9th May 2018

A backyard war – that has nothing to do with neighbours

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‘I’m waging a war in my backyard’
Steve Perkin

Fifty-two creatures have died in my backyard in the past 12 months. I know this for a fact, because I killed them.

They are, or were, Indian mynas, those brown birds with yellow beaks that are in plague proportions in many towns and cities on Australia’s east coast. Not to be confused with the slightly smaller, grey Noisy Miner, which is a native species.

I didn’t know that 12 months ago. I’d seen them around my Melbourne home, but hadn’t thought too much about them, until I got talking to a friend, somebody I regard as extremely intelligent and as far removed from the mass murdering type as anyone you could find.

He told me he’d built an Indian myna cage and had caught and killed dozens of them.



I asked him how he killed them and he told me he put a bag over the cage then attached it to the exhaust pipe of his car and started the engine. The bird was dead within 30 seconds.

This mate said he had just one reason for killing Indian mynas and that was because they raided the nests of native birds and destroyed their eggs.

After talking to him, I started thinking about the bird species I no longer saw around my part of the world. I recall, 40 odd years ago, playing golf and having willie wagtails hop around beside me and sometimes sit on my bag as I pulled it along.

Whether the fact that I hadn’t seen them for years could be blamed on the Indian myna I had no idea, but I did some research and found that the Indian myna is a most unsavoury and unloved creature and is officially considered ‘a scourge of the modern world’.

The International Union of Conservation and Nature (IUCN), the world’s largest environmental management group, has listed the Indian myna in the top 100 species that pose a threat to biodiversity, agriculture and human interests. “In particular,” the IUCN says, “the species poses a serious threat to the ecosystems of Australia.”

Some regional councils offer a small bounty for mynas, delivered alive and unharmed.

The Indian myna’s history in Australia is a bit like the cane toad’s, but geographically reversed. It was introduced into Melbourne from South-East Asia in 1862 and settled quickly. In 1883, some were sent to northern Queensland, largely to eat insects in the cane fields, but they quickly developed a taste for fruit and grain crops.

Apparently, mynas can also spread mites and have the potential to spread disease to people and domestic animals. If you’ve observed them, you’ll know they have no fear of either.

Armed with this information, I decided to become an urban warrior. Not being a builder of any note, I went online to see whether a trap could be bought, and was staggered to find multiple manufacturers selling them in a wide range of sizes and designs.

I bought the cheapest – a wire cage measuring about the size of a large wine box with a mirror at one end to trick the bird into thinking another bird was already inside – for $50. It was delivered to my home within the week.

My mate said he used cat biscuits, so I grabbed a handful, placed the cage in the backyard and dropped in the biscuits and a saucer of water.

Given I have a diesel car, and diesel fumes are less toxic than normal petrol fumes, I decided drowning them would be more humane, so I half-filled my green waste bin with water.

And then I waited.

About an hour later, an Indian myna walked through the cage’s small opening, dined on the biscuits, then realised it couldn’t get out.

I walked outside, picked up the cage and dropped it into the bin. A few minutes later, I emptied the dead bird onto a newspaper, wrapped it up, then dropped it into my rubbish bin. Done.

The next day I caught another two. Then another. And another. And as I said, my current count is 52.

My killing spree has had no discernable effect and Indian mynas regularly turn up in early mornings and evenings to forage through my garden. It has had a discernable effect, however, on my wife, who thinks I’m a nutcase, and my family, who can’t imagine how I could do what I’m doing.

But I tell them that they don’t remember willie wagtails, and that Indian mynas destroy the eggs and chicks of birds such as rosellas and lorikeets, thus stopping their breeding, and can even upset the breeding habits of kookaburras and dollar birds by chasing them from their nests.

I also point out that there’s a group in Canberra that boasts about having killed 54,000 Indian mynas in nine years.

Nevertheless, I understand that catching and drowning birds as I do is not everybody’s cup of tea. I’m not even sure that drowning them is acceptable and if it’s not, could somebody please tell me because I’m happy to employ methods that are deemed more compassionate.

In my defence, I scoured numerous websites and the only recommended means of killing caught birds is via car exhaust fumes, poisoning their food or taking them to a vet.

