Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Starlings v Mynah Birds

It always struck me as odd that starlings, which appear to be a universal bird, are not one that I have seen here near The Cottage nor, indeed, around Napier.  According to Kiwi friends the two species do not co-exist.  The mynah birds have the warmer North of the North Island and the starlings have the rest of the country.  I just accepted the local wisdom. 

In fact it is not as simple as that.  I did not, however, know that until today.  Apparently starlings were introduced in the late 1800s to reduce the plagues of insects which, to use the words in an old agricultural bulletin, “crawled over the land in vast hordes" as a result of the wholesale destruction of the bush to make farmed land.  The starlings quickly colonised the whole country except for the dense forest areas.  Mynah birds were introduced to the South Island from the Indian Sub-continent for a similar reason.  They spread North.  As they went North they died out in the South and now I don't think they are found South of Hawkes Bay.

There are less mynah birds around here this year.  They live for a considerable time so I couln't see them having died off.  Nevertheless I was taken aback a few weeks ago when I thought I saw a small gathering of starlings in the paddock near the orchard.   They returned and yesterday I managed an identifiable photo of them in the orchard.  There is now a sizeable murmuration of them - there are a number of collective noun: chattering, clattering, cloud, congregation or murmuration - in a nearby tree. 

I shall be interested to see how these two birds - both members of the family Sturnidae -  develop here over the next few years.

Mynah Bird
Starlings in the orchard eating the thinned out apples

10 comments:

  1. Hi GB,

    Growing up in Taradale and Puketapu in the 1960s, as a kid I can recollect seeing both of these birds in good numbers, the Minahs are more of a family bird, inclined to be aggressive when nesting, while the Starlings travelled in huge flocks. I can still recall them travelling in what seemed like clouds, with an incessant chatter.

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    1. Thanks Craft. It's always good to have your input and the benefit of your knowledge. It's quite odd that I should have been talking to a born and bred (albeit from nearer Wellington) Kiwi whom I've known since I came here about this very subject not long ago and how perceptions develop into 'truths' or, in reality, myths.

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  2. That's the orchard trashed then.
    Starlings are one of my favourite birds but they cost a fortune in fatballs.

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    1. As you will know from Eagleton Notes they are not my favourite bird although they are intelligent and can be amusing but they fight off all the other birds from my bird table.

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  3. We saw starlings on the fields this past weekend. They were obviously having a conference.

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    1. They do just that don't they Meike.

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  4. Ja spreeuwen kunnen ook heel luidruchtig en vernielend aanwezig zijn.

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    1. Sommige mensen denken dat ze erg grappig. Ik hou niet heel veel van.

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  5. GB, trust you to choose "murmuration" out of all the collective nouns....loved it.
    Let's hope that both the starlings and the mynah birds will learn to live in harmony.
    The birds are lucky to have so many thinned out apples to feed on. I don't think they'll be leaving your orchard anytime soon.

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    1. Yes, Virginia, it's the one I remembered. Probably because it is so unusual. I think you are right. The orchardist may not have noticed or perhaps he's content that there is enough on the ground for them. They do huge amounts of damage to fruit crops and gasguns or men with blank cartridges often patrol to scare them away when they feed around dawn. I've never had it here because we've never had them in the orchard since I've been here.

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