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Lyrical and deadly, the invasive Myna bird threatens Palestinian wildlife

Jerusalem24  Birds play a crucial role in our ecosystems, from the fluttering hummingbird to the towering bald eagle. But certain invasive species end up doing more harm than good, and visiting devastation upon the indigenous wildlife.

In Palestine, the Myna bird (or the ‘Indian Myna’) has become a prominent invasive species since the 1990s.

Salameh Mukarker from the Palestinian Ornithological Association tells Jerusalem24 that the first time he spotted the bird around 18 years ago, he was “astonished by its voice, sound and shape”.

But this unfortunately does nothing to alleviate the fact that it is “an intruder bird”.

Mukarker theorizes that the species was first introduced to Palestine via industrial containers shipped from India or the Far East.

Duping their prey

The Myna bird is recognizable at its black plumage striped of white and yellow and its long, yellow beak. Mukarker says the Myna can imitate many sounds and even learn to talk: “It’s a talkative bird!”

Mukarker has discovered through his years-long observations of the species that the Myna uses this special capability to imitate other birds’ sounds, in order to discover their nests and eat their eggs and small chicks.

“It likes meat more than anything else,” says Mukarker.

With their local population skyrocketing since their first arrival on these shores, Myna bird attacks on the indigenous birds’ nests have caused indigenous species’ populations to plummet. 

“Many local species will disappear,” warns Mukaker. “We care a lot about the Palestinian Sunbird, which is our pride in Palestine; […] the Goldfinch also is disappearing, rarely found. It has a serious dangerous impact.”

Not-so-neighborly neighbors

The Myna is not the only invasive species in Palestine, Mukaker points out. The Drara, or Rose-Ringed Parakeet, is not a native to Palestine either.

The Drara only feeds on fruits and vegetables and doesn’t harm other birds, but still retains the ability to wreak havoc on almond and nut crops, causing distress to local farmers.

And Mukaker notes their population has been steadily increasing. “I see it everywhere in Palestine,” he says. “Wherever I go in the Jordan Valley, in the mountains, and here and there.”

Male Rose-Ringed Parakeet, an invasive species in Palestine. [Source: This Week in Palestine]

A call to preserve indigenous wildlife

Mukarker believes an urgent intervention is necessary before the local and indigenous wildlife sustain irreversible damage. But, he says, even “the bare minimum” hasn’t yet been put forward by the appropriate authorities.

“I haven’t heard of any attempts, only some sayings,” says Mukaker. “From a practical point of view nothing has been done, neither by local authorities nor governmental authorities.”

He suggests that traps set by professionals could help in controlling numbers, but only “if it’s done in an organized way.”

Whatever the means, Mukaker says, steps must be taken in order to preserve indigenous Palestinian wildlife.

“Palestinian authorities should take this matter seriously,” he affirms. “I don’t know if there will be any possibility to be able to control this bird but maybe there is.”

Listen to the full interview on Vibes.


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