Noisy Miners: A Native Nuisance?

Noisy Miners are an Australian native honeyeater that can cause quite a ruckus in your garden with their noisy calls. They feed mainly on nectar, fruits and insects, and live in areas of woodland, open forest and on habitat edges. They are often confused with the Common or Indian Myna which is an introduced species belonging to the starling family.

Common Myna
Photo by R Major, Australian Museum
Noisy Miner
Photo by R Major, Australian Museum

So why on earth are these Australian native birds listed alongside Climate Change, weeds, feral animals and plastic debris as a Key Threatening Process by the Office of Environment and Heritage?     

It’s because they’re bullies.

Noisy Miners are bold and will aggressively attack and chase away other birds, even those larger than themselves like Hawks and Kookaburras. They’ve even been known to evict possums from tree hollows. Their attacks can be so aggressive that many other birds are excluded from forest and woodland habitat where Noisy Miners are abundant. A range of bird species are currently being affected by increasing numbers of Noisy Miners, including 15 bird species listed as threatened.

But that’s not the whole story.

In undisturbed environments, Noisy Miners exist in balance with other birds. They are not true villains, they’re just being their obnoxious selves. The real problem is that humans have disturbed the environment through urbanisation and fragmentation of forests. Urban areas dominated by parks, sports grounds, backyards and golf courses have resulted in an environment with lots of tall trees, grass and not many understory shrubs. Noisy Miners thrive in these open environments resulting in their numbers increasing significantly. This in turn causes bird diversity to plummet as more and more bird species are chased out of suitable habitat, leaving them without a safe place to forage and breed.

The good news is that we can help stop the effect of these birds simply by planting native plants in our gardens. Planting native shrubs in particular will create understory that discourages Noisy Miners and provides other birds with habitat and a place to escape attacks. Even in gardens where Noisy Miners are abundant, smaller birds can survive if provided with enough dense vegetation.

Native Garden
Native Gardens

Gardening tips to discourage Noisy Miners and increase your bird diversity:

  • Create a garden with different layers. Plant a mix of ground covers, small and medium sized shrubs and a few trees. Noisy miners show a preference for foraging on the ground where the grass is short and avoid areas with long grasses and shrubs.
  • Don’t plant shrubs too far apart. Small birds like a dense thicket to hide in.
  • Plant a variety of nectar-bearing, fruit and seed-bearing plants to attract a variety of different birds.
  • Plant natives that can provide food sources at different times of the year. You don’t want a flush of flowers all at once and nothing for the rest of the year.
  • Prune your natives to promote dense foliage so they provide more cover for birds.

Plants to get you started

Spiky plants that provide protection-

  • Hakea serica
  • Bursaria spinosa
  • Banksia ericifolia

Banksia ericifolia
Correa ‘Dusky Bells’
Grevillea rosmarinifolia – Rosemary Grevillea
Baeckea virgata

Grasses that provide nesting material and seeds-

  • Poa labillardieri

By creating a native understory, you’re not just discouraging Noisy Miners, you are also increasing local biodiversity and helping build sustainable ecosystems.

“It’s surely our responsibility to do everything in our power to create a planet that provides a home, not just for us, but for all life on earth.”

-Sir David Attenborough, 2016.