Addressing Sydney’s growing Myna population is a case for backyard science – literally. The Australian Museum is calling for volunteers to set up traps on their Inner Sydney properties to help track the invasion.

Tuesday 28 March 2015, Sydney, Australia: The Common (Indian) Myna is listed as one of the world’s top three invasive birds. Thriving in human-modified environments, their habits of nesting in roofs and roosting in noisy aggregations have made Mynas unpopular with many city dwellers.

Although competition with rare, hollow-nesting parrots may not be much of a problem in inner Sydney, the city’s Mynas could be contributing to a bigger problem elsewhere. Their burgeoning population may be producing an abundance of juveniles that disperse out of the city. Mynas have the capacity to out-compete hollow-dwelling fauna, and ignoring this invasive species in Sydney could assist its expansion into natural areas and adversely affect native wildlife.

The Australian Museum is working to address this problem through a new research project, thanks to an environmental grant provided by the City of Sydney that helped make this project possible. The Museum is looking for volunteers from the City of Sydney LGA to assist by looking after traps located on their properties. Suitable properties are those that are already regularly visited by Mynas and which have sufficient space for traps to be set up without interference.

Understanding the extent to which city Mynas disperse to rural margins is essential for establishing how great a threat they pose to native fauna. Dr Richard Major, a Principal Research Scientist at the Australian Museum Research Institute, explained that an effective way of measuring dispersal is by comparing the DNA of birds from city and rural populations. “If dispersal is restricted, birds from the city will have different genetic profiles from those on the outskirts. If they regularly disperse out of the city, all birds will be genetically similar”, said Dr Major.

Participating properties must be located within the City of Sydney and helpers must be able to frequently monitor the traps to ensure humane conditions for any captured birds. The Museum will then collect and euthanase the birds before extracting tissue samples which it will hold in its long-term frozen tissue storage facility. DNA samples will then be taken from the extracted tissues and analysed at the Australian Museum Research Institute.

Ultimately, this research will shed light on the invasion pathways of one of Australia’s least-liked species, as well as help determine strategies for its long-term management.

Potential volunteers should contact Dr. Richard Major by email at myna@austmus.gov.au