Grey Heron preying on a Blue-eared Kingfisher.

Contributed by Connie Khoo.

The Grey Heron, Ardea cinerea, is a common waterbird around the disused mining ponds and wetlands in Perak. Large breeding colonies of up to fifty pairs can be found on trees at these wetlands all over the state.

An online search shows that they feed mainly on fish and live aquatic animals like reptiles, amphibians, molluscs, crustaceans and insects. As a carnivore, they are one of the top predator among waterbirds. They are often see stalking or standing still at freshwater ponds, lakes, rivers, marshlands and sea coast foraging for food.

There were records of them taking juvenile ducks, rails, small birds and mammals.

The Wetlands at Kinta Nature Park.

But it still came as a surprise to us when my friend Wan Tian Seng, a new birder photographed a Grey Heron with a dead Blue-eared Kingfisher, Alcedo meninting, in its beak at a fresh water pond at the KINTA NATURE PARK at Batu Gajah, Perak, on 11 August 2020. The Blue-eared Kingfisher is a resident forest kingfisher commonly seen around the wetlands here.

He first saw the Grey Heron probing and digging under the water and later coming out with the kingfisher. How the kingfisher got in the water was a mystery. If it is a juvenile it may have fallen in during its first flight as they have been known to be breeding here. But this looks like an adult bird. Could it be that the Grey Heron was nearby watching the kingfisher diving for fish or leaving its nest and waited for this successful strike? He did not get to see the Grey Heron swallowing the kingfisher.

Grey Heron with the dead Blue-eared Kingfisher in its beak at the KNP fresh water pond.

The Grey Heron was seen flicking the Blue-eared Kingfisher by its neck. From the photo, the kingfisher appeared limped and dead. It neck must have been broken or it had suffocated.

Nature can be cruel from our perspective. The sight of a small colourful kingfisher being killed looks gruesome. But in the animal world it is always the survival of the fittest and strongest. Records like these just help us to understand our ecosystem and bird ecology better.

The Common Buzzard conundrum for Singapore gone full circle?

Field Guides compare

In the earlier days, popular bird publications such as field guidebooks treat the Buteo buzzards occurring in Singapore simply as Common Buzzard Buteo buteo.

Three publications do not list any subspecies:

  1. Birds of Singapore (Lim & Gardner, 1997)
  2. Birds of West Malaysia & Singapore (Jeyarajasingam, 1999)
  3. Annotated Checklist of the Birds of Singapore (Wang & Hails, 2007)

Birds of Thai-Malay Peninsula vol 1 (Wells, 1999) and Birds of Southeast Asia (Robson, 2000) also treated these buzzards as Common Buzzard Buteo buteo, listing vulpinus and japonicus as the subspecies. The Avifauna of Singapore (Lim, 2009) treated these buzzards as Common Buzzard Buteo buteo, listing japonicus as the subspecies for Singapore.

Now, for the splits.

Birds of Southeast Asia, 2nd edition (Robson, 2008) split the buzzards into two species:

  1. The Common Buzzard Buteo buteo, with vulpinus as the subspecies occurring in Southeast Asia.
  2. The east Asian population as Himalayan Buzzard Buteo burmanicus, as the other species occurring in Southeast Asia.

Birds of Singapore (Yong, et al, 2013) also split the buzzards into two species, but in a different manner:

  1. The Common Buzzard Buteo buteo, with vulpinus as the subspecies occurring in Singapore.
  2. The east Asian population is given a different treatment, as Eastern Buzzard Buteo japonicus, as the other species occurring in Singapore.

Confused?

No worries, Birds of the Indonesian Archipelago (Eaton, et al, 2016) lumped the buzzards back into Buteo buteo, using the name Eurasian Buzzard. They listed vulpinus, refectus & burmanicus as the subspecies occurring in Southeast Asia, commenting that “Species taxonomy confused, but substantial overlap in morphological characters and extremely limited mtDNA divergence advocate subspecific status of these allopatric breeding forms.”

DSC_4310-Common-Buzzard-600

A Common Buzzard perched on a lamp post at Changi.

A Failed Nesting of Malayan Pied Fantail.

A Failed Nesting of Malaysian Pied Fantail at Chua Chu Kang Park.

By Joesph Lim.

