The potential of particular starlings (Sturnidae) as indicators of habitat change

Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) Science Article 11


The starlings (Sturnidae) represent a highly successful and adaptable passerine family. Several sturnids, predominantly open country species, have been introduced into new geographic areas through human agency, and some have become pests in the new range. In this context, we investigated habitat use in a typical open habitat sturnid, the Common Mynah (Acridotheres tristis), and a forest sturnid, the (Common) Hill Mynah (Gracula religiosa), in primary and secondary habitats in the Comoro Islands, where the Common Mynah was introduced, and in Thailand, where both species are native. The landscape of the four Comoro Islands has been affected by man to a variable extent. The Common Mynah is very abundant on Mayotte, moderately so on Grand Comoro and Anjouan and least so on Moheli. It clearly prefers non-forest habitat including degraded mosaic habitats and tree plantations. Although also found in isolated and undisturbed forests on the Comoros, it was never recorded in any forest habitats surveyed in eastern Thailand. In contrast, Hill Mynahs were found in intact primary forest with and without gaps, and in severely disturbed forest patches. Their distribution varied between the two study sites, and Hill Mynahs were recorded at higher frequencies in primary forest with gaps than in forest without gaps. Supplementary observations, including other open country starlings, suggest that this bird family shows marked plasticity in habitat use by particular species, which can serve as good indicators of rapid habitat change.

Walter A. Sontag and Michel Louette, J Ornithol (2007) 148 (Suppl 2):S261-S267

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