Home | Bird Species Profiles | The Natural History and Captive Care of the Hill Myna (Myna Bird, Indian Hill Myna), Gracula religiosa – Part 2

The Natural History and Captive Care of the Hill Myna (Myna Bird, Indian Hill Myna), Gracula religiosa – Part 2

Click here to read the first part of this article.
Fruit comprises a major portion of the myna’s diet, with figs being a particular favorite. Mynas also consume seeds, buds, insects, spiders and other invertebrates, lizards and tree frogs. They will occasionally raid the nests of other birds, taking both eggs and nestlings (a habit that has rendered them unpopular in mixed-species zoo exhibits!).

The myna’s breeding season varies, being timed to weather conditions across its extensive range, but is usually between April and June. Mynas form monogamous pairs, and remain in close contact with their mates even when foraging in large flocks. Like many starlings, mynas nest within tree hollows, usually choosing a site high up and at the edge of a forested area. The cutting of dead trees leads to a shortage of suitable nest sites, and severely impacts myna populations in some areas.

Both sexes build the nest, using twigs, leaves and feathers, and both cooperate in brooding and in feeding the young. Two (occasionally 3) brown-spotted blue eggs are laid. The eggs hatch in 15 days and the young fledge within 1 month. When the weather and food resources cooperate, female mynas may produce 2 or even 3 clutches each year. Pairs are usually territorial, but multiple nests are sometimes built in a single tree – although not been substantiated by field studies, I would imagine this occurs only in habitats with large food resources.

The European starling, a close relative of the hill myna, has been widely introduced here and abroad. It usually out-competes native birds, such as woodpeckers, which rely upon tree cavities as nesting sites. The entire North American population (it is likely the USA’s most numerous bird) originated with the release of 100 starlings in NYC’s Central Park in 1890 – part of a misguided effort to establish, in the USA, all the birds mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays!

I once became quite familiar with a starling kept in the education room of the American Museum of Natural History (she was “un-stuffed”, in contrast to her neighbors!). She had a repertoire of several words, and imitated dogs and cats as well – all as clearly as any parrot. Injured starlings were often brought to me over the years for rehabilitation – one learned to differentiate a fastened and unfastened cage door lock, and would not bother to attempt an escape when the door was properly secured.

Hill Mynas as Pets

General: Mynas are exceptional mimics, arguably the bird world’s best, and respond well to humans if acquired when young. Individuals with vocabularies of over 100 words are known. They are intelligent, active and curious, and must be kept “busy” if they are to thrive. Pet mynas bond quickly to people, even strangers, if treated kindly but definitely remember mistreatment and may avoid people who “remind” them of frightening incidents.

Space and Other Physical requirements
Mynas are large, active birds and require a good deal of space – something along the lines of a parrot cage such as this cage or larger would be best. An outdoor aviary is ideal, especially for a breeding pair.
Although not quite so fond of toys as are parrots, individual mynas will take quite well to them. Those that encourage the bird to “work” for treats, such as this treat will provide both you and your pet with hours of enjoyment.
Light, Heat, Humidity, etc.
Your myna’s cage should be lit by a bulb specifically designed to provide full spectrum light to birds, such as This or a similar model.

Hill mynas are native to areas of high rainfall and humidity, and appreciate a light misting of warm water as well as a good-sized bathtub. If your home is overly dry, a small humidifier might be needed.

Normal room temperatures suit mynas well, and they are quite cold tolerant if acclimated slowly – in southern England, it is common practice to winter them outdoors in aviaries equipped with small, heated shelters. Indoor cages should not be placed in drafty areas, however.

Approximately 60% of your bird’s diet can be made up of commercial myna pellets with the balance being comprised of fresh fruits, including figs, oranges, papayas, apples, plums, grapes and seasonally available varieties. Your bird may also enjoy prepared fruit treats.

Mynas relish insects, but these should not comprise more than 5% of the diet, unless you intend on breeding your birds. A variety of live insects such as crickets, mealworms and wax worms, as well as canned insects marketed for pet reptiles should be offered.

