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The Speaking Mynah

The mynah is a bird of the Starling family (Sturnidae). This is a group of passerine birds native to Asia, especially India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Several species have been introduced to North America, Australia, South Africa, Fiji and New Zeland. Some mynahs are talking birds for their ability to reproduce sounds including human speech when in captivity. Mynah is derived from the Hindi Language mynah which is derived from the Sanskrit word madana.

Mynahs are medium sized passerine birds with strong feet. Their flight is strong and direct and they are gregarious. Their habitat is fairly open country. They eat insects and fruits. Plumage is typically dark, often brown. Some species have yellow head ornaments. Most speices nest in holes. The common Hill mynah is well known for its imitative skill. The following is a list of species of mynahs.

(1)    Yellow faced mynah – Dumontii

(2)    Golden mynah – Mino anais

(3)    Long tailed mynah – Mino Kreftii

(4)    Sulawesi mynah – Basilornis celebensis

(5)    Helmeted mynah – Basilormis galeatus

(6)    Long crested mynah – Basilornis corythaix

(7)    Apo mynah – Basilornis Miranda.

(8)    White naked myna – Streltocitta albicollis

(9)    Common Hill mynah – Gracula religiosa 

(10)Golden crested mynah – Ampeliceps coronatus.

The list is very long.

The common Hill myna is a talking bird. Talking bird can mimic the human speech. Birds have varying ability of talking. Corvids are able to mimic only a few words and phrases. Budgerigers have been reported to have a vocabulary of 2000 words. The earliest reference to a talking bird comes from ctesias in the 5th century BC. That bird was called Bittacus. It may have been a plan headed parakeet.

The young of some birds learn to communicate vocally by social learning by imitating their parents. Birds make tones and sounds using throat muscles and membranes-the syrinx in particular. Mimicking human speech is not limited to captive birds. Wild Australian magpies, lyre birds interact with humans. Song birds and parrots are two group of birds able to learn and mimic human speech. The common Hill myna is the best talking birds. Its specific name religious may indicate to the practice of teaching mynas to repeat prayers. The common Hill myna is often detected by its loud, shrill and descending whistles followed by other calls. It is most vocal at dawn and dusk.

Both sexes can produce wide range of loud calls – whistles, wails, Screeches and gurgles, sometimes melodious. The common Hill mynah is a resident breeder from Kumaon region of India. It is also found in Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan, and Arunachal Pradesh. This mynah is almost entirely arboreal i.e. tree living. They move in large noisy groups at the fringe of the forests. The Hill mynah is omnivorous eating nectar, fruit and insects. They build nests in holes of trees. Two or three eggs is their capacity.

In our childhood days, we were reading sua-sari kahani-the tales of parrot and mynah. Both compete with each other for talking. Both parrots and mynahs are best friends of humans.

(The views expressed are the writer’s own.)

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Radhakanta Seth is a former Income tax officer in Sambalpur.  He is a freelance writer and his articles have been published in some Oriya dailies like Sambad, Samaj, Dharitri, and English dailies like The Telegraph and in a sociological journal ‘Folklore’ published in Kolkata.

He can be reached at [email protected]

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