According to our national surveying, the cane toad has passed the Indian myna as Australia's most unpopular feral. But even with a local election looming, there is no doubt at all that the Indian Myna still tops the list of "most hated" in Canberra.
On ABC 666 Mornings with Alex Sloan we talk ferals every fortnight (www.abc.net.au/canberra/ if you'd like to stream from your computer). I'm sure there are dozens of people that have the talkback number programmed into their speed-dial for the moment the words "Indian Myna" are mentioned. This morning was no exception when we talked about the Canberra Indian Myna Action Group's Annual General Meeting and a new study underway at the Australian National University.
The Canberra Indian Myna Action Group, CIMAG, is a grassroots movement of people that are trying to restore native birds and knock back the Indian Myna invasion. Since inception they've removed tens of thousands of birds through volunteers trapping in their backyards. Individuals report local effects with parrots and other natives returning to breed successfully in hollows previously occupied by Indian Mynas. However, we don't have any real evidence of an impact other than individual anecdotes.
Enter the Australian National University's Fenner School of Environment and Society, PhD student Kate Grarock and researchers David Lindenmayer and Chris Tidemann (http://fennerschool.anu.edu.au/). Over the next few years, they'll be conducting an important study to look at the biodiversity impact of Indian Myna control.
Fifteen suburbs of Canberra have been selected for the study and these will be divided into three treatment groups:
- "High" levels of Indian myna removal - backyard trapping plus Dr. Tidemann's "roost" trapping whereby Mynas in roost trees are removed;
- "Low" levels of control whereby only backyard trapping will take place; and
- "No" control suburbs where we'll ask people not to trap Mynas at all, during the two-year study period.
At the moment (September 2008), Kate is busily fitting 200 nesting boxes in each of the suburbs and organising baseline data of birds numbers and species in each of the suburbs; which are Hawker, Aranda, Flynn, Kaleen, Hackett, O'Connor, Campbell, Deakin, Red Hill, Pearce, Chapman, Bonython, Fadden, Theodore and Kambah. If you live in one of those suburbs, we strongly urge you to report your trapping to CIMAG so that we can make sure it is taken into account (www.indianmynaaction.org.au).
Kate is also looking for volunteers to assist with data collection. Email her at kate.grarock(at)anu.edu.au if you'd like to help (substitute the symbol @ for (at) - I'm trying to ensure Kate doesn't get more spam, she's a busy PhD student after all).
The study results will be really interesting. They'll enlighten us whether removal of Indian Mynas only has a temporary local impact; whether we need to have "roost" control at the same time to have any impact at all, or a whole range of other scenarios. I'll keep posting information here and put links on the sidebars.
Thanks Geoffry Dabb for the picture of an Indian Myna.