(996) Acridotheres tristis tristis.
The Common Myna.
Paradisea tristis Linn., Syst. Nat., 12th ed. i, p. 167 (1766) (? Philippines in errore. Calcutta). Acridotheres tristis. Blanf. & Oates, i, p. 537.
Vernacular names. Desi-maina (Hind.); Salik, Bhat-salik (Beng.); Bemni, Saloo (Chota Kagpur) ; Salonika (Mahr.); Gor-wantera (Can.) ; Gorenka Gorinka (Tel.) ; Zayet (Burm.); Dao-maina (Cachari); Halik-Sorai (Assam); Nok salika (Siam).
Description. Whole head and neck glossy black shading to deep blackish grey on lower hind neck and upper breast; upper plumage, wing-coverts and secondaries vinous brown; secondaries tinged with bronze and with fine darker edges; primaries dark brown with a broad white patch at the base; tail brownish black with white tips ; breast, flanks and thighs rich vinous brown; vent, under tail-coverts and more or less of the centre of the abdomen white; under wing-coverts and axillaries white.
Colours of soft parts. Iris red to red-brown, sometimes flecked with white; eyelids and orbital skin yellow; bill wax-yellow to bright yellow ; legs yellow, claws horny.
Measurements. Total length about 250 mm.; wing 140 to 149 mm.; tail 83 to 89 mm.; tarsus about 38 to 40 mm.; culmen 18 to 22 mm.
Young like the adult but dull, browner and with tie black head more ashy-brown.
Distribution. The whole of the Indian Empire from the extreme South up to about 8,000 feet in the Himalayas; all Burma to Tavoy in the South and East to Central Siam, where of recent years it has become quite common. It is found both in Baluchistan and Afghanistan. Specimens from South Travancore are very dark and somewhat approach the Ceylon race, melanosternus. They might by some systematists be separated as a. geographical race but its limits cannot be denned and, as between all geographical races there must be more or less of an indeterminate intermediate area, I retain the Travancore bird as A. t. tristis.
Nidification. The Common Myna breeds throughout its range principally in the months of May and June but eggs may be taken any time between March and August, whilst in the Andamans they are said to breed all the year round. They breed at least up to 8,000 feet, and are now common at this elevation in several places in the Himalayas. Normally they make their nests in holes in trees, and buildings or in cliffs but they also sometimes build them in trees. Tick ell, Adams and Betham all describe such nests as cup-shaped, but the few I have seen have all been huge domed affairs like those of the Pied Myna. When placed in a hole there is no particular shape and all sorts of materials are used whilst, often, old nests are refurbished up with a little more grass and leaves. They frequently rear two or three broods in a season.
The eggs are uniform blue, with a slight gloss when fresh. The normal clutch is four or five, six very rarely, and I have seen three incubated. One hundred eggs average 30.8 x 21.9 mm.: maxima 35.0 X 22.3 and 33.0 x 23.2 mm.; minima 27.6 x 19.2 mm.
Habits. This Myna is one of the most universally common birds in India and is rapidly becoming more common in areas where it was but recently unknown or merely a rare straggler. This is especially the case in the hills, where these birds have followed mankind to higher elevations and into places where the country is being opened up. They are essentially birds of civilization, of towns, cultivated country, gardens and orchards and are not found in jungles and forests until man has prepared the way for them. They form excellent pets and though so common are favourite cage-birds with Indians, for they are hardy and intelli¬gent and their extreme conceit renders them very amusing. They are mainly insect-feeders and do an immense amount of good by killing grasshoppers, locusts, their larvae and other destructive insects. They also eat grain and fruit and sometimes do con¬siderable damage to the former when it is ripe. They feed almost entirely on the ground, wandering about with cattle, upon whose backs they sometimes sit and pick off the ticks.
In the evening these birds often assemble in great numbers, together with Crows and Pied Mynas, in clumps of trees and bamboos and, on these occasions, the fuss and commotion accompanied by an endless harsh chattering must be seen and heard to be appreciated. Even after they have settled down to sleep a passing dog or jackal, an inquisitive Owl or some other night marauder, will start them off again and the situation has to be discussed noisily and at length before peace again obtains. It is worthy of record that some of the more popular nesting-places continue to be occupied during the breeding-season; when the cocks always and the hens, until they commence to sit, continue to resort to them.