Hill Mynah
Kathy Butterfield

There are 12 known sub-species of Hill Mynahs. All Hill mynahs are of the genus "Gracula" and the species "religiosa". Because of deforestation, trapping and smuggling, the number of Hill Mynahs is considerably less than it once was and have been forced to live in lower elevations. Prized for their vocal skills for hundreds of years in their native lands, the Hill Mynahs reputation is legendary. They have been described by many as the best talking bird in the world, magnificent, magnetic and majestic, and the absolute champion of mimics. They can choose to imitate any human voice and speak in high or low tones.

The Greater Indian Hill (Gracula religiosa intermedia) and the Java Hill (Gracula religiosa religiosa) are two of the Hill species that were captured and imported for the pet trade more than any other. Lesser Hill mynahs (Gracula religiosa indica) were also captured and imported but they were not as popular, so not as many were imported into the U.S. Lesser Hill mynahs are capable of learning words and phrases but do not excel at it.

Where they live
Hill mynahs once preferred living in hill forests from a range beginning at about 1000 feet and up to 5000 feet and more, but because of deforestation, they now reside beginning at sea level in lowland forests. They prefer areas of high rainfall and humidity and spend most of their lives in trees, inhabiting dense jungle forests. Though most live in trees on the forest edge, some races are found on tea and coffee plantations where there are lots of large flowering shade trees, and in mangroves.

What they do
When not in flight, instead of the jaunty gait that other starlings and mynahs have, Hill mynahs use a hopping method to move around. Just before sunset, they become especially active, calling and answering too one another until finally retiring to their sleeping places. Their sounds include shrill whistles, gurgling and screeching noises.

What they eat
Mynahs usually travel in pairs but flocks of about 100 birds have been seen.  Hill mynahs feed on ripened fruit. Occasionally they eat insects from the foliage of trees and also termites. Occasionally they will eat a small lizard or other small mammal to regurgitate and feed to their babies. 

What goes on during breeding season
Breeding seasons vary. In northern India: April-July. In Thailand: January-July. Since the breeding season is longer in Thailand, a pair of mynahs will produce two to three clutches each year. A pair of mynahs usually nest 10 to 40 feet or more above the ground, in the bottom of a hole of a tall tree. The entrance to the hole they choose is so small they can barely squeeze inside. They may choose a tree on the edge of the forest, in a clearing, or an isolated tree in a cultivated area. The nest is made with some or all of the following: small twigs, dry pine needles, dry leaves, a little dirt and feathers they have gathered. On the average, two to four eggs are laid in each clutch, but sometimes only one egg is laid. The eggs are pale blue and may or may not have tiny brown speckles and blotches. Both sexes incubate the eggs for 13 to 17 days, the average being 14 days. The female spends more time on the nest than the male. Both parents feed their babies together and will leave them unattended when out searching for food. Though they still eat some fruit during this time, this is mostly when they eat insects and small lizards, etc. to regurgitate and feed to their babies. The parent birds also remove feces from the nest as necessary. The babies fledge after 25-28 days and gain independence very fast because the parents soon begin another clutch. After the breeding season is over, the mynahs migrate to areas where there is an abundance of ripening fruit, especially the fruit of ficus trees.

Hill Mynahs - General Description

The glossy black plumage is basically the same in all Hill races. When struck by the light you can see a sheen of iridescent purple, turquoise and green.

Candy Corn beak and yellow wattles
All have similar bright yellow wattles but the wattle pattern varies and a bright orange beak that fades to yellow at the tip,resembling  "candy corn".

There's a band of white on each wing.

The legs and feet are yellow

Immature Hill mynahs look like the adults except that the plumage is somewhat dull and may even have a ragged appearance. After the first molt is over the plumage is shiny and smooth.

Species of Hill Mynahs

Ceylon Mynah 
Gracula religiosa ptilogenys
a.k.a. Sri Lanka Mynah
About 8 1/2 inches long. Native to Sri Lanka. The smallest of the Hill mynahs. The only Hill mynah lacking wattles on the sides of the head but does have wattles on the neck. Talks well and has been eagerly sought after for the pet market.