The Malaysian Pied FantailRhipidura javanica, a commom resident is the only fantail family in Singapore. They can be found mostly in the mangroves in Singapore as well as in places near the waters. The parent birds gathered plant materials like fibers and shaped them into a small cup with spider webs . Most nests are built at eye level and on the fork of some thin branches. Below is a brief recent account of a failed nesting at Chua Chu Kang Park.

On 23 July 2020, I was doing some birding when I first noticed a few of fantails actively flying up and down on the branches of some short 2 m trees Upon closer inspection, I found a cup shaped nest above my eye level and realized that it was a bird nest. The conical shaped nest was about 15 cm wide, built on the fork of several thin branches. It looked quite solidly constructed with twigs, leaves, fibers weaved and bound together by spider webs.  (See plate 1)

( Plate 1 showing a well-built nest built on forks of branches at slightly above eye level )

I tiptoed around to have a closer look at the nest but without success. I then took out my handphone and held it over my head to take some pictures of the nest. I was pleasantly surprised to see two eggs in it. They were slightly bigger than an M&M’s chocolate egg. (See plate 2)

( Plate 2 showing a close up shot of the nest with 2 eggs)

 About a week later I went back to check on the nest again and found that it was still there with the two eggs inside. This time I hid behind the trees with a bridge camera and waited motionlessly to photograph the parents. They were reluctant to come down at first, but after some patient waiting they did return to nest. I was able to capture some shots of the parents sitting and incubating the eggs. (See plate 3)

( Plate 3 showing a shot of a parent warming the eggs)

About three days later on 5 August, I got an alert from my friend that the nest had been destroyed. I went back on 7 August and to my disappointment I found that the branches holding the nest were bent, the nest was detached and turned upside down. The nest seemed to have been pulled down by some force. There were no signs of the parent birds or the eggs.

( Plate 4 showing destroyed nest turned upside down)

There could be several reasons for this failure. Firstly, animals such as rats could have climbed the branches and ravaged the nest like many cases reported in New Zealand. There is also the likelihood of domesticated cats and dogs disturbing the nests, but this possibility is quite low as I have not seen such incidents here at this park before. The bad weather might be a possible cause but there haven’t been much heavy rains or strong winds except for some showers.

The most probable cause of such a failed nest can be due to interference by park goers since this is a busy park with high human traffic. With the nest so accessible, some curious people might have pulled down the nest wanting to see the eggs or the chicks but unwittingly destroyed the nest instead.

References:

1.’Successful nesting of the Malaysian Pied Fantails at Pasir Ris Park’ , Singapore Bird Group, by Seng Alvin, 25 May 2015.

A Casual Bird Count on Lazarus Island

– A Casual Bird Count on Lazarus island-

 By Lim K H Joseph and Avadi L Parimalam

An Aerial photograph of Lazarus Island as well as the other two nearby islands-St. John’s island and Kusu Island. ( Taken from Handlinefishing.com)

On 30 July 2020.

For a change of scenery, I decided to made a trip to Lazarus Island to check out the birds and wildlife there. I met up with fellow bird photographer Avadi Parimalam at the Marina South Pier for the scheduled 10 am ferry to St. Johns Island. After a breezy 40 minutes ride across the port waters, we stepped ashore via the jetty and walked over to Lazarus Island via a breakwater “link-bridge” to explore the island.

A White-bellied Sea Eagle with a catch of a small fish. Two were spotted close to the breakwaters.

A well paved concrete walk path circled the island making it easy for us to move around the island. The coastal forest in the middle of the island consist mainly of low lying small trees most of which are less than 5 metres tall. This made it easy for us to find and see the birds.

A Brahminy Kite circling the skies at the beach.

We did a casual bird count to find out what birds we can see on this small island. We recorded a total of 17 species, two of which were migrants, including a wader, the Common Sandpiper. The most numerous numbering 20 each were the Pacific and Barn Swallows, which is one of the earliest migrants. The two expected resident raptors, Brahminy Kite and White-bellied Sea Eagles were gliding in the skies with the help of the thermals. We were glad to find two Oriental Magpie Robins enjoying the island life here. The rest were the usual common garden species we see on the mainland. These are some of the birds taken here during the trip.

A juvenile Magpie Robin foraging for food suggesting recent nesting on the island.

