by Keren Setton
JERUSALEM, March 14 (Xinhua) -- Many native bird species in Israel are in rapid decline, some even in danger of extinction possibly due to the spread of Myna birds, according to a leading wildlife ecologist in the country.
Dr. Motti Charter, a lecturer from the Shamir Research Institute of Research at the University of Haifa, said that some bird species have bred almost 80 percent less since the Myna, a bird species from India, took over.
Considered one of the world's most invasive species, the Myna birds were brought to Israel in the late 1990s and were locked in a bird park in central Israel before escaping or being released around the year 2000.
Since then the birds have thrived everywhere. They first appeared in cities and then started to spread to non-urban areas including desert areas. Charter believes there are approximately one million such birds in Israel right now.
At the same time, several pieces of research show that there is a consistent decline in local bird populations. Sparrows and other songbirds are disappearing from the Israeli landscape.
"The native birds have not evolved in a way that gives them the knowhow to deal with the myna," Charter told Xinhua. "In places where myna is breeding in nest sites, the other birds do not have a place to breed."
Charter said while his conclusion is that the myna population has increased greatly at the expense of local bird populations, he cannot rule out other reasons for this decline.
Around the world, myna birds are grown as domestic pets. They have the uncanny ability to mimic human speech and reproduce rapidly.
For now, the human population in Israel feels a minimal effect on their lives. However, the ecosystem is changing and some species may completely vanish locally.
"Without wildlife, everything will be affected -- our world and the way we live," said Charter. "Unfortunately, not enough is being done."
In addition, myna birds like to eat fruit and other moist foods. This poses a looming threat to agriculture. "Very dramatic changes can happen and we must try to do something," he added.
Australia, for example, has undertaken a major effort to counter the myna bird infestation. Community trapping programs have managed to make a dent in the aggressive bird population in certain areas.
"There is a need for a massive investment of time, money and work," Charter said.
Israel's Nature and Parks Authority has allowed for trapping and dilution of the population, including the targeting of their nesting areas, but the results of those efforts have so far been unsatisfactory. ■