Like I said, I respect mynas for their ingenuity, intelligence, adaptability to new challenges and ability to thrive in association with humans. I mean, they can even talk! Sure they are aggressive and may chase some indigenous birds away. But at the end of the day, they are infinitely less damaging to natural ecosystems than humans are. We transform nature into gardens, buildings and agriculture with a 90% loss of biodiversity; and then we have the audacity to “blame” alien species, introduced by us. In the long run, what does it matter if mynas fight with sparrows, bulbuls, fiscals, barbets and other abundant generalists that can adapt to our altered habitats? These are not threatened species, nor habitat specialists. If you really want to do something for conservation, stop shooting mynas, and stop developing the little remaining natural habitats. Or have fewer children. Mynas and other aliens are simply a symptom of human spread. If we want to blame someone, perhaps we should blame the persons who originally introduced mynas to South Africa around 1900 and again in 1938. On the other hand, perhaps mynas eventually colonizing Africa was inevitable. They now occur on all the continents except Antarctica, as well as on many oceanic islands, and are fast becoming one of the most widespread birds in the world.
Enough ranting. This article is not meant to decide whether mynas are good or bad. It is the long-overdue answer to the mystery of the random rubbish lying on my lawn. Where were we? Oh yes, I was sweating up in the roof. With my headlamp starting to run out of battery power, I frantically swung my head from side to side, peering into the dark corners. Its beam swept across a mass of untidy material. I scrambled closer and collected as much as I could reach – three plastic shopping bags’ worth. There was a lot more that I couldn’t reach. Also, this was not the actual myna nest, but just the spillage that somehow fell through the cracks to end up in a heap below the nest. In total, I would guess that my sample represented only about 30% of the total myna-ferried material in the roof.
Not surprisingly, the vast majority of the nesting material consisted of small sticks, with a healthy smattering of leaves and feathers (32) thrown in. The feathers were mostly quite large tail feathers and wing feathers of Red-eyed Doves, which roost in abundance in our garden. There were some smaller passerine primaries, one chicken feather, and what appears to be the tail feather of an African Hoopoe. Most of the feathers were in a bad state of decay. They were probably already quite worn to start with, but I’m not sure why their tough shafts would be withered away. Museum specimens can last for several hundred years, and I doubt that these feathers were more than 4-5 years old. So, sticks, leaves and feathers. So far, probably not worth my Chilean mineresque mission.