Lesser Hill Mynah 
Gracula religiosa indica
a.k.a. Southern Hill Mynah

Length 9 to 10 inches, rarely exceeding 10 inches. Found in southwest India & Sri Lanka. In spite of its apparent inferiority to mimic human speech as well as the Greater and Java Hill Mynahs, this bird was still caught and imported for pet bird trade.

Andaman Mynah 
Gracula religiosa andamanensis
a.k.a. Nicobar Mynah
Native to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Mynahs from Nicobar have been seen to possess two large naked lappets joined at the back of the neck at the top end, leaving no feathered portion in between. This probably distinguishes them from the other Hill mynahs seen in the Andamans and the rest of the Nicobars.

Palawan Mynah 
Gracula religiosa palawanensis
a.k.a. Philippine Talking Mynah
Native to Palawan Island (Philippines). About 12 to 13 inches long. This mynah is similar in looks to the Gracula religiosa religiosa but is lightly smaller in size and the bill is shorter but deep. There is very little white on the outer margin of the 3rd primaries of the flight feathers.

Enggano Hill Mynah
Gracula religiosa enggano
Originally from Enggano Island, west of southern tip of Sumatra. About 10 1/2 inches long. Said to be synonomous with the Gracula religiosa religiosa but the feathers on the sides of forehead are larger and directed upwards to form tufts at the base of the upper mandible and also has a shorter stubbier bill.

Greater India Hill Mynah 
Gracula religiosa intermedia
      a.k.a. Greater Indian Hill mynah,Nepal Mynah,
 Talking Mynah, Indian Grackle

Found in Burma, Thailand, Nepal, Assam, northern India, and the Himalayas. About 10 to 11 1/2 inches long. The eye and nape patches are joined. The Greater Hill Mynah that was captured regularly and in great numbers to be imported for the pet trade.

Greater India Hill Mynah 
Gracula religiosa peninsularis 
       a.k.a. Greater Indian Hill mynah,
Indian Grackle 
Found in India to the north-east of the Deccan, particularly in Orissa, and also in eastern Madhya Pradesh and northern Andhra Pradesh. Usually a little smaller than the Gracula religiosa intermedia and has a shorter, finer bill. This is not  the Greater Hill Mynah that was captured in great numbers and imported for the pet trade. 

Java Hill Mynah
Gracula religiosa religiosa
a.k.a. Talking Mynah
Found in Malaysia, Sumatra, Java, Bali, Borneo and Bangka Island. Length is about 12 inches. This is the Java Hill sub-species that was captured the most and imported for the pet trade but not in as great of numbers as the Greater Indian Hill mynahs.

Sumbawa Mynah
Gracula religiosa venerata
Found in Sumbawa in the Lesser Sundas Islands between Bali and Timor. Length is said to be 12 to 13 inches.

Flores Hill Mynah
Gracula religiosa mertensi
Found in Flores, Pantar and Alor. Said to be larger than the Gracula religiosa venerata.

Batu Mynah 
Gracula religiosa batuensis
Found in Batu and Mentawai Islands off the northwest coast of Sumatra. Slightly smaller than the Nias Hill Mynah. The wattle configuration is similar and the feet and beak are shorter.

Nias Hill Mynah 
Gracula religiosa robusta
a.k.a. Nias Island Mynah

Found in West Sumatran islands of Babi, Tuangku, Bangkaru. Significantly larger than the Java Hill and much larger than the Greater Indian Hill. The Nias Hill is a gentle bird. It is the largest of all Hill mynahs. They can be as much as16 inches in length and weight approximately 400 grams. Nias Hill Mynahs have declined substantially in number, due to both trappers and loss of habitat from deforestation. They are not available for the bird markets or importing and are now protected.

Reference Materials:
Mynahs by Martin Weil, 
Mynah Birds, by Rosemary Low,
Cage & Aviary Birds, by Richard Mark Martin,
Starlings and Mynahs, by Chris Feare and Adrian Craig,
Mynahs-A Complete Pet Owner's Manual,by Otto von Frisch,
and information provided to me by a friend in Indonesia.

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