Journal of Ornithology

, Volume 148, Supplement 2, pp 261–267 | Cite as

The potential of particular starlings (Sturnidae) as indicators of habitat change

  • Walter A. SontagJrEmail author
  • Michel Louette


The starlings (Sturnidae) represent a highly successful and adaptable passerine family. Several sturnids, predominantly open country species, have been introduced into new geographic areas through human agency, and some have become pests in the new range. In this context, we investigated habitat use in a typical open habitat sturnid, the Common Mynah (Acridotheres tristis), and a forest sturnid, the (Common) Hill Mynah (Gracula religiosa), in primary and secondary habitats in the Comoro Islands, where the Common Mynah was introduced, and in Thailand, where both species are native. The landscape of the four Comoro Islands has been affected by man to a variable extent. The Common Mynah is very abundant on Mayotte, moderately so on Grand Comoro and Anjouan and least so on Mohéli. It clearly prefers non-forest habitat including degraded mosaic habitats and tree plantations. Although also found in isolated and undisturbed forests on the Comoros, it was never recorded in any forest habitats surveyed in eastern Thailand. In contrast, Hill Mynahs were found in intact primary forest with and without gaps, and in severely disturbed forest patches. Their distribution varied between the two study sites, and Hill Mynahs were recorded at higher frequencies in primary forest with gaps than in forest without gaps. Supplementary observations, including other open country starlings, suggest that this bird family shows marked plasticity in habitat use by particular species, which can serve as good indicators of rapid habitat change.


Comoros Eastern Thailand Habitat change Invaders Sturnidae 



We thank Jan Stevens for commenting on a first version of the manuscript. ML is especially grateful to Luc Bijnens, Marc Herremans, Frederic Neri and Jan Stevens for fieldwork, and Garin Cael (all from Tervuren) for technical support; to Hugh Doulton and Charles Marsh (Oxford) for sharing their Anjouan field data; and to Yahaya Ibrahim (Comoros) for logistical help. WS is especially grateful to Pilai Poonswad and Schwann Tunhikorn (both Bangkok) for their consistent and selfless support for his studies in Thailand. Fieldwork there was most effectively supported by Boonma (Khao Yai National Park), Songkrot Poothong (Bang Pra Non-Hunting Area) and Sawai Wanghongsa and his assistants (Khao Ang Rue Nai Wildlife Sanctuary). Special thanks also go to Erwin Nemeth for fruitful discussions, and Alexander Seidel for advice in statistical and software matters. Phil Round provided important information on literature. Finally, we thank an anonymous reviewer for valuable suggestions improving our manuscript.


