Are Indian mynas evil?

Are Indian mynas evil?

I spend the majority of my time these days managing an invasive species project based at the University of Queensland. My supervisor, Associate Professor Salit Kark is an invasive biologist from way back that has grown a strong interest in Indian mynas and their invasive ecology. There’s a lot to learn when you work with such an adaptable species and our lab has taken Indian myna research under its wing to further understand the impact of the myna in Queensland. Indian mynas, if you haven’t already guessed, are native to India and they’re native range extends into other countries around Asia and the Middle East. The problem in Australia is that Indian mynas flourish in the climate along the east coast. Enough so that large feral populations have erupted from multiple introduction events between 50-30 years ago as they were valued by the agricultural industry as a means of pest control. In some areas Indian myna abundances have reached explosive levels, which has led to changes to the ecosystems that they have invaded. The affects mynas have on their invaded ecosystems have been documented within the literature for some parts of the Middle-east and Australia. Interestingly Indian mynas strongly prefer agricultural and urbanized areas as opposed to densely planted areas, which may mean the don’t impact as many species as we may think. My labs particular interest revolves around Indian myna breeding ecology and how that affects Australian native cavity nesting birds breeding success and population abundances.

On the first few days of nest box installation 175 later and all the boxes were up!

There are a number of honours and PhD student working on different aspects of this knowledge gap and my main job is to facilitate their research and to make sure all the fieldwork is flowing smoothly. The interesting thing about Indian mynas in southeast Queensland is that they haven’t reach high abundances like we see in other parts of their range in Australia. A main section of this research is to investigate the differences, if any, in the myna behaviour and their ‘invasiveness’ at the source and the edge of their invasive range. We are looking at this through both feeding experiments, breeding experiments and individual behavioural experiments and this work will enable us to inform management officers of the ground to better manage this species in southeast Queensland.  Indian mynas one of the most threatening invasive species that is documented all over Australian and local government websites and brochures but I personally believe that the mynas don’t pose as much of a problem as they have been hyped up to be. They defiantly use food resources that could be utilized by native species and they do take up breeding resources but, in southeast Queensland at least, they are not at a high enough abundance to cause any major problems. This maybe attributed to effective localised management, but may also be attributed Noisy Miners (which is a native aggressive pest) keeping them at a low enough level to not be to detrimental to the native species. More information about the Biodiversity Research Group and access to scientific articles from the work within the lab you can access this via the website below:

http://www.karkgroup.org

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