One interesting thought comes to mind. How did some of the birds get here in the first place as the main land is more than 6 km away? The presence of raptors and migrants do not come as a surprise as they are known to fly long distances. But for smaller birds like sunbirds and common Ioras, they are a bit of a puzzle.

A Paddyfield Pipit is quite a common sight on the island.

List of birds sighted below:

1. Common Myna : > 5

2. Javan Myna : > 5

3. Pacific Swallow : > 20

4. Barn Swallow (migrant) : > 20

5. Sunbird (likely brown throated) : > 5

6. Common Iora : > 5

7. Black naped Oriole: > 5

8. Collared Kingfisher: > 2

9. White-bellied Sea Eagle: > 2

10. Brahminy Kite : 1

11. Yellow vented Bulbul: > 10

12. Common Sandpiper ( migrant) : 1

13. Paddyfield Pipit : > 10

14. Little Tern : > 20

15. Savannah Nightjar : > 2

16. Spotted Dove : > 5

17. Oriental Magpie Robin : > 2

Singapore Raptor Report – Late Spring Migration, April-June 2020

Japanese Sparrowhawk, adult female, Baker Street, 4 April 2020, by Kelvin Leong

Summary:

Only five migrant raptor species were recorded in the April to June period as most of them had already left for their breeding grounds. There were ten records of the Oriental Honey Buzzard, nine in April and one in June; nine records of the Japanese Sparrowhawk in the first week of April; one Chinese Sparrowhawk in April; two Western Ospreys, one each in April and June, and one Peregrine Falcon in April. Fourteen unidentified Accipiters were on migration over Henderson Waves in early April.

Sedentary Raptors

For the resident raptors, the records of note were the two nestings of the White-bellied Sea Eagle, one at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve and the other at Fort Canning, where the eaglets, two on each nest, were already almost as big as their parents.

Two Crested Serpent Eagles were recorded at King Albert Park on 1st April, and one at Malcolm Road on 5th April. There was also a resident ernesti Peregrine Falcon at The Esplanade on 22nd June. The other resident raptors recorded were the Black-winged Kite, Brahminy Kite, Grey-headed Fish Eagle, Crested Goshawk, and Changeable Hawk-Eagle.


A family of Buffy Fish Owls, with the fledgling on left, Yishun, 22 Jun 2020, by Jackie Yeo

Nocturnal Raptors

There were breeding-related records for two species of owls. A family of Spotted Wood Owls comprising two adults and two chicks were spotted at Dover Road in the later part of June, with the chicks fledging on 25th June. Over the eastern side, at Pasir Ris Park, another family of Spotted Wood Owls with 1 fledgling was spotted on 25th June. And on 22nd June, a recently fledged Buffy Fish Owl and its parents were recorded at Yishun, next to a big drain.

For a pdf version with more details, please click the link below:

Many thanks to everyone for posting / sharing their records, and to Kelvin Leong and Jackie Yeo for the use of their photos.

Further notes on nesting and post-nesting observations of Olive-backed Sunbird ( Cinnyris jugularis).

File photo of a pair of Olive-backed Sunbirds nest building at Labrador NR,
By Alfred Chia
I wrote previously on my FB and Singapore Bird Group FB on the nesting of the Olive-backed Sunbird along the corridor of my house, see: https://www.facebook.com/540928362/posts/10158109695448363/?d=n &
https://www.facebook.com/540928362/posts/10158121932008363/?d=n andhttps://wp.me/p4VGho-56X
After the mysterious disappearance of the entire nest, I requested for information and feedback from readers of any similar experiences, since many will have experiences with nesting of the Olive-backed Sunbirds, it being a species that is very adaptable and will nest freely in close proximity to humans and its environs. Several readers responded and I am thankful to them.

Out of eleven readers who responded, one (众生云云) had the same post-breeding experience as me in having a whole nest disappear without any trace (no debris was found) while another (MeiLin Khoo) had a pre-breeding disappearance, also without trace.

Another (VirgoSG) had two nests disappearing with debris being left behind but it is unknown if these were pre or post-breeding disappearances.
Clara Tan responded that hers was most probably a case of predation by a Yellow-vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus goiavier), which had been observed eyeing the nest even during the nest-building phase. It subsequently tried to prey on the chick but was unsuccessful in the first instance. However, the entire nest, together with a week-old chick, went missing soon enough. There was also not a trace of debris. Alan Owyong also contributed by sharing that he had also seen a Yellow-vented Bulbul harassing a sunbird while it was nest-building while Weijie Liao witnessed a nest being destroyed by a House Crow (Corvus splendens).Puran Kaur also had a pair of Olive-backed Sunbirds nesting in her balcony. After the chicks fledged, the nest was however left intact with no action whatsoever from the sunbirds for more than two weeks.

