Protocols for the hand-raising and rehabilitation of mynas

Corina Gardner


David Lim - Hill mynas


Mynas are average sized (about 22-28 cms) passerine birds which belong to the family of starlings, Sturnidea. The term ‘myna’ is commonly used to refer to starlings in India. Mynas are commonly distributed throughout Southern and Eastern Asia. These birds have duller plumage and are more terrestrial compared to other members of the starling family.

Common myna, Acridotheres tristis

The common myna is widely distributed throughout India and Asia and has also been introduced to many parts of the world. The species lives in woodlands and near human habitations. They have brown plumage, a black head, throat and breast, while the bill and legs are yellow. They also have a distinctive yellow patch behind the eyes. They are omnivorous birds and will scavenge for just about anything including discarded scraps, insects, seeds, grain and fruit. They roost in large trees and build their nests in walls and rooftops of buildings.

Tris - Common myna

Jungle myna, Acridotheres fuscus

Jungle mynas are found in and around the Indian subcontinent. They have brownish grey plumage, a tuft of feathers on their heads, white patches on their primaries and a white tipped tail. They typically live in forests, tea plantations and near paddy fields. They are omnivorous birds and their diet often consists of insects, fruit, seeds and even nectar from flowers.

Devna Arora - Jungle myna

Bank myna, Acridotheres ginginianus

This species of myna is found primarily in the Indian subcontinent. The species resembles both the common and jungle myna but their plumage is slaty grey with a black head and bare brick red patches behind the eyes.

The Bank myna obtains its name due to its habit of building its nest on the earthen banks of rivers and streams. These birds hollow out holes or cavities in the earth to build their nests. Although, this is their favored nesting environment, they also readily build their nests in brick walls and roost in trees. Their preferred habitat is near water bodies, cultivated farmland, open country, as well as near human habitations. They are found in villages, towns, markets and railway stations all over the country where they scavenge for scraps. Bank mynas are very often seen near grazing cattle in fields picking up insects that have been disturbed by the animals. Their diet also includes fruit and grain.

Lip Kee Yap - Bank mynas

Common hill myna, Gracula religiosa

Hill mynas are well known for their remarkable ability to imitate human speech and the vast repertoire of sounds they produce. The species occupies a huge range stretching from Burma, Garo Hills (Meghalaya), Assam, Nepal, Orissa, South India, Sri Lanka, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, to Northern Thailand and South China. Hill mynas have glossy black feathers tinted with purple. All have similar bright yellow wattles but the wattle pattern varies according to the species and the bright orange beak fades to yellow at the tip. There's a band of white across each wing while the legs and feet are yellow. The average lifespan of a myna ranges from 12-25years.

Om Prakash Yadav - Hill myna

Brahminy starling, Sturnia pagodarum

Brahminy starlings are resident to Nepal and India. They have pale reddish-fawn plumage with a grey back, a black crest and a yellow bill with a bluish base. The crests of the males are more prominent than those of the females. Their habitat ranges from jungles, marshy lands and fields, to human habitations. Like most species of starling, these birds too are omnivorous, feeding on insects, fruits and seeds. These starlings are very often seen in fields near grazing cattle. They live in pairs or small flocks, roosting in large trees and building their nests in tree cavities and holes in walls of buildings. These passerines have a delightful musical chattering call.

Devna Arora - Brahminy starling

Characteristics of mynas

Mynas are very sociable, inquisitive, lively and intelligent birds. Hill mynas in particular make wonderful pets, and are hugely popular in the West. Prized for their exceptional vocal skills, the Hill myna has been described by many as the best talking bird in the world. These birds have an immense repertoire of sounds and are extraordinary mimics, though some species are more loquacious than others. These truly incredible mimics make it difficult to differentiate between a human voice and a hill myna’s as they speak and whistle exactly like people.

Hill mynas prefer forest edges and cultivated land in areas of high rainfall. Because of deforestation, the number of Hill mynas is considerably less than it once was, and they have been forced to live at lower elevations. In their natural habitat, they live in pairs or small flocks although they prefer to roost in large numbers at night. As with most species of birds, mynas become especially noisy just before sunrise and sunset. Their sounds include shrill whistling and screeching noises. Mynas nest in tree hollows or cavities high above the ground, where they usually pad their nest with grass, leaves, twigs and feathers.

Stephen Witherden - Myna nest

Hill mynas feed on ripened fruit; therefore, they prefer areas where there is an abundance of fruit. They eat berries and seeds from a wide variety of trees and shrubs, and nectar from several kinds of flowers. Occasionally, they eat insects from the foliage of trees and their diet includes termites as well.

Guidelines for hand-rearing mynas

The breeding season for mynas is usually from April-September in India. A mynas clutch usu

First and foremost: if the animal is injured, it would be very obvious but is the animal truly orphaned? Please ensure if the animal is truly orphaned and not receiving parental care before you decide to pick it and take it home.

