Invasive Myna Bird Continues To Plague American Samoa

Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources is one month into eradication project

By Blue Chen-Fruean

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, June 8, 2016) – It’s been a little over a month since the Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources (DMWR) launched its Myna Bird Project, aimed at controlling the population of a species that is not native to American Samoa.
Ailao Tualaulelei of the DMWR’s Wildlife Division explained yesterday that their office currently has a waiting list of village mayors and local residents who have requested traps for the Myna birds.
Because it is an invasive species, the Myna may pose a threat to native wildlife, which is why DMWR has focused upon controlling them.
“The birds have reproduced so much, that trapping them all will take a lot of work,” Tualaulelei said. He added that their office has already been in contact with the Office of Samoan Affairs and several pulenu’u have already been issued traps.
 According to Tualaulelei, as of yesterday, a total of 1,300 Myna birds have already been trapped and put down. But this number is nothing compared to the local population of a bird whose roost population can range from less than one hundred to thousands.
Samoa News understands that during evening hours, Myna birds can be heard when they gather inside the large tree behind the Fagatogo Marketplace.
Popular as cage birds for their singing and “speaking” abilities, the Mynas are believed to pair for life. They breed through much of the year depending on the location, and they nest and breed in protected hollows found either naturally in trees or artificially on buildings (i.e. recessed windowsills or low eaves).
DMWR is in the process of making more traps available to local residents who want to help in the eradication effort.
Tualaulelei said the Myna has managed to muscle its way in, and as a result, native birds like the sega, lupe, and fuia have had to resort to the mountains.
Those who request bird traps from DMWR are first trained on how to use them, where to place them, and how often they should check on them.
The Common Myna is a bird that is readily identified by its brown body, black hooded head, and the bare yellow patch behind the eye. The Myna’s bill and legs are bright yellow. There is a white patch on the outer primaries and the wing lining on the underside is white. The sexes are similar and they are usually seen in pairs.
It is a species of bird native to Asia but has been introduced with human help to many parts of the world where it is not native, including Samoa. Locally, Mynas have become a common sight in Tutuila and Aunu’u. They were first recorded in Tutuila in the early 1980s and since then, their population has grown. They may wake you up in the morning or can be seen digging through trash.
The range of the Common Myna is increasing at such a rapid rate that in 2000, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Species Survival Commission declared it one of the world's most invasive species and one of only three birds in the top 100 species that pose an impact to biodiversity, agriculture, and human interests.
In Australia, it was named "The Most Important Pest/Problem.”
In Hawai’i, where the Common Myna was introduced to control pest armyworms and cutworms in sugarcane crops, the bird has helped to spread the robust Lantana camara weed across the islands’ open grasslands. It also has been recorded as the fourth-ranking avian pest in the fruit industry by a 2004 survey of the Hawaiian Farm Bureau and the sixth in number of complaints of avian pests overall.          
The Common Myna is aggressive and omnivorous, meaning it feeds on insects, arachnids, crustaceans, reptiles, small mammals, seeds, grain and fruits and discarded waste from human habitation.          
Three years ago, DMWR launched a project to assess the extent of the local Myna invasion by estimating the current population size, identifying potential environmental predictors of Myna abundance, and determining areas where Mynas are having negative effects on the native bird populations.
DMWR encourages anyone who can identify trees where the Mynas roost, to contact their office at 633-4456.

The Samoa News
Copyright © 2016. The Samoa News. All Rights Reserved

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I just said good bye to my dear friend Susana Saavedra Cruz who worked with DMWR (and many organizations and agencies, groups, and individuals) in American Samoa from the end of January 016 till August 19 016 - she kept meeting and heading out in the field, giving presentations, meeting with her trappers, and organizations till 4 hours before her departure last night - back to the Canary Islands, Spain. The last tally of trapped birds is in excess of 3200 birds. I had the privilege to work with Ms. Saavedra building traps, drafting trap designs and layout, and building a trial nest box to determine how well this method could be incorporated into the control/eradication program. Ms. Saavedra left American Samoa after burning the "midnight oil' for the last 7 months, tired exhausted, and sick with a bladder infection but happy about her accomplishments. A tremendous effort was put forth, and it shows that with an increase in trapping efforts, eradication is possible if combined with other methods (poison and hunting if the American Samoa Government approves their use).. A big thank you to Susana Saavedra for her friendship, tremendous effort, sharing her work experience, and the many discussions we had regarding conservation efforts and invasive species control and/or eradication. If the effort continues, it is possible to exceed 6,000 trapped bisrds by the end of the year.

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