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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Brahminy Starling, now a rare bird

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I love birds as God’s one of the most beautiful and great creations. So, most often whenever I remain in a proper position I spend time in watching them. Once, I chanced to see a beautiful bird sitting on the lowest branch of the only tree in my campus. It had a black crest on its head. Since I could not identify the bird even after great effort, I went to one of my professors the next day and put a hand drawn sketch before him. The professor at once said, “Brahminy Mynah”. Since then, I have spotted the bird more than a hundred times but have been able to see only one or two individuals at a time, not more. Now I am bound to guess that these birds are less in number in the area where I live – Ranchi, of Jharkhand state of India.

Image : 1

Image : 2

Image : 3

Images 1,2,& 3: Brahminy Starling

Brahminy Mynah or Brahminy starling is scientifically known as Sturnus pagodarum and belongs to the family Sturnidy. The bird is popularly known as a mynah (Salim Ali describes it as a "typical myna" in its behaviour and appearance, but recent taxonomic classification favours the Starling characterization. Locally the bird is known as Bamani myna (Bengal/Bihar), Kalasir myna (Hindi), Pabiyapawi (Hindi-UP), Harbola (Bengal), Popoya Myna, etc.The name Brahminy relates to its black crest like that of a typical Brahmin.

Brahminy starling is creamy orange in colour with a black cap and a slight crest on the head. These are usually seen in pairs or reportedly, in small flocks in open places including plains. This bird is typically found in dry forest, scrub jungle and cultivation and is often found close to human habitations. However, the especially favoured areas of these birds are waterlogged or marshy lands.

Adult birds are usually 21cm long. The upper parts of the bodies of these birds are grey in colour and under parts are reddish-orange. The head has a black crown, nape and crest and the underneath of the tail is white in colour. The bill is bright yellow and legs are strong. These too are yellow in colour. On the gape loose folds of skin or yellow wattles are found. The recumbent crest may be fluffed up. Young birds have crestless sooty brown head and dull general coloration. The adult male has a more prominent crest than the female and also has longer neck hackles. Juveniles are duller and the cap is browner. The birds of this species are often spotted sitting on buildings and temple pagodas in Southern India. Hence, its species name is pagodarum.Zuccon et al.2008, have placed it within the genus Sturnia.

These birds are found in most parts of the world. However, these are resident breeders in Nepal and India. These birds are reportedly visitors to Srilanka during winters and Himalayas and the North East during summers. Though the birds are basically seen in plains, these are reported to be found above 3000m in the Ladakh area as well.

Behaviour and Ecology
Brahminy starlings are omnivorous and eat fruits and insects. These birds are reported to feed even on Thevetia peruviana(Kaner) which is rejected by other animals due to poisonous nature. These birds build their nests in holes using grass, feathers and rags. These birds usually lay three to four eggs that are pale bluish green in colour. The eggs hatch in about 12 to 14 days.

Image- 4 : Thevetia peruviana 

These birds can be considered as rare and even vulnerable in this area of India due to excessive use of chemical pesticides in crop fields. Since these birds are mostly found in open areas and fields, and these birds are insect eaters these are easy preys to insecticide poisoning. In Jharkhand vegetable growers use pesticides on large scales, hence it can be said that habitat destruction including deforestation and use of synthetic pesticides can be possible reasons behind reducing number of these birds. Since these birds prefer eating insects, these are friends of farmers. Hence, use of bio pesticides is an important option for the protection of these birds.

Akhtar, S Asad (1990).”Attitudinal  range extension of Brahminy Myna Sturnus pagodarum in Chusul, Ladakh”. J. Bombay Natural Society 60(2):457-458.
Rasmussen PC &JC Anderton (2005). Birds of South Asia.The Ripley Guide. Volume Smithsonian Institution &Lynx Edicions.pp.582.
Sharma,Satish Kumar (1996)."Nesting in anchor-pipe by Brahminy Myna, Sturnus pagodarum (Gmelin)". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 93 (1): 91.

Key Words
black crest, Brahminy Mynah, Sturnus pagodarum, Jharkhand, Nepal,Harbola ,waterlogged, Ladakh,creamy orange

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