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Choosing a Mynah Bird

By: Virginia Wells

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Mynah birds have long been a popular bird. In ancient Greece, the mynah was kept among the aristocracy as a pet, and in India, the mynah has been considered sacred for more than 2,000 years, and during a feast day, individual birds were carted through the city by oxen. Today, the mynah's extraordinary talents as an imitator make him one of the most interesting of all cage birds.

Described as the best talking bird in the world they can mimic the human voice and are able to talk in the same tones and clarity of speech as the voice they are mimicking, even outdoing the African grey parrot.

The mynah is an Asian bird of the family Sturnidae (order Passeriforme) of somewhat crow-like appearance. Native to Ceylon and India, they live as far away as Indonesia and come in 11 sub-species. They can vary in length from 9 1/2 inches to 12 inches.

Most commonly kept as pets are the Hill mynahs – the Greater Indian Hill Mynah and the Java Hill Mynah. Javas are the larger of the two, approximately 12 inches in length and have a louder voice, but both are excellent talkers. The glossy black plumage is the same in all Hill mynahs and when caught in the light you can see a sheen of iridescent purple, turquoise and green. Their bright orange beaks fade to yellow at the tip, and there's a white speculum on the wings. The legs and feet are also yellow. All Hill mynahs have yellow markings called wattles – usually two on the nape and two smaller ones below the eyes, although patterns vary.

Housing

In the wild, mynahs use a hopping method to move around on the ground, and in trees they move from branch to branch with sideways hops. In captivity mynahs need space to hop back and forth. The ideal cage should be wide, at least 3 to 4 feet by 2 feet deep by 2 feet high. Many mynah owners complain that it is difficult to find the perfect ready-built cage, since most cages are constructed with a parrot in mind and are taller than they are wide. You might try to construct one, or rather renovate one, yourself. One method is to hook two cages together side by side and remove the inner sides. Place the cage in a room where your mynah will have the most family contact, and keep it away from drafts – near a window where there is plenty of natural light but not direct sunlight is ideal.

Place enough perches in the cage to allow their hopping. An assortment of perches of varying diameters provides exercise for your bird's feet to prevent foot injuries and arthritis. Avoid perches made or rope or other cloth material as their toenails tend to get caught in them.

You can cover your mynah's cage at night or you can offer a paper bag or small cardboard box at the bottom of the cage for sleeping. Your mynah might be happier, however, if you install a permanent nest box in the cage. When your pet is sleepy, he will stretch and yawn and retire to his nest box. Mynahs take short naps during the day but will sleep throughout the night, with heads tucked between their shoulders, facing straight ahead and eyes closed. Mynahs rarely tuck their heads in their feathers.

It can be a challenge to find suitable toys for your mynah, as most are made for parrots and parakeets. Avoid toys made with string or rope. Infant and cat toys work well, like baby rattles that hang from a perch. Take some apart, too, as mynahs also like to pick things up and carry them around.

Feeding

The mynah is a member of the softbill group, named because they eat soft food. In the wild they are mainly frugivorous and feed on ripened fruit, especially figs. They also eat berries, seeds, shrubs and nectar from several kinds of flowers. Occasionally, they eat insects, termites they snatch with their beak right out of the air, and small lizards or other small animals.

Companion mynahs do well on a diet of fruit and softbill/mynah food that is low in iron. They enjoy apples, bananas, pears, melons, peaches, guavas, mango, plums and papaya. Canned fruit can be substituted occasionally, but fresh fruits are better. It is best to avoid avocado, rhubarb and apple seeds, since they are toxic to most birds, and seeds of any kind because the mynah cannot digest them.

Your mynah may also enjoy some vegetables, such as cooked potatoes (baked or mashed), cooked sweet potatoes and peas in limited amounts, corn, boiled rice and pasta. Some good protein sources include white meats such as chicken, fish, turkey and pork, chopped boiled egg, and beans. Some enjoy eating bits of lettuce.

Mynahs are often affected by hemochromatosis or iron storage disease. Therefore, it is important to provide a low iron (not iron-free) brand of commercial mynah/softbill pellets at all times. This food should be no higher than 150 ppms of iron.

Mynahs need water available all of the time. They drink by dipping their bill into the water to scoop it up, then raise their head to let the water run down their gullet. You need to provide plenty of water so the bird can fill his bill.

Talking

If you want a talking mynah, it is best to purchase a hand-fed baby at 6 to 8 weeks old so that you can being bonding, interacting and speech training. A mynah begins to talk at three to four months of age.
Begin training your bird early. Begin repeating the word "hello" as soon as you bring him home. He will soon begin repeating the sounds he hears. In the early stages, his voice may sound raspy and the words may sound broken, but this will improve with practice. Do not whistle to your bird; he may decide he likes whistling better than talking.

Grooming

Mynahs love to bathe twice a day, so you should provide a dish large enough – filled about 2 inches – on the inside of the cage or placed on the floor. They splash around in the water, dunk their heads, and soak themselves to the skin. They dry themselves by shaking the water off and then running their beak through the feathers. They also shake their heads to get water out of the ears and sneeze to clear their nostrils. Mynahs usually bathe after they return to the cage from a time-out, especially if they have been handled.

Mynahs normally molt heavily once or twice a year depending on where you live. If your mynah does not molt at all within a year, there may be something wrong with his diet. Usually proper diet and vitamins will correct the problem, so call your veterinarian.

Both wings need to be clipped so that your mynah has balance when he tries to fly. Without balance, he will be clumsy and be forced to land where he didn't intend and can crash hard to the floor. This can cause injury and even death.

Breeding

In most species, the pair bond is strong and both sexes share nesting duties. Breeding seasons vary, but a pair of mynahs usually produce two or three clutches of two or three eggs a year, although sometimes only one egg is laid. The eggs are pale blue to pale blue-green with tiny specs and blotches of brown.

Since mynahs tend to be timid, place their cage in a quiet area and provide two or three nesting boxes. Cockatiel nest boxes can be used with the opening made larger. Since they are large birds, they may sleep in separate boxes. You can provide shredded newspaper and pine straw, which they will use to line the nest box.

When the eggs are laid, both sexes will take turns sitting on the eggs for an incubation period of 14 days. The female spends more time on the nest than the male, although both sexes feed the babies together and leave them unattended when searching for food.

You should offer meal worms during breeding season and while feeding their babies. About five percent of the diet is sufficient. The babies fledge after 25 to 28 days.

Common Diseases and Disorders

Mynahs are relatively healthy birds but are susceptible to the following:

  • Hemochromatosis (iron storage disease)
  • Hemosiderosis

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