I eliminated poisoning because I have a dog, and the environmental damage of 52 car trips to the vet seemed counterproductive, to say nothing of the bird enduring a torturous experience in the boot of a car.

So if you think you’d like to contribute to the war on Indian mynas, simply search the internet for most of the information you’ll need, or ask your local vet.

Are Indian mynas a problem in your area? Are other introduced pests having an adverse effect on native animals?


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COMMENTS

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gnasher
17th Jun 2018
9:20am
I have a problem with lorikeets and corellas. I am in WA and they are not native here. They are taking over nests of our twenty-eights
The Bronze Anzac
17th Jun 2018
9:35am
Drowning Indian Myna Birds is the best way to kill these pests. Many years ago we were allowed to own & use airguns, but not any more. Any other way than drowning is either too hard, too inconvenient, too costly, or not acceptable. I also cannot understand how the CSIRO has not developed an acceptable method of getting rid of the cane toad. It should be a selective killer for that breed of toad only. Has any reader got a suggestion for the toads eradication ?
Mindy
17th Jun 2018
10:27am
Indian Mynas used to be a major problem in Canberra. Never see them anymore.

Well done to the anti myna groups here!
margie
17th Jun 2018
10:29am
My previous little dog thought he was a giant cat and would lay in wait and leap out and catch the mynas and kill them. Strange thing was, he never killed any other type of bird, but everyday, there would be the dead body of one or two mynas in the backyard.
musicveg
17th Jun 2018
6:24pm
What a clever dog, he must have sensed they were pests.
MON
17th Jun 2018
10:39am
Congratulations on taking the initiative up in your neighbourhood and I don't think your a nutcase but a very concerned citizen willing to take a positive stance in the eradication of this introduced pest. Unfortunately, unless all municipal councils join forces to carry out a mass eradication your efforts will be in vain. Those you capture and euthanase will simply make room for others in the street to move into your backyard. Each mating couple will have multiple nests to confuse other birds and in doing so will leave native birds without nesting places. Time for councils to agree on a policy of eradication
floss
17th Jun 2018
12:19pm
After 60 years in the bush the biggest threat to our unique wild life has to be feral cats. but what can we do when brain dead town dwellers let there pet cats roam the street, they are feral once they leave the house.Local councils do not have any regulations as to the real problem.Over population of Australia if another threat in the making that is man made by our so called leaders.
musicveg
17th Jun 2018
6:28pm
I agree Floss, we never had cat's in the neighbourhood until a couple of years ago, now seems we have at least half a dozen and I am forever chasing two of them out of the yard where my bird friends visit. Trouble is councils are bringing in laws to keep them in at night but who will police it? Just like dogs on the beach, we have a sign saying no dogs between a certain time from December to April, but not even local people abide by it because there is never a ranger in site. Same goes for all the poo on the tracks.
alinejordan
17th Jun 2018
12:22pm
basically it's just cruelty for cruelty's sake. as you said yourself, it makes no visible dfference to the overall nunmber, it's like the cruel poisoning of rabbits that occurs regularly, they just come back in the same numbers. it's just being cruel to animals for some ideal that can't be justified. i'm sure that the colonisation of humans causes much more destruction in the animal world than indian minahs. it's like our council who cut down old pine trees, weeping willows, and other beautiful trees that were adorning our creek, on the excuse that they weren't 'natives'! are we natives? yet we take over nature until finally there is none left.
Janus
17th Jun 2018
5:16pm
It might sound cruel, but it is better than a natural death by crushing claws of a hawk or starvation - the natural ways. As for rabbits - their number dwindle slowly but they don't multiply as they used to. Kill the lot, I say, cruel or not. Would you rather have a starving potaroo, or a healthy rabbit we can't poison?

Any Council that eradicates non native trees has my full support. "beauty" is in the eyes of our 19th century English cultural background.

I agree with you, though, that we are taking over nature. there are far too many of us - time for stopping any population rise (too late??) or time for a cull.

