Range:

Northwestern tip of Bali, part of Indonesia

Habitat:

Open woodland, savannas, and forested valleys

Beautiful and mysterious

The Bali myna is a beautiful, snow-white bird with black tips on wing and tail feathers and striking sky-blue patches of skin around its eyes. The male and female are almost identical, although the delicate, lacy head crest extending down the back of the neck may be a bit longer on the male. Its beauty is probably why this bird's likeness is used in much of the cultural art found on the island of Bali in Indonesia. The Bali myna or Bali starling is found in one small region of Bali, an island that is smaller than the size of Rhode Island.

Myna studies

Scientists discovered the Bali myna in 1912. The bird was originally called the Rothschild’s grackle for Lord Rothschild, a British ornithologist who financed the collecting of this species. The species name rothschildi also reflects his contribution.

Members of the starling family, not a lot of research has been done on wild Bali mynas. What we do know comes mostly from studying the mynas in zoos. During the 1960s and 1970s, several hundred birds were legally brought to the US and Europe to both zoos and private collectors. These birds and their descendants make up the approximately 1,000 birds that live in zoos today.

The Bali myna is also known as the Bali starling.
The Bali myna is an important national symbol and has been adopted as the island of Bali's official bird.

The San Diego Zoo’s first Bali mynas were acquired in 1961 from the Surabaja Zoo in Indonesia. In 1962, we had the first successful breeding of Bali mynas in the US. An additional 31 birds were added to our collection in 1970, resulting in over 45 young hatched and raised. Some of the birds were then moved to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, which has also had Bali myna breeding success.

We currently have a Bali myna in the Zoo’s Owens Aviary and a breeding pair at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s off-exhibit Bird Breeding Complex.

Why are Bali mynas in trouble?
Even though they are only found in a small part of the world, it would seem like the Bali mynas, also known as Bali starlings, have everything they need to flourish: a good supply of food, lots of chicks, and a national park in which to live. So what is the problem? One simple word: humans.

The beauty of the birds has attracted people in the cage-bird trade. In Denpasar, Bali's capital, there is a thriving bird market. Thousands of different bird species are crammed into cages and sold for one or two dollars each. Because of the rarity of the Bali myna, the bird markets can charge higher prices for them. Having a Bali myna in a private collection is considered a status symbol, so poachers are encouraged to continue to capture these endangered birds for the pet trade.

People moving into the bird's habitat have also caused the Bali myna's decline. The booming tourist industry in Bali has seen the human population triple in the past 70 years, and a large camp for coconut plantation workers was established in the national park.

Mynas need your help!
Much effort has been made to help the Bali myna's wild population recover. The Bali Starling Project has made efforts to help guard the Bali Barat National Park, where the birds live, from illegal trapping and has released captive-bred birds there to help the tiny population grow. In 1987, 10 Bali mynas hatched in San Diego Zoo Global’s collection were part of a larger group of 40 Bali mynas from US zoos that were sent to the Surbaja Zoo in Indonesia to form a breeding group, with resulting offspring released into the wild. In 2009, Bali mynas raised in managed care were introduced to a neighboring island, Nusa Penida, and seem to be doing well so far.

San Diego Zoo Global helps
When enough people listen to the story of the Bali myna and realize that having a wild Bali myna for a pet is not a good idea, then efforts may again be made to release them into the wild. Until then, zoos are breeding their mynas for the long term and are hoping to keep the genetic population varied in the captive population. San Diego Zoo Global is involved with the Bali Myna Species Survival Plan (SSP), as are other zoos with Bali mynas. The Bali Myna SSP has records of every Bali myna in managed care and which mynas they are most closely and distantly related to. The SSP then advises each zoo which birds should breed with which for maximum genetic diversity.

Join us!
You can help discourage poachers by never purchasing a pet that has come from the wild. Many exotic species might seem like a fun idea for a pet, but in reality they are not what you expected. They can be very hard to care for and could even be illegal to own in your state!

You can also help us bring Bali mynas and other species back from the brink by supporting the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy. Together we can save and protect wildlife around the globe.