Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Killer Mynas trapped to save rare endemic birds

Common or Indian Myna
The Green Islands Foundation is in the process of eradicating Common Myna birds from Denis Island as part of the GEF funded protected area project. Common Mynas cause problems worldwide and spread further every year, they are found on many islands within the Seychelles archipelago after being introduced from Mauritius in the 19th century. 

The forest on Denis Island contains many indigenous tree species providing ideal habitat for several of Seychelles endemic birds that were reintroduced within the past decade. On Denis Island Common Mynas are believed to
interfere with nesting Seychelles Magpie Robins and to compete with them for nest sites. During her PhD study on Seychelles Warblers, Jildou van der Woude (pers comms) discovered that about 25% of the warblers she caught on Denis Island had serious head wounds and her subsequent studies gave strong indication that these were caused by Common Myna attacks. Mynas have also been seen predating on Seychelles Flycatcher eggs. In 2010 a decision was made to eradicate Common Mynas from Denis island.

Seychelles Magpie Robin
Seychelles Fody

Seychelles Warbler
Seychelles Paradise Flycatcher

Trapping commenced in May 2010. 15 decoy traps consisting of mesh traps were constructed with assistance from the Denis Island workshop. The traps with a live decoy Myna bird in the middle compartment were found to be very effective. By April 2011, 917 Myna birds had been removed from the island – estimated to be 90% of the total population. The project had to be halted after this time due to staff constraints and afterwards the number of Myna birds increased rapidly from +/- 78 individuals to an estimated 200-300 birds in 2013.

Mynas in and on decoy trap
In May 2014 two students arrived from Reading University – Smita Pandey and Jack West to restart the eradication and catching has resumed. Katherine Raines who has previously worked on Assumption Island eradicating Madagascan Fodies and Red Whiskered Bulbuls has taken over the project in July 2014 with Fernando Garcia who joined in August 2014. Hopefully they will not leave the island until every last myna has been removed!

The so called King Mynas lack feathers on their head

Since May 2014, more than 80 Myna birds have been captured. Main problems facing the team are interference from non-target species in the decoy traps preventing the catching of Myna birds. The traps are baited and therefore provide an easy lunch for many of the birds on the island who stumble into the traps and closing the trap doors before any mynas can get in. Over 500 Madagascan Turtle Doves have been caught since May 2014, these have been investigated as part of a research project to learn more about this introduced and abundant species.

Despite many minor setbacks, the team is confident that this project will be successful in the end and will give the endemic birds a better chance to thrive on Denis Island.

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