Social Grouping/Compatible Species
Pet mynas are most easily trained when housed alone, but also do well in pairs. They will attack most other birds, even those larger than themselves.

Captive Longevity
Captive longevity exceeds 20 years.

Mynas are less easily bred than are other cage birds – I will go into specifics in a future article. A breeding pair should ideally be housed outdoors in a spacious, well-planted aviary, with access to large quantities of live insects.

Some years ago I hill myna under my care at the Bronx Zoo learned a number of phrases while in a small cage, recovering from a bad molt. Later, the bird was released into a large walk-through aviary. Unfortunately, the zoo’s director decided to record bird calls in this marvelous mini-jungle, and was quite perturbed to hear, upon playing the tape, the unmistakable voice of the myna crying “Help! Let me out!” The myna in question was moved to the children’s zoo, where he remained a great favorite for many years.

Several related species, including the pagoda myna, Sturnus pagodarum, and the Malabar myna, S. malabaricus, occasionally appear in the trade. I have kept Malabar mynas and found them to be similar to hill mynas in some regards, although not nearly as willing to approach people.

Additional Resources
http://www.cites.org/eng/com/AC/22/E22-10-2-A3.pdf (Status of myna populations and conservation)
http://www.ru.ac.th/mynah/hill%20mynah/success.HTM (Captive reproduction)


  1. avatar

    Mynahs are prone to hemochromatosis and should not be given citrus fruits. Acidic foods promote the uptake of iron. There are many other safe fruits available.

  2. avatar

    Hello Allison, Frank Indiviglio here.

    Thanks for your interest in our blog and for raising this important point.

    Unfortunately, hemochromatosis, or iron storage disease, has not been well-studied in captive birds, and is still not completely understood.

    Birds absorb iron through the intestinal mucosa (mucus membrane). When sufficient iron has been absorbed to meet metabolic needs, a “mucosal block” signals the cells to stop absorbing iron, whereupon it is then excreted in the feces. In birds afflicted with hemochromatosis, iron absorption is not properly regulated; over time, too much of the mineral is stored in various organs, primarily the liver.

    A direct dietary link has not been definitively established, and various experiments have led to some what conflicting results. Birds maintained on fairly low iron diets have come down with the disease…on the other hand, over-supplementation of iron has led to liver lesions indicative of hemochromatosis, but not the disease itself, in other species.

    Theories abound, with most centering on a complex interplay of diet, genetics, stress and other factors, with genetics being a particularly promising area for further study. One very interesting school of thought proposes that certain populations of birds living on iron poor diets in the wild may develop unusually effective iron storage abilities (when compared to other populations of the same species). When fed captive diets containing what would otherwise be appropriate iron levels, birds originating from such populations fall ill. This would help explain why mynas and others vary in their iron tolerances. In humans, folic acid and choline deficiencies seem to pre-dispose one to iron storage disease…further research is needed re birds here as well.

    As you mention, mynas (along with turacos) are among the species most commonly afflicted with hemochromatosis. At the Bronx Zoo, we also found birds-of-paradise of several species to be extremely prone to the disease.

    Citrus fruit can be a potential concern (and a definite concern in birds already diagnosed) because ascorbic acid renders the iron in plant foods more biologically available, and hence easier to store (in general, the iron in animal based foods is readily available for storage, plant-based iron less so). The iron in bananas, raisins and grapes is an exception to this general rule, and seems easily stored by birds…these too should be avoided where appropriate.

    Many generations of mynas, birds of paradise and turacos have been bred without incident on diets containing moderate amounts of orange and other citrus fruits. In addition to the aforementioned theories, one possible explanation for this anomaly may be that certain commercial softbill pellets (and, in the past, zoo pellets) contain iron levels that may be borderline-high. Although I have used oranges and other citrus fruits in the diets of these and other species for decades, your point that a wide variety of other fruits are readily available is well taken…certainly one can comprise a healthy diet without the use of oranges.

    Those who are unsure may wish to mention the issue to their veterinarians…radiographs and blood tests can indicate liver problems, which may be indicative (but not diagnostic) of hemochromatosis, and can be used to point one towards the best diet for their birds.

