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DMWR scopes Myna birds falling out of sky

There is a strange phenomena happening in the territory, as Myna birds, (also known as Mynah birds) — an invasive species in American Samoa — have been reported falling from the sky recently in the Nu’uuli area, with around twenty birds found dead.

Eight of the dead birds have been sent off to the United States Geological Survey (USGS) in Hawaii by the local Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources (DMWR), according to Alden Tagarino, the Wildlife Biologist at DMWR investigating the mystery of the unusual occurrence.

“I responded to a call we received about a weird event of birds falling from the sky and dying,” said Tagarino, in response to Samoa News questions.

“We collected more than twenty of these dead Myna birds and this is a real concern,” he said. “Although these are “common” Myna birds, they are not native here and they are considered an invasive species — in an event like this, where there are ten or more falling dead at the same time, it is of great concern to us, and that is why our office responds very quickly to something like this.”

Tagarino said, “this is being processed through the USGS with Dr. Thierry Work.”

In the meantime, he said they are reaching out to the public with a reminder: if the public experience an event such as this one, if they see the birds fall, or come upon them on the ground, to call the Wildlife Emergency Hotline at 733-5304 or 733-5306.

He also wants to stress the fact, that it is better to call these numbers than to handle the situation yourself.

“If you see a dead bird, or even a sick bird, please do not touch the birds.” the DMWR biologist said. “We have the right training and equipment for responding to this and collecting samples. We want to follow protocol for the safety of the people here in American Samoa.”

He noted that we have all heard of Avian Influenza (bird flu) but there have been no reported cases of Avian Influenza in the territory.  “We are not saying that this is what it is, we don’t know what is causing this, and there is no need for panic… We will find out soon the cause of death of these birds,” he added.

According to an information booklet for the “National Control of the Myna,” the Common Myna has been exported from their land of origin, the Indian sub continent, to many parts of the world by people who like their jaunty attitude, clear and striking calls and also to control insect pests.

According to Wikipedia, the “Common Myna” or “Indian Myna” (Acridotheres tristis)— sometimes spelled Mynah — is a member of family Sturnidae (starlings), which are native to Asia. Calling the Myna “an omnivorous open woodland bird with a strong territorial instinct,” it says that the bird has been introduced in many parts of the world and its distribution range is on the increase. “It is a serious threat to the ecosystems of Australia.” says Wikipedia.

The Common Myna is an important motif in Indian culture and appears both in Sanskrit and Prakrit literature.

“National Control of the Myna” booklet states that the birds are firmly established in South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, the Solomons, New Caledonia, Fiji, Cook Islands, Hawaii, Samoa and American Samoa. Also according to the booklet, in the year 2000, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature declared the Mynah Bird among 100 of the world’s most invasive species.