Classification and Range
Mynahs are classified in the starling family Sturnidae. They belong in the order Passeriformes, which is the largest bird order. This order comprises the perching and songbirds which makes up almost 50% of all bird species. The Bali mynah, also known as the Rothschild's mynah or Bali starling, belongs to the genus Leucopsar. First identified by scientists in 1911, the Bali mynah is endemic to the northwestern tip of the Indonesian island of Bali. They are found nowhere else in the world.
Contrary to widespread belief, the Bali mynah is not a closed forest bird. Instead, it prefers open woodland and tree-savanna, particularly when interspersed with forested valleys. Presently, the Bali mynah is restricted to forested areas of Bali Barat National Park, located in northwestern Bali.
Adult length: Body length averages 9 inches (23.9 cm) for males; 8.6 inches (21.8 cm) for females
Adult weight: Bali mynahs found in zoos average 2.9-3.5 ounces (90-100 gr)
Life span in the wild is not documented. Two wild-caught birds estimated to have hatched in 1961 died in 1986.
In the wild: Insects and fruit
At the zoo: Insects, fruit, pelleted low-iron bird food, mouse pinkies.
Little is known about the reproduction habits of Bali mynahs in the wild. Nesting in cavities in trees, they line their nests with leaves, stems of dried plants and feathers. In captivity, mynahs may have several clutches of eggs each year, usually with three eggs per clutch. In the wild they most likely produce two or occasionally three clutches during the breeding season which usually occurs from November to April (rainy season). Up to three eggs are laid with two or three nestlings per clutch.
Eggs are bluish-green in color. Both sexes incubate the eggs for about 13-14 days. The altricial (born featherless with eyes closed) nestlings are fed by both parents with food carried to the nest by the parents in their bill or crop. Young fledge in 15-25 days, and continue to be fed by the parents for a few weeks after fledging. Young molt into adult plumage within a few months after leaving the nest.
Historically during the non-breeding season (dry season), Bali mynahs form social flocks of 20-30 birds. During the breeding season, the entire Bali mynah population is located in a 740-acre (300 ha) section of Bali Barat National Park where they pair up to breed and nest. This is most likely due to the abundant availability of insects during this time of the year, which is when the young hatch.
Beauty and the Beast
The Bali mynah is beautiful to behold. Nearly all white, the tips of its wings are highlighted in black. It has strikingly blue patches of skin that encircle its eyes. During courtship displays, the Bali mynah raises a crest of white feathers on its head to catch the attention of a possible mate.
Although the beautiful Bali mynah is extremely endangered, this is not true for another starling species, the European starling. This hearty bird was introduced into Central Park, New York in the 1890s. Being aggressive by nature, and having great adaptability, the European starling has spread throughout the United States and Canada. It is a common sight in the Seattle area to see flocks of European starlings.
Being a cavity nesting species, the European starling has dominated other cavity nesting birds, such as the bluebird. This has resulted in dramatic declines in bluebird and other cavity nesting species. In an effort to protect songbird populations from the onslaught of the European starling, organizations have developed and installed customized nest boxes. These boxes have small diameter entrance holes that prevent larger starlings from entering and nesting.
Location at the Zoo
A Bali mynah can be viewed in the Conservation Aviary in the zoo's Temperate Forest.
Because of restricted range and limited suitable habitat, island species are frequently found on the endangered species list. This is true for the Bali mynah.* Over the last several decades, increased human encroachment into the Bali mynahs preferred habitat has greatly reduced its numbers. Due to the beauty of these birds, they have been captured in the wild to sell in the pet trade as cage birds. As their numbers declined in the wild, their rarity increased the demand for these birds. Over the last 20 years, population estimates vividly show the rapid decline of this species: 550 birds (1978); 125-180 birds (1984); 37 (1988); 24-31 (1989); and probably less than 14 (1997).
The Bali mynah's future in the wild is of grave concern. Woodland Park Zoo is participating in the American Zoo and Aquarium's (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP) for Bali mynahs. This plan was established to properly manage this species in captivity, and to work with Indonesian wildlife authorities in east Java to preserve habitat and protect remaining Bali mynahs. Presently, there are about 1,000 Bali mynahs in captivity. They are being closely monitored to maintain genetic diversity in the captive population. Recently, efforts have been directed toward releasing captive-bred Bali mynahs in Bali Barat National Park. In 1987, 44 Bali mynahs from U.S. zoos were sent to the Surabaya Zoo in Indonesia. The offspring of these zoo birds were released into the wild in the hope of bolstering the small wild population. However, the vast majority (if not all of these birds) have died or disappeared. Today, there are Javanese people living in the Park who still catch these birds to sell in the caged-bird trade. Until protection can be better enforced, future releases of captive-bred birds have been halted.
How You Can Help!
The destruction of natural habitat on breeding grounds, in wintering areas and along migration routes is having a devastating effect on bird populations. The effort to save endangered species requires cooperation and support at the international, national, regional and individual levels. You can help in this cause. Join and become active in Woodland Park Zoo and other conservation organizations of your choice. Don't buy products made from wild animal parts and buy only captive-bred birds as pets. Eliminate or reduce pesticide use.
Contact Woodland Park Zoo at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how you can support conservation efforts at the zoo. Discover more about bali mynahs at the SSP website at www.riverbanks.org/subsite/aig/baliopen.htm. Learn other ways you can help conserve wildlife and the habitats they require for survival by visiting our How You Can Help page.
Sources and Suggested Reading
Mardiastuti, Ani, et. al. 1996. Starling Recovery Plan. PHPA/Birdlife International, Bogor, Indonesia. 25 p.
Seal, U.S. and workshop participants. 1990. Bali Starling: Viability Analysis and Species Survival Plan (workshop report). 22-24 March, Bogor, Indonesia. 299 p.
Taynton, Kate and David Jeggo. 1988. Factors Affecting Breeding Success of Rothschild's Mynah Leucopsar rothschildi at the Jersey Wildlife Preservation Trust. Dodo, Journal of Jersey Wildlife Preservation Trust 25:66-76.