required to produce a more accurate imitation of human speech.
Consequently, along with the Common Hill Myna, they have been included in the Appendix II of the CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) which is basically a multilateral treaty to protect endangered plants and animals. Appendix II lists species that are not necessarily now threatened with extinction but may become so unless trade is closely controlled. It also includes the so-called ‘look-alike’ species, i.e. species whose specimens in trade look like those of species listed for conservation reasons.
– Until the next post…Ciao friends!!!