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Sunday Species Snapshot: Bali Myna

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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bali mynaBirds don’t get much more beautiful than the Bali myna. Unfortunately, they also don’t get much rarer.

Species name: Bali myna (Leucopsar rothschildi), a.k.a. the Rothschild’s Mynah, Bali Starling, or Jalak Bali

Where found: Bali, an island province of Indonesia

IUCN Red List status: Critically endangered, with an estimated wild population of probably fewer than 50 mature birds. Another 1,000 or so live in captivity.

Major threat: The illegal pet trade. The population has probably been low for more than a century, but poaching brought the wild population down to about 15 birds in 1990. Captive breeding brought that number up a bit, but continued poaching caused the number to sink to an all-time low of just six birds in 2001. Numbers have jumped a bit since then, and the birds are breeding in the wild, but they are also still being caught and illegally sold. They also face potential risks such as low genetic diversity and disease.

Notable conservation programs: The Bali Starling Conservation Project on Nusa Penida, which this month celebrated the birth of four healthy chicks.

You can hear the Bali myna’s striking song in this video, shot in 2010 in Bali Barat National Park:

Photo by Rumplestiltskin1 via Flickr. Used under Creative Commons license

John R. Platt About the Author: Twice a week, John Platt shines a light on endangered species from all over the globe, exploring not just why they are dying out but also what's being done to rescue them from oblivion. Follow on Twitter @johnrplatt.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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  1. 1. Jerzy v. 3.0. 8:10 am 10/28/2013

    Actually, there is likely fewer than 10 wild birds, and the rest are re-released individuals.

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  2. 2. John R. Platt in reply to John R. Platt 8:19 am 10/28/2013

    Yeah, as I say, the wild population has been supplemented for years with captive-bred birds. But they’re breeding in the wild, so they’re wild.

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  3. 3. Raskos 3:42 pm 10/28/2013

    I’m surprised that habitat loss isn’t counted as a major threat for this species. A bird-watching friend was in Bali recently and he said that the amount of natural, or near-natural, habitat on the island was miniscule.

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  4. 4. John R. Platt in reply to John R. Platt 5:25 pm 10/28/2013

    You’re right, habitat loss is a big deal on Bali and will definitely impact this species if populations manage to increase. But until that point the primary threat remains illegal trade.

    Link to this

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