Mynah Bird: Bird Species Profile

Temperament, Diet, and Care Tips

'Common mynah (Acridotheres tristis) on a branch, Kalpitiya, Sri Lanka'
Patrice Correia / Getty Images

If you want a chatty, intelligent bird to share your home, then the tropical mynah bird is the pet for you. Its striking features and friendly personality make this bird a favorite among bird enthusiasts who consider the mynah one of the best avian mimics of human speech, second only to the gray parrot

Species Overview

Common Names: Mynah bird, myna bird, mina bird, maina bird, common mynah, hill mynah, Indian mynah

Scientific Name: Acridotheres tristis (common mynah), Gracula religiosa (hill mynah)

Adult Size: 12 to 18 inches long

Life Expectancy: 12 to 25 years

Origin and History

Mynah birds come from the Sturnidae or starling family of birds. A softbill species, this bird is native to Africa, India, southeast Asia, and Indonesia. It has been widely introduced and now lives in most of the world in the wild. In ancient Greece, the mynah bird was an aristocractic pet.

The word “mynah” comes from the Hindu word maina, and the Sanskrit word madana, which means "delightful and fun-loving." In Indian literature, the bird has several names, including kalahapriya (one who is fond of arguments), chitranetra (picturesque eyes), peetanetra (one with yellow eyes), and peetapaad (one with yellow legs).

The two main types of mynah birds kept as pets are the hill mynah and the common mynah. The hill mynah is the variety most Western pet owners get as a pet and is the one that can "speak" like a human. The common mynah is most often considered a pest and is one of the most invasive bird species in the world. It was introduced into non-native habitats to help curb insects. The bird was a success as a bug killer, but the territorial common mynah frequently displaced native birds and depleted their food supply.

A third variety, the Bali mynah, is a rare, critically endangered species. Fewer than 100 Bali mynahs exist in the wild.

Temperament

Mynah birds are lively, social birds and have wonderfully outgoing personalities. It is friendly, clever, and adapts well to living in cages, which makes it an excellent pet that will breed in captivity. Hand-raised babies are completely socialized with humans and often make better pets. As young birds, they are easier to tame and train to talk. They enjoy human interaction but are not fond of cuddling or learning tricks.

Younger birds adapt readily to new environments and situations. Expose your new bird early to different people, including both sexes, different age groups, and new situations, such as car trips, visits to the vet, and seeing different rooms of the house. A mynah bird usually bonds closest to the person who gives it the most attention, does speech training, as well as feeds and cleans the cage.

Mynahs may attack smaller birds. If you keep more than one bird variety, it's best to keep them separate from mynah birds.

Speech and Vocalizations

If you get a mynah bird as a pet, be prepared for it to do more than repeat things you say. These birds have a wide and varied vocalization repertoire that includes whistling, screeching, and other noises that are oddly human-sounding. 

Hill and common mynahs are renowned for their ability to mimic the human voice. They can learn up to 100 words. The key to teaching your bird to talk is repetition and patience. Choose the word or phrase you want it to learn and clearly say the word, repeating it over and over again.

Mynah Bird Colors and Markings

The hill mynah has a black body, an orange-reddish bill, and yellow feet and legs. Its cousin, the common mynah, has a dark-brown body with a black head and throat, and a yellow beak and feet. The rare and endangered Bali mynah has a white body and black tips on its wings and tail and has blue around its eyes and a yellow bill. Both sexes are monomorphic, which means they look alike. Other than genetic testing or seeing which bird lays the eggs, there is no real reliable way to tell them apart.

Caring for the Mynah Bird

Mynah birds are very active and enjoy hopping around from perch to perch. They require a large cage; the minimum cage size for one mynah bird should be 4 feet wide, 2 feet high, and about 2 feet deep. The cage should have several perches set at varying heights and of different widths, diameters, and textures. Variable perch types allow for foot exercise. Natural perches are the best to use.

Provide a nest box for the bird to sleep in. Keep its cage away from breezes and cover the cage at night to prevent drafts. Also, do not put the cage near the kitchen as mynahs are sensitive to smoke and strong odors.

Mynah birds like to take baths, so provide a bowl or dish that is large enough for them to splash around in a couple of inches of warm water. Baths help birds maintain their plumage by removing dust, dander, loose feathers, and bird mites, while also providing moisture. Air conditioning and heating systems in homes can dry out a bird's skin. You can also mist your mynah with a spray bottle. Do not put your bird in the shower; the spray from the showerhead may be too strong.

Common Health Problems

Mynahs have a predisposition to developing certain liver problems and hemochromatosis or iron storage disease. In mynah birds, hemochromatosis seems linked to high dietary iron intake. Carefully manage the amount of iron you provide in the diet.

Diet and Nutrition

In the wild, the hill mynah's diet is mainly fruit. Meanwhile, the common mynah is omnivorous, eating fruit, nectar, and insects.

In captivity, feed your mynah bird pet a softbill pellet mix that has 18 percent protein, 8 percent fat, and a very little iron to help counteract a disease caused by malabsorption of iron. Pellets should be about 50 percent of their diet.

You can provide ripe, sweet banana, apple, dates, grapes, peaches, mango, papaya, orange, pineapple, pear, plum, and watermelon. Avoid too many bananas since they contain a lot of sugar. Do not feed dried fruits that are high in iron, such as raisins. Remove the seeds in fruits; they may be toxic. Also, avoid giving green vegetables that are high in iron like peas, green beans, sweet potatoes, and broccoli. Make sure vegetables and fruits are cut into bite-sized pieces; mynahs don't chew their food.

You can supplement their diet with mealworms, crickets, or waxworms. If breeding your mynahs, mealworms must make up at least 5% of the breeding pair's diet and should be available for the mother to feed the baby birds.

As a rule of thumb, start off by offering your bird 1/4 cup of pellets and 1/4 cup of fruits and vegetables daily. Increase the amount as needed. Remove the uneaten foods to prevent spoilage.

Mynahs should always have access to fresh drinking water; distilled or filtered water is preferred.

Exercise

Mynah birds need exercise and should be allowed out of their cage daily for at least an hour. Before you let your bird out of their cage, make sure that you have closed all of the windows and doors, turned off ceiling fans, and remove other indoor animals.

Mynah birds enjoy playing with toys, such as mirrors, bells, bottle caps, and other small items. Toys will keep them engaged. Avoid rope toys because they can get caught in your bird’s tongue or toenails.

Pros
  • Social and friendly

  • Intelligent and can speak up to 100 words

Cons
  • Can be loud, so not well-suited for apartments (mainly at dawn and dusk)

  • Does not like cuddling or learning tricks

Where to Adopt or Buy a Mynah Bird

Hill mynahs are so popular as pets that demand for the birds far exceeds their capacity to breed in captivity. You're not likely to find a mynah bird in your average neighborhood pet store. Most people buy their pet mynahs from breeders. The birds sell from $500 to $1,500. Rescues, adoption organizations, and breeders where you can find mynah birds include:

Signs to look for in a healthy bird include clear, bright eyes; clean, smooth feathers; a good appetite; and a curious and active disposition. Steer clear of birds that have discharge from nose or mouth, fluffed feathers for prolonged periods, or birds that sit on the bottom of the cage. After purchasing your new bird, have it examined by your veterinarian.

More Pet Bird Species and Further Research

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