The Varied Diet of the Chestnut-bellied Malkoha Chick.

The Varied Diet of the Chestnut-bellied Malkoha Chick.

Compiled by Seng Alvin.

Seng Alvin

Seng Alvin’s photo showing the parent bringing back a grasshopper.

Between 1996 and 2005, the Chestnut-bellied Malkoha, Phaenicophaeus sumatranus, had not been recorded outside the Central Catchment Forest, Bukit Timah Nature Reserves or Nee Soon Swamp Forest, based on the Annual Bird Census findings. The highest number recorded for each year were six birds, the lowest one and the total of thirty birds for the ten years. These data confirmed that they were not common and were forest specific although they were seen foraging at forest edges at Mandai Lake Road, Bukit Batok Nature Park and Bukit Brown. It is listed as nationally near threatened (Lim 1992). Their population trend since 2001 was declining which was not surprising for a bird of this size.

Art Toh 2Chen Boon Chong 2

The Praying Mantis is their favourite prey either because of its abundance at the park or an easy catch. Photos Top: Art Toh, Bottom Chen Boon Chong.

Chee Wei-lin Praying Mantis

Chee Wei-lin’s full portrait of the parent with another Praying Mantis.

Isabella Lee 2 PMGeoff Lim

More Praying Mantis prey. Photos Top: Isabella Lee, Bottom: Geoff Lim.

The first sign of their spread outside of the central forests was the presence of a pair at the Western Catchment Forest on 28 October 2006. This may be due to strays from outside Singapore. They have also been recorded as far south as Kent Ridge Park on a few occasions. How much park connectors play in this movement has yet to be studied. Historically, dead specimens were collected from Kranji River, Jurong, Seletar, Sungei Sembawang and Ulu Pandan.

Fat and juicy caterpillars of the largest moth in the world, the Atlas Moth. Photos: Left Esther Ong, Top Right: Edwin Choy, Bottom Right: Calinda Yap.

The most visible nesting records in the past were from the old Mandai Orchid Gardens and along the Mandai Lake Road the early 2000s, followed by one outside the Bukit Timah NR Visitor Centre.

The recent nesting records at Jurong Eco Gardens were a good sign that they are adapting well to nature parks that are close to denser forests, in this case the Western Catchment Forest.

Tan Eng Boo Long Horn Grasshopper

A Katydid prey identified by its long antennae. Photo by Tan Eng Boo.

Early this week, a pair of Chestnut-bellied Malkohas nested in the gardens again. We were concerned about the chances of success as the nest was next to a walking path. But they were able to adapt and brought up one chick successfully, overcoming a mass school running event a few days before fledging.

Chen Boon Chong

One of the smallest prey, a spider. Photo by Chen Boon Chong.

Seng Alvin saw the value of the many closed up images of the parents bringing back food for the chick for a study of their diet. From the many closed up photographs that he managed to compile, the Praying Mantis was their favourite prey, followed by the Atlas Moth caterpillars. It may be a case of the abundance of these two insects at the time. Other insects brought back included Katydid, a spider and large grasshoppers. All these are sizable prey and are rich in proteins, allowing the chick to fledge in the shortest time possible. We hope that such information will help park planning if we want to keep species like this near threatened Malkoha expands across to all our green spaces islandwide.


A large grasshopper like this will keep the chick full for a while.

We are grateful to Lena Chow for the identity of the insects and prey. Many thanks to Art Toh, Calinda Yap, Chee Wei-Lin, Chen Boon Chong, Edwin Choy, Esther Ong, Geoff Lim, Isabella Lee, Tan Eng Boo, Seng Alvin and Alan OwYong for the use of the photographs.

Reference: Lim Kim Seng. The Avifauna of Singapore. 2009. Nature Society (Singapore).

Lim Kim Chuah and Lim Kim Seng. State of Singapore’s Wild Birds and Bird Habitats. A Review of the Annual Bird Census 1996-2005. 2009 Nature Society (Singapore).


A Short History of the Jerdon’s Baza in Singapore.

A Short History of the Jerdon’s Baza in Singapore.

By Alan OwYong and  Tan Gim Cheong.