    Thanks again, I’ll keep an eye open for further research and report back.

    Enjoy your birds, Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  3. avatar

    well what fruits are safe to feed then i read in books this is good some one else says its bad just be interested i what to feed

  4. avatar

    Hello, Frank Indiviglio here. Thanks for your interest in our blog.

    There is a good deal of conflicting information out there, partly because the mechanics of iron storage disease (the main reason why certain fruits should be limited in some situations) are not well-understood. Some mynas, including many I have worked with over the years, have no problems at all when fed modest amounts of citrus, grapes, raisins and bananas, while others become ill (but not necessarily due to the fruit).

    As things stand now, it seems that the aforementioned fruits (and large quantities of chop meat) might be linked to iron storage disease in some mynas but not others….however, the disease can occur in birds kept on iron-poor diets as well. Until we learn more, I suggest you limit bananas, raisins, grapes and citrus to 1 small serving weekly, or dispense with them entirely.

    Variety is important for mynas. Offer as many other types of fruits as possible, and be sure to rotate them so that the bird does not choose 1 or 2 to the exclusion of the others. In times of limited fruit availability, try using freeze dried foods such as mango, anise, papaya, raspberries and sweet potatoes.

    Good luck and please keep me posted.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  5. avatar

    Hell Frank,
    I read the above with great interest. I used to keep a small flock of greater and lesser Hill mynahs as a free flying group here in the UK in the 1960s. They were quite good at homing, though I nearly lost one bird over the 3 years I was doing this. If given a large planted aviary, could this house more than one pair for breeding? I.e .do they breed colonially/without aggression where food is abundant?

  6. avatar

    Hello Greg,

    Thanks for that great bit of info; very interesting to hear from someone who has experience with a free flying flock. How did you manage them in winter?

    All I’ve kept, including relatives such as Bali Mynas, Superb Starlings, etc., have bred best when kept in single pair situations. Even in very large free-flight zoo exhibits, they rarely do well if more than I pair is present. Some nest within sight of others in the wild, but it seems not so in captivity. Colleagues in other zoos have the same experience, as far as I know.

    Best regards, Frank

  7. avatar

    Hi Frank,

    I am not sure whether this Blog is still active, just trying my luck. I have a pair of one year old Great Indian Hill Mynah, Jal and Kiran. For last 3~4 weeks Jal is becoming quieter day by day. His feathers are looking discoloured and faded by the day. His featheres at the back of his neck had fallen during winter and have not yet come back. The skin around the same area is dry and scally. He looks weak and is unresponsive to most of our calls and attention. He eats very less compared to Kiran, and is not active also. He remains puffed up most of the time. Plz suggest what we can do as there is no avian doctor in our locality (Guwahati, Assam, India). Just to add, we avoid giving iron based food to them, their diet is mainly milk based (rice, broken wheat and oats at times) and seasonal fruites like mangoes, papaya, water mellon (Red) and apples.


  8. avatar

    Hello Samarjit,

    Sorry for your trouble but unfortunately the symptoms you describe can indicate a very wide range of ailments…bacterial infection, internal parasites, mites or other external parasites, etc., or a combination of any. There really is no way to diagnose without a vet exam. perhaps a local zoo can direct you to someone? Mynas do consume a good amount of protein in their diets..insects, eggs, etc., but I doubt this is the cause of the problem. I’m sorry I could not be of more assistance. I am in touch with a well known avian vet with considerable zoo experience here in the USA. I believe he provides email consultations…not sure if he can help, but he would let you know beforehand if he can or cannot. I can put you in touch with him if you wish. Best, Frank

  9. avatar

    Hi Frank,

    You mentioned you would be writing a piece on breeding in the future. Did you do so, and if so, where can I find it? I have been searching but have found very little online. I am curious if there are any things that help or hinder the breeding process. I can find limited, anecdotal information, mostly from Asian programs but cannot find any reference to captive breeding efforts here in the US. Thanks for your information!

