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All About Graculas, The Talking Hill Myna Birds: Species info with photos

Hill Myna birds

When I started to compile this article about our Greater Indian Hill Mynas I found a huge amount of confusing and conflicting information about the species and subspecies of Hill Mynas ( Graculas). They are all a member of the starling family: Sturnidae. (Source: Wikipedia) but their classification has changed over time. This is the latest (2021) information I have found.

According to Wikipedia up until recently, only two species were recognised, Gracula religiosa and Gracula ptilogenys. Previously, all Graculas were considered to belong to a very variable species commonly called the Hill Myna. 

The Common Hill Myna (Gracula religiosa), sometimes spelt “mynah”, is the myna bird most commonly seen in aviculture and kept as a pet. 

Three additional subspecies of the Common Hill Myna (Gracula religiosa) are now considered as distinct species ( see Table 2 below) and of these subspecies Gracula religiosa intermedia are the Greater Indian Hill Mynahs that we breed.

The Sri Lanka hill mynah was considered to be a subspecies of the common hill myna, but today all major authorities recognise them as separate. 

How Do Birds Clean? - Bathing
How Do Birds Clean? - Bathing
Gracula_religiosa_robusta_2015_stampsheet_of_Indonesia
Source: Wikimedia Commons

In 2015 Gracula Robusta appeared on a stamp for Indonesia and asyou can see he was still considered a subspecies of G. religiosa

Hill Myna species recognised today

Table 1. Five extant species of Hill Mynas are recognised:[1]

myna bird species chart

The natural habitat of Common Hill Mynah birds

Gracula religiosa [religiosa] (otherwise known as the Common Hill Myna, Common Grackle, or the Talking Myna) is native to eastern India, southern China, Indochina, Thailand, Malaysia, and the Phillippines. This species however has been introduced and successfully established in other areas, particularily Florida, Hawaii, Japan, and Puerto Rico (Feare, 1999).

Hill Mynahs are found (not surprisingly!) on hills between 300 and 2000m high or at sea level (Feare, 1999). Birds prefer areas where rainfall and humidity are both high, therefore inhabiting most of the jungles, evergreen and wet deciduous forests in its range. 

The mynah is commonly found at forest edges, clearings or thinned areas, and cultivated areas such as coffee plantations (Feare, 1999). 

The Common Hill Mynah is almost completely arboreal. It prefers perching on the highest point of an exposed dead branch (Feare, 1999). Unlike other Mynahs and starlings that walk, this Mynah hops sideways on branches.

Table 2. Geographic range of gracula religiosa and its subspecies

myna bird gracula religiosa sub species chart

What do Hill Mynas look like? 

Hill Mynas do have different markings on their face which enable us to identify which of the subspecies they are. But in general their appearance and plumage are very similar.

  1. The Hill Myna averages 27-30 cm in length. 
  2. It has a glossy black appearance with feathers that vary in undertone. 
  3. The crown, nape, and breast have a purple glow while the rest of the body is tinted with green and the tail is polished turquoise. 
  4. The wings are black with a white patch on primary feathers 3-9. 
  5. The face consists of a red bill that fades into a yellow hooked tip and fleshy wattles, or flaps of bare skin, that extend out to the middle of the nape (Feare, 1984).

What do Hill Mynas eat?

The Hill Myna is generally an arboreal frugivore, but also includes nectar, insects, and lizards in its diet. Figs are eaten most frequently, followed by berries and seeds from a variety of trees and shrubs. Most of the insects eaten are gleaned from trees, but it has been known to catch winged termites in the air (Feare, 1999). 

Here’s a list of what you can feed your pet myna bird.

Conservation Status

Due to their large exploitation for trade, the Hill Myna population has declined. Forest destruction and habitat loss further this rate to a possible level of concern. Currently however, little is being done to conserve this species.

References

Bertram, B. 1970. The vocal behavior of the Indian Hill Myna, Gracula religiosa.. Animal Behavior, 3: 79-192. Feare, C. 1984. The Starling. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press. 

Feare, C., A. Craig. 1999. Starlings and Mynas. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press. https://e3e64bec6c5486a792532d6d21dddf35.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.htmlOrenstein, R. 1997. Songbirds: Celebrating Nature’s Voices. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books.

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