If you want a chatty, intelligent bird to share your home, then the 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.
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 "vocabulary" that includes whistling, screeching and other noises that are oddly human-sounding.
The Mynah Bird Family
Mynah birds are part of the same family of birds -- Sturnidae -- that includes starlings. The biggest distinction between the two types of birds is that Mynah birds are tropical, while starlings are not.
The word “mynah,” also sometimes spelled “myna,” comes from the Hindu word maina, or the Sanskrit word madana, which are both names for the hill mynah.
So what kind of mynah should you get? There are a few different mynahs, but most people who want to own one as a pet have a particular one in mind. Here's a little information on the differences between the two most ubiquitous types of mynah bird.
The Hill Mynah
The hill mynah is the variety most often kept as a pet and is the one that can "speak" like a human. Most western pet owners get this kind of mynah. Native to the tropics of southeast Asia, the hill mynah has a black body, an orange-reddish bill, and yellow feet and legs. It subsists on a diet made up entirely of fruit.
These birds are friendly and clever and adapt well to living in cages, which makes them excellent pets. They can be bred in captivity.
The Common Mynah
Unlike its cousin the hill mynah, the common mynah is most often considered a pest. Also native to southeast Asia, the common mynah was introduced into non-native habitats to help curb insect population. It was a success as a bug killer, but the common mynah's nesting style meant it frequently displaced native birds and depleted their food supply. A dark-brown bird with a black head and throat, the common mynah has a yellow beak and feet. It’s omnivorous, and nests in tree cavities, and holes in buildings and walls.
The Endangered Bali Mynah
The Bali mynah, which has a white body and black tips on its wings and tail, has blue around its eyes and a yellow bill. You're not likely to see this bird even in its native Indonesia, where it is considered critically endangered. Fewer than 100 Bali mynahs are believed to exist in the wild.
Where to Get a Mynah Bird Pet
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 (at least not a genuine one) in your average neighborhood pet store. Most people buy their pet mynahs from breeders or importers, who should verify that the birds are not being smuggled or otherwise traded illegally before selling it to you.
The demand for mynahs as pets in Western countries has unfortunately meant their numbers have been depleted in areas where their bug-catching abilities are needed, such as their native Thailand.