The Scraggly Myna

I was fumbling with my change purse in a food kiosk on the campus of the University of Lowai‘i at Manoa …

What was that? The University of Hawai‘i, you say? Haven’t been following the news lately, eh …?

As I was saying. I was fumbling with my change purse in a food kiosk on campus, and I almost stepped on this bird. I mean, really. One second, I’m standing on bare concrete, and the next there’s a feathered creature right directly under foot. The myna, for a myna it was, must have mistaken my coin purse for a packet of potato chips, and was ready to take any risk, the better to seize the packet or anything that fell from it.

Moths might possibly have been good for the bird’s digestion, but I doubt that the pennies that made up the entire content of the purse (not counting the moths) would have been.

I stooped to take a closer look. At the bird – I had exhausted the possibilities of the purse. It wasn’t hard; the bird wouldn’t let me touch it, but it refused to go off more than a few feet. After all, I still had that packet of potato chips purse in my hand. In fact, while I was watching, it disgorged a small palm fruit from its crop and threw it on the ground.

“See? See?!? You go around eating potato chips, while I have to try to survive on nuts and berries. Now are you going to give me one of those chips, or not?”

The myna’s eye was cocked in a way that made it look hyper, even crazed. The bird’s feathers were unkempt, the ones on the top of its head appearing to stand on end; almost, an avian Mohawk hairdo featherdo. The back of the bird’s neck had no feathers at all – one reason why the head feathers were so obvious. The biggest toe on its left foot was crooked and swollen. A sign perhaps that the bird suffered from avian malaria, a disease that, like its vector mosquito and indeed, its myna host, were unknown in Hawai‘i before the coming of the haoles.

Or, perhaps, a sign that the bird was suffering from malnutrition. After all, the kiosk contained vending machines that spewed out the usual assortment of refined sugars, starches, and oils. Like all the others on campus, each one with its contingent of mynas, pigeons, doves, sparrows, and cardinals prepared to pass on cockroaches and palm fruits in favor of Doritos, Sun Chips, and Pop Tarts.

I remembered a house sparrow I had seen some years ago, at a McDonalds in Seattle, Washington. A sparrow that was addicted to French fries and would filch all it could grab from people or rubbish bins. The grease on the bird’s feathers was so thick, I was amazed it could fly. In fact, I feared that the bird would spontaneously combust if the nearly-everpresent Seattle rain stopped and the sun came out.

I remembered an article by Jared Diamond, claiming that agriculture was humanity’s worst mistake. Because it traded the good nutrition of the hunter-gatherer lifestyle for the empty calories of single-species crop farming.

Or kiosk vending.

The scraggly myna didn’t get any potato chips. I left the kiosk wondering what the hell I was doing getting any. Not to mention thousands of what, it says here, are the best and brightest of the young adults of Hawai‘i.

  – O Ceallaigh
Copyright © 2009 Felloffatruck Publications. All wrongs deplored.
All opinions are mine as a private citizen.



    the bird you saw is a good example of why not to feed the birds

    but everybody feels bad for the birds
    not because they have bad manners and beg
    but because people routinely assign human qualities to animals
    (he likes it! hey mikey!)
    people don’t realise that for birds and animals
    begging and dumpster diving is easier
    but not healthier
    it makes foraging a thing of the past for a bird
    and to think a bird was put on this earth
    with everything he needs to get along in life
    he needs no help from people
    but people think he needs their help

    and thats so sad

  2. That’s it. I am going to start putting more fruits and vegetables in your lunches. You can feed them to the birds when you go out to get your potato chips.

  3. The parks and zoos in WV were full of this information when we visited this summer; basically begging people not to feed animals the same crap we eat.

    Makes you think…
    (and want a quarter pounder if you’re me, but…)

  4. Great story, but I can’t help wondering how many of us would be here to enjoy the good health Diamond’s advice would have blessed us with.

    • Well, Doug, there’s a reason why Diamond had to voyage to the Kalahari Desert and the jungles of Papua New Guinea to study bands of hunter-gatherers. Clearly, prehistoric humans understood the principle of cannon fodder; doesn’t matter how healthy they are so long as they can carry a club, and outnumber the other guys with clubs. Plus ça change …

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