Indian pied myna

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Indian pied myna
Asian pied starlings (Gracupica contra).jpg
Uttar Pradesh, India
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Sturnidae
Genus: Gracupica
G. contra
Binomial name
Gracupica contra

Sturnus contra Linnaeus, 1758

The Indian pied myna (Gracupica contra) is a species of starling found in the Indian subcontinent. They are usually found in small groups mainly on the plains and low foothills. They are often seen within cities and villages although they are not as bold as the common myna. They produce a range of calls made up of liquid notes.


An early illustration by George Edwards (1751)

The species has been included in the genus Sturnus and Sturnopastor in the past but recent studies do not support its inclusion within Sturnus leading to the reinstatement of an older genus name Gracupica.[2][3] It has been claimed that the species name "contra" is derived from an Indian name for it, although this has not been traced subsequently.[4]

It is found mainly along the Gangetic plains extending south into Andhra Pradesh and east to Bangladesh. The population in northeastern India (Sadiya to Tirap and the Naga Hills) was named as sordida (originally Sturnus contra sordidus) by Sidney Dillon Ripley in 1950. This form differs from the Indian form in having reduced streaking on the shoulders and nape. The populations in Manipur south to Myanmar and east to Yunnan have the white extending over the eye and are included in the subspecies superciliaris first described by Edward Blyth in 1863.

A 2021 study found that G. contra represents a species complex of 3 distinct species: the Indian pied myna (G. contra sensu stricto) from most of the Indian Subcontinent, Myanmar, and Yunnan in China, with subspecies sordida and superciliaris; the monotypic Siamese pied myna (G. floweri) from Thailand and Cambodia, and the monotypic possibly extinct in the wild Javan pied myna(G. jalla), historically known from Java and Bali in Indonesia. G. jalla was likely driven to extinction in the wild due to the illegal songbird trade becoming increasingly pervasive in Indonesia, and in captivity it is likely threatened by hybridization with captured individuals of mainland pied myna species. It has been recommended to search for genetically pure members of the species in the wildlife trade for the purpose of captive breeding; a potential captive population of pure G. jalla exists at Bali Bird Park.[5]


This myna is strikingly marked in black and white and has a yellowish bill with a reddish bill base. The bare skin around the eye is reddish. The upper body, throat and breast are black while the cheek, lores, wing coverts and rump are contrastingly white. The sexes are similar in plumage but young birds have dark brown in place of black.[6] The subspecies vary slightly in plumage, extent of streaking of the feathers and in measurements.

The flight is slow and butterfly-like on round wings.[7]

Leucistic individuals have been recorded.[8]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

The species is found mainly in the plains but in the foothills up to about 700m above sea level. They are found mainly in areas with access to open water. Their main distribution in India is from the Gangetic plains extending south to the Krishna River. Their range is increasing, with populations establishing more recently in Pakistan,[7][9] Rajkot,[10] and Bombay (since 1953),[11] possibly aided by trade in caged birds and accidental escape.[12] Their westerward spread in India particularly in parts of Rajasthan has been aided by changes in irrigation and farming patterns.[7][13] The species has also established itself in Dubai, UAE.[1]

The habitat is lowland open areas with scattered trees near water, often near human habitation. This species is often seen at sewage farms and refuse tips.[7]



These starlings are usually found in small groups, foraging mainly on the ground but perching on trees and buildings. Birds in a group call frequently with a wide repertoire that includes whistles, trills, buzzes, clicks, and warbling calls. Young birds taken into captivity have been trained to imitate tunes of other birds.

Both sexes sing.[7] They forage in fields, lawns and on open ground feeding on grains, fruit, insects, earthworms and molluscs usually taken from the ground. Like many other starlings, they often use a prying or gaping action, piercing soil and then opening apart the bill to dislodge hidden food.[14] The strong protractor muscles allow them to part a mat of grass and their eyes are positioned to obtain a binocular view of the space between the parted beak.[15][16] They often feed in grazing land or among cattle.[7]

The breeding season in India is spread from March to September. With the onset of breeding, the sizes of flocks decline and birds pair up. Courtship involves calling, fluffing of the feathers and head bobbing. The nest is a loose mass of straw formed into a dome with an entrance on the side and placed in a large tree (often banyan, mango, jackfruit, rosewood[17]) or sometimes on man-made structures,[18] often close to human habitation. Several pairs will breed in the same vicinity. The usual clutch is made up of about four to six glossy blue eggs. Each egg is laid with a day in between and incubation begins only after the third or fourth egg is laid. The eggs hatch after 14 to 15 days. The young are brooded for two weeks, the female staying at the nest during the night. Both parents feed the chicks until they fledge and leave after three weeks. More than one brood may be raised in a season.[6][19][20]

An instance of interspecific feeding, where an adult of a common myna fed a young Indian pied myna has been reported.[21]

These mynas form communal roosts at night and jointly defend nesting areas.[7]

In culture[edit]

The ability of these mynas to mimic human voices made them popular as cagebirds. The Sema Nagas will not eat this bird as they believe it is the reincarnation of a human.[22] They are considered to be generally beneficial because they eat many insects.[7]