I am so glad that I will not be here in 40 years - it (Earth) won't be a pleasant place. Sorry about the animals; none left except a few rodents.
musicveg
17th Jun 2018
6:30pm
Humans are doing more damage than they know, agriculture has been devastating to the natural environment more than anything, but people don't see the connection of eating meat and destruction. Should meat eaters be eating rabbits instead?
go veg!
17th Jun 2018
6:51pm
Good suggestion musicveg. People who eat meat but say they love animals and the environment should only be eating introduced feral animals, not introduced domesticated farm animals that are bred just to be eaten, along the way causing unsustainable destruction to our native animals' habitat.
musicveg
17th Jun 2018
6:55pm
And the tree clearing that goes on to grow feed for agriculture causes loss of habitat and Australia is a leader in extinction of mammals and birds because of this clearing, farming and feral animals. I really don't think we can blame the myna birds for all of it. I think Steve is fighting a losing battle.
MICK
17th Jun 2018
12:27pm
Well written and it is no nice to not see the fringe dweller from the RSPCA demanding this practice end. It is necessary.
If we had the will in this country we could eliminate pest species like the Indian Myna but unfortunately it is more like the farmer who sees one weed in his paddock. Three years later his paddocks are covered and he says 'I'll have to do something about this'. It is sad that the mentality of our leaders has no common sense or intelligence to to go with it and this pervades the running down of a wonderful country.
Should be more positive but I see it at all levels and it breaks your heart.
Mandy
17th Jun 2018
12:59pm
If you want to invest in a cylinder of nitrogen that is the most humane way to gas these birds as they will just pass out not knowing they are being starved of oxygen. Carbon dioxide (from car exhaust) may be quick but they know they are being asphyxiated and drowning is not too pleasant.
MICK
17th Jun 2018
1:33pm
Actually no. Carbon Monoxide is what kills them and this is not able to be detected.
Mandy
17th Jun 2018
7:04pm
The carbon monoxide content should not be too high otherwise your car is running inefficiently and although they will not detect the carbon monoxide they will detect the carbon dioxide and suffer asphyxiation.
go veg!
17th Jun 2018
2:10pm
Some Councils and creek catchment groups lend out the correctly designed cages to trap these Common/Indian mynas (the natives are Noisy Miners) on private property only. I was told the first trapped bird can be kept in the cage for maximum 3 days and acts like a Judas bird to attract others. We don't have them but I know someone who used small dog kibble successfully. We took them to a vet to be euthanased by injection (free) as I think drowning is a horrid way to die. However, they're very clever and soon left that backyard, even though the person didn't go near the cage in daylight. Although their influence is expanding, I can't see it will will ever approach the negative impact on small birds from humans clearing shrubby vegetation and letting cats roam outside, especially at night.
Keithb
17th Jun 2018
5:10pm
Great work Steve. Nice to see a story about the damage introduced species are causing to native wildlife in our country. Feral cats and brumbies should also be treated as the vermin they are.
musicveg
17th Jun 2018
6:32pm
And cattle.
musicveg
17th Jun 2018
6:35pm
Last spring I had myna bird nest in my roof, after they left I was invaded by mites, a very unpleasant experience, they ate me alive, strangely my son did not have them. I seemed to be more allergic to their bite, kept me awake at night and drove me nutty for weeks. I am keeping an eye out this year and hope I can get the landlord to block the holes up. Not sure I have the stomach to kill though, might have to get someone else to do the dirty work.
Kathryn
17th Jun 2018
6:39pm
Great work! Tasmania does not have these pests so therefore native birds are prolific. It is horrible to see the Mynas everywhere in NSW. If everyone did their bit, like Steve, maybe we could get rid of the Indian Mynas for good!
MD
18th Jun 2018
2:21pm
Yep, they're little more than dirty, noisy, filthy bloody pests. To coin the Dalek's common catch cry - "Exterminate, exterminate"! by whatever means available. The same applies for bird brains that don't agree. Squawk !!!
Adrianus
19th Jun 2018
10:14am
Just reading a few of the posts above its hard to believe how intolerable some people can be. Those birds may be an introduced species but so are you.
MD
20th Jun 2018
8:25pm
"Introduced" - highly contentious and arguable Adrianus, but you'll have a hard time of it convincing me that we aren't top of the pecking order regardless.


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