  1. Ali S, Ripley SD (1972) Handbook of the birds of India and Pakistan together with those of Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan and Ceylon, vol 5. Oxford University, BombayGoogle Scholar
  2. Archawaranon M (2003) The impact of human interference on Hill Mynahs Gracula religiosa breeding in Thailand. Bird Conserv Int 3:139–149CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Blondel J (1985) Habitat selection in island versus mainland birds. In: Cody ML (ed) Habitat selection in birds. Academic, Orlando, pp 477–516Google Scholar
  4. Deignan HG (1945) The birds of northern Thailand. US National Museum Bulletin no. 186. Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C.Google Scholar
  5. Duncan RP, Blackburn TM, Sol D (2003) The ecology of bird introductions. Annu Rev Ecol Evol Syst 34:71–98CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Feare C, Craig A (1998) Starlings and mynas. Christopher Helm, A and C Black, LondonGoogle Scholar
  7. Hawkins AFA, Goodman SM (2003) Introduction to the birds. In: Goodman S, Benstead JP (eds) The natural history of Madagascar. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, pp 1019–1158Google Scholar
  8. Holzapfel C, Levin N, Hatzofe O, Kark S (2006) Colonisation of the Middle East by the invasive Common Myna (Acridotheres tristis L.), with special reference to Israel. Sandgrouse 28:44–51Google Scholar
  9. Hustings MFH, Kwak RGM, Opdam PGM, Reynen MJSM (1985) Vogelinventarisatie, achtergronden, richtlijnen en verslaggeving. PUDOC, WageningenGoogle Scholar
  10. Kark S, Sol D (2005) Establishment success across convergent Mediterranean ecosystems: an analysis of bird introductions. Conserv Biol 19:1519–1527CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Komdeur J (1996) Breeding of the Seychelles magpie robin Copsychus sechellarum and implications for its conservation. Ibis 138:485–498CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Lekagul B, Round PD (1991) A guide to the birds of Thailand. Saha Karn Bhaet, BangkokGoogle Scholar
  13. Lin Z-J (2001) Feeding and reproductive adaptation of Philippine glossy starling Aplonis panayensis in Kaohsiung city. In: Fang W-H (2005) Abstracts of ornithological Masters’ theses from Taiwan, 1977–2003. Forktail 21:99–120Google Scholar
  14. Long JL (1981) Introduced birds of the world. The worldwide history, distribution and influence of birds introduced to new environments. David and Charles, Newton Abbot/LondonGoogle Scholar
  15. Louette M (2000) Bird communities on the Comoro Islands. Bonn Zool Monogr 46:325–336Google Scholar
  16. Louette M (2001) Adaptation of Comoro birds to disturbed forest habitat. Ostrich Suppl 15:48–55Google Scholar
  17. Louette M, Meirte D, Jocque R (2004) La faune terrestre de l’archipel des Comores (MRAC, Tervuren). Stud Afrotrop Zool 293Google Scholar
  18. Lowe S, Browne M, Boudjelas S, De Poorter M (2000) 100 of the world’s worst invasive alien species. A selection from the Global Invasive Species database. The Invasive Species Specialist Group, World Conservation Union, Auckland, New Zealand. Available at:
  19. Lynam AJ, Round PD, Brockelman WY (2006) Status of birds and large mammels in Thailand’s Dong Phayayen – Khao Yai forest complex. Biodiversity Research and Training (BRT) Program and Wildlife Conservation Society, BangkokGoogle Scholar
  20. Millett J Climo G, Shah NJ (2005) Eradication of Common Mynah Acridotheres tristis populations in the granitic Seychelles: successes, failures and lessons learned. Adv Vertebr Pest Manage 3:169–183Google Scholar
  21. Pell AS, Tidemann CR (1997) The impact of two exotic hollow-nesting birds on two native parrots in savannah and woodland in eastern Australia. Biol Conserv 79:145–153CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Robson C (2004) A field guide to the birds of Thailand. Asia Books, BangkokGoogle Scholar
  23. Round PD (1988) Resident forest birds in Thailand: their status and conservation. ICBP monograph 2. International Council for Bird Preservation, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  24. Sontag WA Jr (1998) Devastated, damaged, and fully intact forest habitats and the Sturnidae family in a dry lowland evergreen biome in Southeast Thailand. Nat Hist Bull Siam Soc 46:43–53Google Scholar
  25. Sontag WA Jr (2005) Are Hill Mynas (Gracula religiosa) more common in disturbed than in virgin forest habitats? Nat Hist Bull Siam Soc 53:71–78Google Scholar
  26. Stevens J, Louette M (1999) Land bird abundance and conservation of biodiversity on the tropical island of Mayotte (Indian Ocean). Alauda 67:123–139Google Scholar
  27. Tassin J, Rivière JN (2004) Durée optimale d’écoute pour la détermination d’indices ponctuels d’abondance dans les paysages ruraux des hauts de la Réunion. Alauda 72:187–192Google Scholar
  28. Trisurat Y (2005) Modeling of hornbills and other wildlife distributions in a forested landscape at Khao Yai National Park, Thailand. In: Lum S, Poonswad P (eds) The ecology of hornbills: reproduction and populations. Hornbill Research Foundation, Faculty of Science, Mahidol University, Bangkok, pp 173–187Google Scholar
  29. Tunhikorn S (1990) Resource partitioning of four sympatric mynas and starlings (Sturnidae) in Thailand. PhD thesis, Oregon State University, Eugene, Ore.Google Scholar
  30. Watling D (1975) Observations on the ecological separation of two introduced congeneric mynahs (Acridotheres) in Fiji. Notornis 22:37–53Google Scholar
  31. Watson J (1981) Population ecology, food and conservation of the Seychelles kestrel Falco araea on Mahe. PhD thesis, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, ScotlandGoogle Scholar
  32. Weitzel NH (1988) Nest-site competition between the European starling and native breeding birds in northwestern Nevada. Condor 90:515–517CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Wells DR (1985) The forest avifauna of western Malaysia and its conservation. In: Diamond AW, Lovejoy TE (eds) Conservation of tropical forest birds. ICBP Technical Publication 4, Cambridge, pp 213–232Google Scholar
  34. Wilson PR (1973) The ecology of the common myna Acridotheres tristis L. in Hawke’s Bay. PhD thesis, University of Wellington, Wellington, New ZealandGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Dt. Ornithologen-Gesellschaft e.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of OrnithologyMuseum of Natural HistoryViennaAustria
  2. 2.Royal Museum for Central AfricaTervurenBelgium

Personalised recommendations