  1. ^ a b BirdLife International (2009). "Sturnus contra". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2009. Retrieved 12 July 2011.
  2. ^ Zuccon, Dario; Cibois, Anne; Pasquet, Eric; Ericson, Per G. P. (2006). "Nuclear and mitochondrial sequence data reveal the major lineages of starlings, mynas and related taxa". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 41 (2): 333–344. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2006.05.007. PMID 16806992.
  3. ^ Lovette, I.; McCleery, B.; Talaba, A. & Rubenstein, D. (2008). "A complete species-level molecular phylogeny for the "Eurasian" starlings (Sturnidae: Sturnus, Acridotheres, and allies): Recent diversification in a highly social and dispersive avian group" (PDF). Molecular Phylogenetics & Evolution. 47 (1): 251–260. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2008.01.020. PMID 18321732. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2009-02-05.
  4. ^ Sundevall, CJ (1846). "The birds of Calcutta, collected and described by Carl J. Sundevall". Ann. Mag. Nat. Hist. 18: 303–309. doi:10.1080/037454809496589.
  5. ^ Baveja, Pratibha; Garg, Kritika M.; Chattopadhyay, Balaji; Sadanandan, Keren R.; Prawiradilaga, Dewi M.; Yuda, Pramana; Lee, Jessica G. H.; Rheindt, Frank E. (2021). "Using historical genome-wide DNA to unravel the confused taxonomy in a songbird lineage that is extinct in the wild". Evolutionary Applications. 14 (3): 698–709. doi:10.1111/eva.13149. ISSN 1752-4571. PMC 7980273. PMID 33767745.
  6. ^ a b Rasmussen, P.C.; Anderton, J.C. (2005). Birds of South Asia. The Ripley Guide. Volume 2. Washington DC and Barcelona: Smithsonian Institution and Lynx Edicions. p. 583.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h Freare, Chris; Craig, Adrian (1998). Starlings and Mynas. London: Croom Helm. pp. 167–168. ISBN 071363961X.
  8. ^ Inglis, CM (1904). "The birds of the Madhubani sub-division of the Darbhanga district, Tirhut, with notes on species noticed elsewhere in the district. Part VIII". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 16 (1): 70–75.
  9. ^ Murtaza, Syed Ali (1997). "Record of the sightings and breeding of Pied Mynah Sturnus contra at Lahore". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 94 (3): 569–570.
  10. ^ Raol, LM (1966). "Unexpected bird". Newsletter for Birdwatchers. 6 (7): 9–10.
  11. ^ George, NJ (1971). "The Pied Myna, Sturnus contra (Linnaeus) in Bombay". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 68 (1): 243–244.
  12. ^ Naik, Vasant R (1987). "Nest of the Pied Myna Sturnus contra Linnaeus". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 84 (1): 210.
  13. ^ Sharma SK (2004). "Present distribution of Asian Pied Starling Sturnus contra in Rajasthan". Zoos' Print Journal. 19 (12): 1716–1718. doi:10.11609/jott.zpj.1222.1716-8.
  14. ^ Zuccon, Dario; Pasquet, Eric; Ericson, Per G. P. (2008). "Phylogenetic relationships among Palearctic–Oriental starlings and mynas (genera Sturnus and Acridotheres: Sturnidae)" (PDF). Zoologica Scripta. 37 (5): 469–481. doi:10.1111/j.1463-6409.2008.00339.x. S2CID 56403448.
  15. ^ Beecher, William J. (1953). "A phylogeny of the Oscines" (PDF). Auk. 70 (3): 270–333. doi:10.2307/4081321. JSTOR 4081321.
  16. ^ Mayr, Gerald (2005). "A new eocene Chascacocolius-like mousebird (Aves: Coliiformes) with a remarkable gaping adaptation" (PDF). Organisms, Diversity & Evolution. 5 (3): 167–171. doi:10.1016/j.ode.2004.10.013.
  17. ^ Pandey, Deep Narayan (1991). "Nesting habitat selection by the Pied Myna Sturnus contra Linn". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 88 (2): 285–286.
  18. ^ Tiwari, JK (1992). "An unusual nesting site of Pied Myna". Newsletter for Birdwatchers. 32 (3–4): 12.
  19. ^ Ali, S & S D Ripley (1986). Handbook of the birds of India and Pakistan. Volume 5 (2nd ed.). New Delhi: Oxford University Press. pp. 172–175.
  20. ^ Narang, ML; Tyagi, AK; Lamba, BS (1978). "A contribution to the ecology of Indian Pied Myna, Sturnus contra contra Linnaeus". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 75: 1157–1177.
  21. ^ Inglis, CM (1910). "Common Myna (A. tristis) feeding young of Pied Myna (S. contra) and nesting habits of the Common Pariah Kite (M. govinda) and Brahminy Kite (H. indus)". Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society. 19 (4): 985.
  22. ^ Hutton JH (1921). The Sema Nagas. London: Macmillan and Co. p. 92.

Other sources[edit]

External links[edit]