Predation by a cat was shared by Ong PL (through Tracy Heng). Such predation is possible if the nest is low and within reach of the cat, even if it is on a tree. But predation by a cat would almost always result in a nest being destroyed entirely, with remnants of it being strewn around it.

Basanthi Seetoh, who have had the honour of having more than 30 nests in her balcony over 15 years shared her experiences that used nests maybe re-use after some repairs and touch-up by the sunbird (documented) or they may strip off some parts of the old nest to build another new nest nearby.

Yet another observation was made by Lim Khoon Hin of an uncompleted nest being strip apart by the sunbirds after it was hung back by the observer’s helper when it dropped due to strong winds. Every bit of debris that fell on the ground was cleared by both the male & female sunbird!
Finally, Chen Eddie shares an intriguing encounter of a sunbird stealing nesting material from another sunbird’s nest.

In summary, it remains a mystery how an entire sunbird’s nest can disappear without any trace. The distinct probability that it could have been predated and taken away whole by a predator such as a Yellow-vented Bulbul cannot be ruled out. It is also noted that several different actions may happen to the nest after the chicks are fledged: re-used, dismantling of bits of nest for possible use elsewhere or left as it is.

The various contributions by readers of their personal experiences are valuable and serves to add to our knowledge of a species of bird that may appear common to most of us but for which there are still gaps to be learned. So keep a lookout for future nesting of Olive-backed Sunbirds. You may well observe something new & intriguing!

Thanks are due to Alan Owyong, Basanthi Seetoh, Chen Eddie, Clara Tan, Lim Khoon Hin, MeiLin Khoo, Ong PL, Puran Kaur, Tracy Heng, VirgoSG, Weijie Liao & 众生云云.



Woodpecker and Gecko Predation.

A short summary of the Woodpecker and Gecko predation.

By Evan Landy.


Friday 3rd July.


I encountered a pair of feeding Common Flamebacks, Dinopium javanense, early in the morning at Changi Beach Park. One of the flamebacks shuffled up and down a tree looking for insects but the other was relentlessly drilling away at a small hole in the bark of a sea almond tree. Curious about this behaviour I watched closely and, after several minutes of hard drumming, the woodpecker prised out a small gecko. It took about a minute to subdue the reptile, bashing it against a tree branch in the same way a kingfisher does with a fish, and then swallowing it tail-end first. The literature suggests that flamebacks are primarily insectivorous so I was surprised to see it with a larger prey item as the gecko was approximately twice the length of its beak. Given their habit of drilling into trees it seems they are capable of taking larger prey items too when these opportunities arise. And for the bird watcher it was a useful reminder to always remain curious even whilst watching commonly seen species. 

The male Common Flameback swallowing the gecko tail first. Photo: Evan Landy.
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Didn’t Pray Enough!

By Seng Alvin with Alan OwYong.

Besides photos of birds in flight the next most desired photos are those with food in mouth. There is so much we can learn and help with their conservation from the different food and prey that they take.

I found several photos of birds feeding on Praying Mantis from my backyard at Pasir Ris Park. I was curious to find out a little more about the prey and the other species feed on it too.

I posted my photos of the Oriental Pied Hornbill and Yellow-vented Bulbul on the Bird Sightings FB page and invited fellow members to post theirs. I was pleasantly surprised with the response. A total of nine more species were added to my post.

Seng Alvin’s close up photo of the Oriental Pied Hornbill with a mantis praying and hanging on for its dear life.
Yellow-vented Bulbuls needing some proteins to supplement their fruit diet. Seng Alvin.

I dug up some facts on the Praying Mantis on the internet and found that it is one of the top predators in the insect kingdom. There are over 2,000 species in the world and they come in all colours. They needed this to blend in to the natural environment as they are mainly ambushed hunters. For example the green Praying Mantis will use the green foliage as camouflage and wait for insects, birds, frogs, snakes or lizards to come by before they snap their powerful forelegs out in split seconds to snatch their prey. There is a video of a Praying Mantis holding the mouth of a Changeable Lizard open and biting its lips off with its sharp teeth and strong jaws.

