“When M. Girardin visited his friend M. Thirel in Paris, he was astonished to hear a starling utter a dozen consecutive sentences with an intonation indistinguishable from a French aristocrat. When the bell rang for mass, the same bird called to its mistress by name, ‘Mademoiselle, are you going to mass? Take your books and return quickly, and give your naughty bird something to eat” (Weil 60). Mynah birds, starlings, budgerigars and parrots are all extraordinary mimics capable of repeating just about anything. As with any pet, there is a lot of information a potential owner has to learn—and these birds are not always easy to obtain. They have an almost effortless ability to repeat what they hear, however, making them a fine choice for the person who wants a truly exotic and intelligent pet.
The Mynah bird is actually a member of the general family of the starling. It has origins in Asian countries, including Malaysia, Borneo, Sumatra, Java and Indo-China (Hill 1). At least ten different species of this remarkable bird are known so far.
“Mynah birds do not have to be taught to talk; they are natural mimics” (Weil 61). With careful and patient training, they can be taught to imitate a multitude of voices, sounds and phrases. They can out-talk any other bird; a bird with enough training can build a vocabulary of hundreds of words and sayings. But owners shouldn’t expect their Mynah to just sit around in its cage and start speaking on its own. Training is vital; use a quiet room. If the room isn’t silent, the bird may instead begin doing impressions of objects around the house, like a cuckoo clock. Additionally, the Mynah’s age is important: After it’s a year old, it will be much more difficult to train.
“Mynah birds will imitate anything they hear fairly regularly. Therefore, if you don’t want your bird to become a catch-all of household sounds, you must control its auditory environment during the decisive learning period from six months to a year. The bird will imitate what it hears—and if it hears something often enough, you can be fairly sure that it will become part of its repertoire. For instance, a Mynah bird that is trained by a child will soon come to imitate the child’s voice” (Weil 60). Mynahs are quite entertaining when they learn to talk, but can talk nineteen to the dozen—and quite loudly, too—if they are not controlled. Remember, they may also pick up background noises and voices of other people, so disciplining the bird is essential.
The talkative birds are faced with the threat of extinction because of many different reasons, but the importing of Mynahs has been slowed by recent legal restrictions. People have been working at changing their endangered status by helping them to reproduce, however, and chances are that, over time, the Mynah bird population will increase. The hope is that these amusing little birds will be around for many more years. If so, many more generations of people will be able to teach their Mynah, when it gets hungry, to utter the words, “Give your naughty bird something to eat.”