story | Chee Chi Chi
photo | besgroup.blogspot.sg
YALE-NUS COLLEGE — A study published yesterday by prominent local ornithologists reported that up to 42% of junior and senior students in Yale-NUS College can be classified as members of the species Acridotheres tristis, otherwise known as the common mynah.
The two-year-long study was performed by a team of local wildlife zoologists led by Arthur Whitburn, Professor of Southeast Asian Ornithology at Yale-NUS College. Prof. Whitburn is confident that his team has correctly identified 137 third- and fourth-year students as avians belonging to the starling family Sturnidae.
“It was obvious that these students were common mynahs when we noticed a number of distinctive behavioural traits,” explained Prof. Whitburn. “For instance, we observed that the students in question often roost together in groups of four to six individuals, and tend to congregate in large flocks. We have identified three large, distinct, and vertical populations of such roosting flocks, which we noticed produce a cacophony of cries and calls after dark.”
Another distinguishing feature of the common mynah, said Prof. Whitburn, is its ability to thrive in an urban environment. “These omnivorous scavengers have clearly adapted to the collegiate ecosystem,” said Prof. Whitburn, citing an anecdotal example he witnessed while monitoring a half-consumed buffet spread. “An individual was hovering around it for some time, and after sending out a message to its brethren, an entire flock of perhaps twenty individuals descended on the half-eaten food and picked it apart to the bone.”
“It was quite a chilling sight,” he added.
The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) considers the mynah to be an invasive species, and, in light of the results published by Prof. Whitburn and his team, has promised to monitor the College’s population of these pests. “We have captured and tagged a sample and are keeping tabs on their numbers,” said AVA spokesperson Joyce Chan. “We prefer not to interfere unless the students cause a public nuisance, in which case we might have to step in and start culling them until their population is manageable again.”
Prof. Whitburn’s study has also identified other avian species among the student body, such as antisocial ostriches who permanently have their heads buried in a book, and the bright songbirds who sing cheerfully as they flap their way between the school’s corridors.
When asked what his next research would focus on, Prof. Whitburn said that his team was having trouble classifying the species of student who never volunteers original opinions in class and only repeats the statements of others. “We’re not sure if we should call them ‘parrots’ or ‘cocks’”, he admitted.