Menlolong” You can almost hear the praying mantis pleading for its life.

Looking at the list, many of the birds are generalist and opportunists. Not many are insectivorous. Their ability to pick out a well camouflaged praying mantis staying motionless on a leaf or tree trunk is nothing short of amazing. Maybe the larger size of the praying mantis helped. Once spotted, all the “praying” will not help. Arboreal foragers like the Greater Racket Drongo, Pied Triiler, Black-naped Oriole, Chestnut-breasted Malkoha and the Common Iora must have inherited the skill of hunting for this particular prey from their parents when they were young.

Insects like the Praying Mantis form a big part of the diet of this nationally near- threatened Chestnut-breasted Malkoha. Photo: Evelyn Lee.
Male Pied Triller showing off its catch. Photo: Hearn Robin.
A praying mantis playing dead hoping and praying that the Greater Racket-tailed Drongo will pass it up. Photo: Lee Chin Pong.
The Common Iora sensibly chose a smaller praying mantis for its meal. Photo: Ros Qian.
Seah Kok Meng’s “Lo Hei ” shot of a Oriental Pied Hornbill tossing a praying mantis. It was still “praying ” hard seconds before being swallowed.

The Collared Kingfishers have moved inland from the coastal areas and have adapted to a new diet that includes the Praying Mantis.

Collared Kingfishers have adapted to life away from the Mangroves. Photo: Norhafiani A. Majid
Victor Tan’s image of the darling Collared Kingfisher chick being fed with a juicy mantis meal.

Even birds like the Long-tailed Shrikes were not choosy when it comes to feeding their chicks. If there are no centipedes around, a praying mantis will do nicely.

Long-tailed Shrike’s favorite food for its young included centipedes but a change of taste was just as welcomed too. Photo: Norhafiani A. Majid.

This unlucky Praying Mantis was at the wrong place at the wrong time even though the Malaysian Night Heron’s preferred food are the earthworms and skinks.

This praying mantis must have dropped to the ground much to the delight of this Malaysian Night Heron. Photo: Hearn Robin

Most raptors besides the Oriental Honey Buzzards take fish, birds and mammals. The Black Baza is an exception as large insects like the Praying Mantis and grasshoppers form the bulk of their diet.

Herman Phua excellent capture of a Black Baza enjoying its favourite snack.

From the diversity of the species, it would seem that the Praying Mantis form a good part of the diet of these birds. Maybe except for seed eaters and those without the proper bills, we can assume that many birds will not pass up a meal of the “Kung Fu Killer” of the insect world.

Yellow-vented Bulbul would not passed up a praying mantis meal even though they are mainly frugivorous. Photo: Agnes Chua.

We wish to thank all our friends for their contribution and the use of their photos.

Report on the 35th Annual Bird Census

Report on the 35th Annual Bird Census

By Lim Kim Seng

Asian Openbill 4

Five Asian Openbill Storks foraging at Kranji Marshes. Photo: Lim Kim Chuah.

The 35th Annual Bird Census (ABC) was conducted on 29th March 2020 just before the nation-wide “circuit breaker” kicked in. Organized by the NSS Bird Group, it saw the involvement of 39 members and volunteers at 26 sites all around Singapore. This is an improvement from last year when 39 counters covered 20 sites. Altogether, ABC 2020 logged a total of 6,342 birds and 147 species, an overall increase from 2019’s 5,496 birds and 143 species. This could be due to more sites been counted in 2020 as compared to 2019.

So what’s Singapore most abundant bird? If you are guessing Javan Myna, you’re wrong! It is the Asian Glossy Starling which scored 847 birds to beat Javan Myna, with 737 birds, into second place. Third was Pink-necked Green Pigeon (358), followed by a resurgent House Crow (256) and Yellow-vented Bulbul (250). The rest of the Top Ten species are Little Egret (186), Common Redshank (170), Black-naped Oriole (164), Spotted Dove (152) and the nationally threatened Grey Heron (149).