  10. avatar

    Hi Richard,

    Sorry, I did not; they are not often bred here; success is most common in large, heavily planted aviaries, preferably outdoors in suitable climate. breeding has also occurred in large zoo exhibits, but indoor breeding in private collections is not common. I’ll check with some contacts and report back if anything new turns up, best, frank

  11. avatar

    Hello there
    i like to breed Indian Hill Myna i live in UK Liverpool any suggestion

  12. avatar

    I live in indonesia and can readily get the Myna (Beo). How can i differentiate between male and female? There is nothing avail online on sexing the bird. Hope to get a pair set up in an aviary. Thanks!

  13. avatar

    Hello Marc,

    It’s almost impossible to sex them by external appearance..unless you see a pair together, in which case behavior will usually give a good indication. Otherwise, the most reliable method is via DNA sexing, using feathers. Many labs and companies offer this service via mail; google DNA sexing birds (and your location); please let me know if you need more info, frank

  14. avatar

    Hi Frank.. I have a hill mynah in a smallish aviary at the back of the garden: abt 1m x 1m x 1.8m tall. Don’t know if its just me but it seems lonely (I have a white rump shama living in an identically sized aviary about 1.5m away (separated by a clump of banana trees) but they don’t seem to take notice of each other).
    I’m thinking of getting another hill mynah, but I’m afraid that if they’re both the same sex they may peck each other to bits, which will raise lots of problems.
    Any thoughts / experience on this?

  15. avatar

    Hi Cas,

    They do generally pair up in the wild, and also form flocks during certain times. Solitary animals have done fine, but they should be given as many ways as possible to keep busy – hunting opportunities, hiding food within containers, parrot toys, whole fruit to tear at etc…it may be easier to tame a bird kept alone as well..they tend to bond to people in time. It can be tricky to introduce another, even mixed sexes do do always get along…they should be kept side by side and introduced slowly if you do try. Best, Frank

  16. avatar

    Please I have a pair of common mynhas .can I keep more than a pair together many thanks .aviary keeped .

  17. avatar

    Hello Debra,

    Flocks form in the wild, after mating season, but pairs rarely get along with others in captivity…they become territorial etc, and fight, even if not nesting. Best, frank

  18. avatar

    Hi Frank,

    Just stumbled upon your site and am very blessed to Lear so much about mynah. Am not sure if this thread is still being answered buy though I’ll take my chance with a few questions.

    I live in Dubai and have a local mynah as a pet. We have her for the past 9 years nd she is now part of our family( more human than bird). She eats only baby cerelac(rice with milk flavour) mixed with a little gram powder.The thing is I am now planning to relocate to UK. I would like to know the following if you have this information.

    1. Will she survive the cold in UK considering the hot climate her in Dubai?
    2. Do you know if such mynah ‘ s are allowed to be relocated?
    3. Would you happen to know the procedure and requirements for relocating pet birds.

    I have tried getting this information from so many sources but know one seems to know the process for pet mynah.
    Appreciate if you can please help me out with any information you have.

  19. avatar

    You would have to check with your governing body as far as what is permitted.

About Frank Indiviglio

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I believe that I was born with an intense interest in animals, as neither I nor any of my family can recall a time when I was not fascinated by creatures large and small. One might imagine this to be an unfortunate set of circumstances for a person born and raised in the Bronx, but, in actuality, quite the opposite was true. Most importantly, my family encouraged both my interest and the extensive menagerie that sprung from it. My mother and grandmother somehow found ways to cope with the skunks, flying squirrels, octopus, caimans and countless other odd creatures that routinely arrived un-announced at our front door. Assisting in hand-feeding hatchling praying mantises and in eradicating hoards of mosquitoes (I once thought I had discovered “fresh-water brine shrimp” and stocked my tanks with thousands of mosquito larvae!) became second nature to them. My mother went on to become a serious naturalist, and has helped thousands learn about wildlife in her 16 years as a volunteer at the Bronx Zoo. My grandfather actively conspired in my zoo-buildings efforts, regularly appearing with chipmunks, boa constrictors, turtles rescued from the Fulton Fish Market and, especially, unusual marine creatures. It was his passion for seahorses that led me to write a book about them years later. Thank you very much, for a complete biography of my experience click here.
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