The Hill Myna (Gracula religiosa) (commonly known in the pet trade as the Myna Bird) is a member of the starling family, resident in hill regions of South Asia.
This myna is a resident breeder in the lower Himalayas from Kumaon, India (80oE) eastward through Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan and Arunachal Pradesh, in terai and foothills up to 2000 m. Related races found in the Western Ghats of India and in Sri Lanka, G. r. indica and G. r. ptilogenys, have recently been split off as the separate species, Southern Hill Myna (Gracula indica), mostly in the Nilgiris and the Ceylon Hill Myna (Gracula ptilogenys), in Kerala and Sri Lanka. It also occurs in Thailand, Indonesia and parts of Southeast Asia. Introduced populations exist in the USA and possibly other nations.
This myna is almost entirely arboreal, moving in large noisy groups of half a dozen or so, in tree-tops at the edge of the forest.
at Jayanti in Buxa Tiger Reserve in Jalpaiguri district of West Bengal, India.
This is a stocky jet-black starling or myna, with bright orange-yellow patches of naked skin and fleshy wattles on the side of its head and nape. At about 29 cm length, it is somewhat larger than the Common Myna.
It is overall green-glossed black plumage, purple-tinged on the head and neck. There are large white wing patches which are obvious in flight. The bill and strong legs are bright yellow, and there are yellow wattles on the nape and under the eye, which are distinct in their pattern from the Common Myna or the Bank Myna. These patches are separate in the Southern Hill Myna, but joined in the Hill Myna and the Ceylon Myna. Sexes are similar, but juveniles have a duller bill.
The Hill Myna is often detected by its loud shrill descending whistles followed by other calls. It is most vocal at dawn and dusk when it is found in small groups in forest clearings high in the canopy. It hops sideways along the branch, unlike the characteristic jaunty walk of other mynas.
Voice and calls
Both sexes make an extraordinarily wide range of loud calls - whistles, wails, screeches, and gurgles, sometimes melodious and often very human-like in quality. Each individual has a repertoire between 3 and 13 such call types, which may be shared with some near neighbours of the same sex, being learned when young. There is a very rapid change of dialect with distance, such that birds living more than 15 km apart have no call-types in common with one another.
In the wild state, the Hill Myna does not imitate other birds, unlike other species such as the Racket-tailed Drongo, although this is a widely held misconception. On the other hand, in captivity, the Hill Myna is a renowned mimic, learning to reproduce many everyday sounds, particularly the human voice, and even whistled tunes, with astonishing accuracy and clarity.
Like most starlings, the Hill Myna is fairly omnivorous, eating fruit, nectar and insects.
The Hill Myna builds a nest in hole. The normal clutch is 2-3 eggs.
The Hill Myna is a popular cage bird, renowned for its ability to imitate speech. Demand in the West outstrips breeding capacity so they are rarely found in pet stores. It is becoming increasingly rare in regions of Northeastern India due to capture for the illegal pet trade.
In the Garo Hills area of Assam, the locals induce the birds to breed in artificial nests made of a split-bamboo framework covered with grass and put up in accessible positions in tall trees in a forest clearing or at the edge of a small village. The villagers are thus enabled to extract the young at the proper time for easy hand-rearing, making Hill Myna farming a profitable minor cottage industry.