The second step would be to reach the animal to a rehabilitator or rescue center. If you are unaware of any in your vicinity, you will be able to get guidance from your local veterinarian, zoo or forest department.

This is not an uncommon situation to find yourself in. Although there are innumerable rescue centers and rehabilitators around, there may be times when there are none in your vicinity or you are unable to reach anyone in time for help. It may be best to prepare yourself to care for the animal in such an instance.

Much information on many topics and species is readily available online. Try to narrow down some pieces of information you can work with for a start. Also, get in touch with rescue centers or rehabilitators via phone or internet. Exchange digital photographs where necessary – it barely takes a few minutes. Even if unable to help you directly in person, any person or center will surely be willing to guide you through the care of the animal and help you in choosing an appropriate protocol for its care and rehabilitation.

It is a common myth that any baby (or adult) bird or mammal that has been touched by human hands will be killed by the rest of its group. This belief has most strongly been associated with baby birds, making people extremely reluctant to pick up and leave babies back in their nest even when the parents are around.

Over innumerable years, we have reunited many youngsters successfully, and inevitably, they have all been handled by human hands for several hours or days before being reunited. The key factor in the acceptance of the animal by the parent and other group members seems not to be the smell of human touch on the animal, but the actual process of reuniting.

A common mistake that most people make while attempting to reunite an animal is that they linger on too close and in turn, frighten the parents away. When trying to place an animal back in its nest, you must always keep a safe distance from the nest and the rest of the group so as not to scare them away. It is easy to get impatient and want to return to the animal after short intervals, but you must refrain from doing so, rather, observe from a distance. Success is more likely than not. I can hardly believe any parent would refuse to accept its own child just because a ‘human’ has touched it!

Some people have suggested the use of gloves to prevent direct contact with the animal. Although you may not always have gloves on you when you need to handle an animal and it isn’t completely necessary to have them when handling a rescue, you may choose to use them if you prefer to.

Yes, in all probability. But, no animal can be simply picked from captivity and released – that is when they will not survive. Animals need to go through a period of rehabilitation before they can be release. The technique and timeframe of rehabilitation will depend upon the species and individual in concern. Guidance on rehabilitating your animal can be sought from an experienced rehabilitator.

Wild animals belong in their natural habitats. Their true glory and happiness can only ever be seen in nature. As much as the babies will be attached to you and need you when they are young, they will soon outgrow their dependence on you and their heart will yearn to be outside, in the wild – where they belong.

Rather than waiting too long and releasing an animal that is not completely prepared, it is wise to plan the release, rehabilitate the animal and release a strong and prepared animal that will surely be able to survive in the wild.

If you truly love them and want what’s really best for them, I trust you will do what is best for your little one.

You can work with any species you are more comfortable with or all species that you come across. Often, we just work with animals as they come along but if you don’t feel particularly confident with any species, it might be better to transfer it to someone more confident. If you prefer to work with a certain species and feel your hands are better adapted for that species, you may specialize in it – its’ your call.

It takes lots of time, deep commitment and a genuine interest in the wellbeing of another animal’s life to enter the field of wildlife rehabilitation. Experience and knowledge are paramount as there are many that cannot be written or explained to you but those that you will learn through your own experience. Wildlife rehabilitation is a painstaking and time consuming task requiring your complete dedication and lots of sacrifices.

In a nutshell, the following are the basic qualities required to be a rehabilitator:

1. Genuine interest and concern

2. Dedication and sacrifice

3. Commitment to work in the best interest of the animal

4. Willingness to learn

5. Willingness to ask and look for help

6. Willingness to go the extra mile

7. Willingness to let go at the time of release

Many small animals, esp. urban species, can be rehabilitated and released from home as long as they have a natural distribution around your home. Many of these animals come back for visits until they are completely independent but sometimes for longer as they are closely bonded to the caregivers. Often, the animals may completely cease to return after release or some days after release. Although this seems disappointing, it a good sign demonstrating that the animal is completely independent and capable of surviving on its own without any assistance from you.

As rehabbers, our aim is always make the animal independent so it doesn’t feel the need to keep returning.

Yes, we can definitely attempt to help every animal that needs our help. But unfortunately, we may not always be able to cure every animal and restore it to its desired health status. As rescue workers, we come across a disproportionately disadvantaged population of animals, some of which are beyond human help. There may be times when it is in the best interest of the animal to euthanize it. But it is our duty and responsibility to make an informed choice and always work for the betterment and highest quality of life for the animal in concern.

Euthanasia, commonly known as ‘mercy killing’, is the act of killing someone to relieve it from unbearable and incurable suffering. Needless to say, euthanasia is always the very last resort after all other means to help the animal have failed and purely done to relieve an animal of unbearable pain and suffering. Euthanasia can be easily carried out by a veterinarian by means of an injectable drug – a quick and painless process. Your veterinarian will be able to advise you on the same. Ensure you have the appropriate permission to do so when dealing with protected species.