Last year’s fifth placing Pacific Golden Plover came in at 11th with 136 birds, down from 198 in 2020. In 12th position was Collared Kingfisher (124), followed by Olive-backed Sunbird (113), Olive-winged Bulbul (108), Pin-striped Tit-babbler (107), Common Iora (103), Rock Dove (101) and the globally near-threatened Long-tailed Parakeet (100). In 19th place was the Asian Openbill (98) that only invaded Singapore in huge numbers in late 2019. In 20th place was the ever-increasing introduced Red-breasted Parakeet (80).

The Top Twenty Species of 2020 are provided below:

20200526_145928

What about the sites? The most species diverse sites were Kranji Marshes with 70 species. The mixed habitats of marshland, grassland and open woodland provided at Kranji for a high biodiversity. Coming a distant second was Sungei Buloh Route 2 which had 56 species and third was Kranji Dam, with 47 species. The least species diverse sites were Lower Seletar Dam (27), followed by Chinese Garden, Mount Faber and Pasir Ris Park, all with 28 species.

20200526_145438

How about numbers? Well, the sites with the most number of birds counted were Sungei Buloh Route 1 with 495 birds counted followed by Sungei Buloh Route 2 (460) and Kranji Marshes (456). The sites with the least number of birds were Lower Peirce Reservoir with 80 birds, followed by Sime Track, Central Catchment Nature Reserve (130) and Bukit Batok Nature Park (137).

20200526_145503

Rare and interesting migratory species found during ABC2020 included Peregrine Falcon, Grey Plover, Drongo Cuckoo, Indian Cuckoo, Blue-winged Pitta, Red-rumped Swallow, Yellow-browed Warbler. Eastern Crowned Warbler and Black-browed Reed Warbler. Globally threatened species included Lesser Adjutant (2 birds at Mandai Estuary), Straw-headed Bulbul (national count of 77 birds) and Greater Green Leafbird (2).

Nationally threatened specialties included Little Grebe (2 birds), Great-billed Heron (5), Changeable Hawk Eagle (9), Red-wattled Lapwing (11), Rusty-breasted Cuckoo (3), Mangrove Pitta (2 birds on Pulau Ubin), Asian Red-eyed Bulbul (7), Chestnut-winged Babbler (2), Oriental Magpie-robin (30) and White-rumped Shama (18)

This census would not have been possible if not for the counters who braved the elements and helped us to complete our 35th year of census. So, our grateful thanks to 39 volunteers.

Alan OwYong KP Teh Sin Yong Chee Keita
Alfred Chia Lee Bee Yong Steven Shields
Andrew Chow Leung Wei Kee Susan Knight
Atsuko Kawasaki Lim Kim Chuah Tan Kok Hui
Betty Shaw Lim Kim Keang Terry Heppell
Con Foley Martin Kennewell Twang Fangqi
Ding Li Yong Morten Strange Veronica Foo
Erika, Michelle Movin Nyanasengeran Willie Foo
Esther Kong MY Chan Wing Chong
Eunice Kong Nessie Khoo Yan Jiejun
Jane Heppell Ng Bee Choo Yap Wee Jin
John Spencer Ng Chay Tuan Yap Wee Jin
Kim Seng Lim Seng Beng Yeo Yong Yik Shih

Hope to see all of you again in 2021!

Birds Species Detectability in a HDB Heartland

Bird Species Detectability in a HDB Heartland

By Lim Kim Seng (ibisbill@yahoo.com)

Fig 2-1

Javan Myna, a joint Top Most Detectable Species With Rock Dove and Asian Glossy Starling. Photo © Lim Kim Seng

 Introduction

This is a continuation of my studies of birds outside my balcony window in a HDB heartland called Woodlands. In the previous study, I found out that my one-hectare HDB neighbourhood actually has a decent diversity of birds – 36 species seen or heard over 40 days. What I wanted to do in this particular study is to find out what species are the most regularly seen or heard. In other words, what bird species are present virtually every day? What are our most common birds in HDB heartland? What are the rarest?

Methodology

To find out the most common birds in my neighbourhood, I resorted to a simple method or recording “presence”“ or “absence”, based on my observations by sight or sound of birds outside my balcony and study windows. I also added species that I saw on my regular trips to the wet market and supermarket to buy groceries. I kept a list of species in a notebook from April 4th to May 16th, a total of 40 days. I tried to keep watch of a total duration of an hour a day, aided by my 8×30 binoculars and my 65x zoom bridge camera.

