Bio Facts: Mynah, Bali
The island of Bali in Indonesia
Monsoon forest and acacia savannah
Adult length: 9.8 in (25 cm); coloration & appearance: wholly white with a long, drooping crest, and black tips on the wings and tail. The bird has blue bare skin around the eyes, grayish legs and a yellow bill. Both sexes are similar.
Unknown in the wild; up to 25 years in captivity
Estimated to be at 1 year of age
In the wild, they eat ants, termites, caterpillars, fruits and seeds; in the Zoo, they are fed a scientifically developed, commercially available pelleted and meat bird food, assorted fruits, vegetables and insects.
IUCN – Critically Endangered; CITES – Appendix I
Outside the breeding season, Bali mynahs could previously be found in flocks of up to 40 birds, often roosting in dense coconut trees. In its natural habitat, it is far less conspicuous, using tree tops for cover and–unlike other starlings–usually coming to the ground only to drink; this would seem to be an adaptation to the fact that it is instantly noticeable to predators when out in the open.
In the breeding season (usually October-November), it inhabits fire-induced open shrub, tree and palm-savanna and adjacent closed-canopy monsoon-forest (tropical moist deciduous), below 175 m. In the non-breeding season, birds disperse into open forest edge and flooded savanna woodland. In the past they also occurred, and even nested, in coconut groves near villages. Previously thought to rely on cavities excavated and vacated by other birds, released individuals on Nusa Penida have nested in sugar palm, coconut and fig trees.
The Bali Starling is restricted to the island of Bali in Indonesia, where it is the island’s only endemic vertebrate species. (An endemic subspecies, the Bali Tiger, has been extinct since 1937.) This bird’s existence was first recorded in 1912 by the famous German ornithologist Prof. Dr. Erwin Stresemann during the 2nd Mollucas expedition. Because Sir Rothschild had sponsored this expedition the bird was named after him.
Placed in the monotypic genus Leucopsar, it appears to be most closely related to Sturnia and the Brahminy starling, which is currently placed in Sturnus but will probably soon be split since Sturnus, as presently delimited, is highly paraphyletic (Jønsson & Fjeldså 2006). The specific name commemorates the British ornithologist Lord Rothschild.
The Bali Mynah, Leucopsar Rothschild, is also known as Rothschild’s Mynah, Bali Myna, or Bali Starling and is locally known as Jalak Bali.
The Bali mynah has been pushed to the brink of extinction by the illegal capture of individuals to satisfy the caged-bird trade. The rarer this beautiful species became, the higher the black market price, and the wild population has consequently been decimated. Habitat destruction and competition for nest sites with the black-winged starling (Sturnus melanopterus), which is spreading throughout the island, are further threats to survival.
The Bali mynah has been protected under Indonesian law since 1970 and the entire recent wild population occurred within the Bali Barat National Park. BirdLife International established the Bali Starling Project in 1983, with the cooperation of the Indonesian government and US and British zoos, in an attempt to save this species from extinction. Armed guards protected the population within the park and captive-bred individuals were released to bolster the wild population, but numbers nevertheless continued to decline to just 36 to 40 individuals in 1994. The program was dogged with problems, and in 1999 an armed gang stole almost all the 39 captive individuals in the park that were awaiting release into the wild; in the same year the wild population plummeted once again, this time to just 12 individuals. Despite ongoing conservation efforts the Bali mynah is now believed to be Extinct in the Wild, and the future of Bali’s national bird looks increasingly bleak.
This stunning starling qualifies as Critically Endangered because it has an extremely small range and a tiny population, which is still suffering from illegal poaching for the cage bird trade. Releases of captively bred birds have boosted the population, but it is uncertain how many of these have yet bred successfully in the wild. In due course, if the population continues to grow and trapping pressures can be brought under control, the species may warrant down listing.
Jacksonville Zoo History:
The protected Bali mynah was found on the Jacksonville Zoo’s animal inventory from 1971 to 1993 and was brought back in 2009. The Jacksonville Zoo has successfully bred this species starting in 1977.