Detectability and “Common-ness”

Over 40 days, 36 bird species were recorded. The results for the Ten Most Common or “Detectable” Species included three that were ever present – Asian Glossy Starling, Javan Myna and Common Pigeon.  These species were most often seen utilizing man-made structures such as rooftops, TV aerials as well as on trees and different ground surfaces. It should come as no surprise that two of these were introduced to Singapore.

Joint fourth was the Brown-throated Sunbird. This was a surprise as I had expected the ubiquitous Olive-backed Sunbird to be the winner. The former came to a tree outside my balcony almost every day to perform its chiffchaff-like song, especially at dawn. I think it is just one or two pairs that exist in my neighbourhood but they are very noticeable when they call. The other species was Swinhoe’s White-eye, another dawn singer in my tree and also present almost daily with a variety of chirps that made them instantly recognizable. I missed both only on one day each.

The rest of the Top Ten included Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot, one of four parrots recorded, Black-naped Oriole, Pacific Swallow, Spotted Dove, Red-breasted Parakeet and either Germain’s or Black-nest Swiftlet.

The Eleventh to Twentieth positions also include some very familiar “garden birds” such as Asian Koel, House crow, Yellow-vented Bulbul and Olive-backed Sunbird as well as newly colonizing species such as Little Bronze Cuckoo. The complete list is in Appendix 1.

Perhaps, as our HDB heartlands and urban spaces are landscaped with plants that attract wildlife and as urban green spaces become more heterogeneous, these and other species will invade more urban areas in Singapore in the future. In addition, balconies in more favorable surroundings like parklands, wetlands, coasts or forests should show a richer and more diverse birdlife than my neighbourhood.

Recommendations and Conclusion

Even though this was a one-off study at just one site, I hope that it gives us an idea of what our most common birds of urban Singapore is, and how such studies can be done very easily with a minimum of fuss. More detailed studies could perhaps be made on why these species are so highly successful at colonizing man-made habitats compared to others.

 Appendix 1

Full List of Birds Detected at Woodlands Study Site, April 4th to May 16th, 2020 (Numbers in brackets next to the species indicates the number of days they were detected.)

1            Asian Glossy Starling  Aplonis panayensis (40)

2            Rock Dove Columba livia (40)

3            Javan Myna Acridotheres javanicus (40)

4            Brown-throated Sunbird Anthreptes malacensis               (39)

5            Swinhoe’s White-eye Zosterops simplex               (39)

6            Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot Loriculus galgulus (33)

7            Black-naped Oriole Oriolus chinensis (32)

8            Pacific Swallow Hirundo tahitica (31)

9            Spotted Dove Spilopelia chinensis (31)

10          Red-breasted Parakeet  Psittacula alexandri (25)

11          Swiftlet sp. Aerodramus sp. (25)

12          Olive-backed Sunbird Cinnyris jugularis (24)

13          Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker Dicaeum cruentatum (23)

14          Pied Triller Lalage nigra (20)

15          Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker Yungipicus moluccensis (17)

16          Asian Koel Eudynamys scolopacea  (16)

17          Yellow-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus goiavier (15)

18          House Crow Corvus splendens (14)

19          Little Bronze Cuckoo Chrysococcyx minutillus (14)

20          Rose-ringed Parakeet Psittacula krameri  (14)

21          Pink-necked Green Pigeon Treron vernans (13)

22          Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus  (11)

23          Zebra Dove Geopelia striata (7)

24          Common Hill Myna Gracula religiosa (4)

25          Savanna Nightjar Caprimulgus affinis (4)

26          Blue-throated Bee-eater Merops viridis (3)

27          Scaly-breasted Munia Lonchura punctulata (3)

28          Arctic Warbler Phylloscopus borealis (2)

29          Common Myna Acridotheres tristis (2)

30          Golden-bellied Gerygone Gerygone sulphurea (2)

31          Long-tailed Parakeet Psittacula longicauda (2)

32          Brahminy Kite Haliastur indus  (1)

33          Collared Kingfisher Todiramphus chloris (1)

34          Crested Goshawk Accipiter trivirgatus (1)

35          Pied Imperial Pigeon Ducula bicolor (1)

36          White-bellied Sea Eagle Haliaeetus leucogaster (1)

Fig 2-2

Spotted Dove and Asian Glossy Starlings seen from my balcony. Photo © Lim Kim Seng