We are indeed fortunate when a juvenile Jerdon’s Baza Aviceda jerdoni moved from the northern part of Singapore to the heart of the island at Bishan Park in late February 2018. This raptor has eluded birders and photographers for many years as they make sporadic appearances at Lorong Halus and Tampines Eco Green. Last weekend, it was hunting at Bishan Park from early morning to late afternoon giving many of us our lifers and hundreds of perched, feeding and flight shots.


An exceptional shot of the Jerdon’s Baza making a low fly pass at Bishan Park captured by Lim Ser Chai. 

But surprisingly this raptor was not recorded in the 1920s to 1990s. One of the reasons may be that it is largely sedentary. We should consider the winter population in Singapore to be true but short distance migrants. They are very rare in Peninsular Malaysia, so the birds we see could have come from north of Chumphon, possibly Northern Thailand, Myanmar or India. Their range includes South India and Southern China down to parts of South East Asia and across to Borneo, Sumatra (breeding recorded) and the Philippines.

28618774_1815998938412440_2219992298197066780_o (1)

A well taken and nicely framed habitat shot of Jerdon’s Baza by Mettalady Yeo.

It was listed as a rare accidental here, based on only seven records from 1996 to 2008. Our first record was an injured juvenile from Maju Camp at Clementi on 6 December 2002. I remembered someone pointed out the serrated upper mandible as one of the identity features. It was revised when a miss-identified juvenile Blyth’s Hawk Eagle photographed at Bidadari in January 1996 by the late Ong Kiem Sian was re-identified as an adult Jerdon’s Baza.

1-Jerdon's Baza Martii Siponen

Martii Siponen’s photo of a Jerdon’s Baza (left) with an Oriental Whip Snake at Hindhede Quarry.

Between 2006 and 2008, a bunch of records came in from the Lim Chu Kang, Poyan and Choa Chu Kang areas. Con Foley photographed one in flight over the Chinese Gardens in 2007. In 2010, we had several records from the reclaimed land at Changi Cove (Lau JiaSheng et al). These records do point to a case of this species being overlooked in the past. In fact,  Martti Siponen, a keen raptor watcher shot one in flight over Hindhede Quarry in 2010 and kept it filed as a Changeable Hawk Eagle.


The Jerdon’s Baza is also called a Lizard Hawk, well illustrated by Terence Tan’s dramatic shot of a Changeable Lizard being torn up. 

Most of the recent sightings were at Lorong Halus where up to eight birds were roosting there during the migratory months. Their foraging ground then extended to Tampines Eco Green and the open fields of Pasir Ris Park. My first sighting was at Biopolis at one-north in 2012 where two birds were seen perched by Horst Flotow from his office window. This is also the first for one-north. Last November two were seen flying over Henderson Wave.  Lets hope they will be returning year after year and enjoy our warm weather during the winter months.

(PS. The Jerdon’s Baza was last seen at Bishan Park on 12 March 2018).

Reference: Lim Kim Seng. The Avifauna of Singapore. 2009. Nature Society (Singapore). Toru Yamazaki. Field Guide to the Raptors of Asia. 2012 Asian Raptor Research and Conservation Network. 

Many thanks to Lim Ser Chai, Mettalady Yeo,Martti Siponen and Terence Tan for the use of their photographs.


A Witness to a Hunt.

A Witness to a Hunt – Changeable Hawk Eagle. By Thio Hui Bing.


I was about to leave Lorong Halus on a hot and sunny March day 3rd, 2018, just past midday, when I heard and saw two Changeable Hawk Eagles flying some distance away. I took a few record shots of them. I walk slowly back along the road keeping a lookout for other birds.


It was then I noticed a dark colored raptor on a tree about 10-20m away on the right side from the road. It was a dark morph Changeable Hawk Eagle, perched on tree branches fairly high up.  It was behaving normally, looking around, just like what raptors do. I took a few photos and video of it. Just when I was about to leave, it suddenly flew down across the road with its legs hanging swooping down into the secondary vegetation.


The next moment I heard and saw some mynas flying out. I knew the raptor had likely caught a prey. Curiously, I approached with care and wondered if it was still inside. Looking around I managed to see it among the branches some 10m away, on a low perch. I took some more shots of it. It seemed to know that I was watching it. My close presence may have caused it to fly out of the semi thick vegetation to the other side of the road where it was previously.


Unfortunately, I wasn’t quick enough to get a focused shot even though I got it in frame for flying off with its prey. This time it opted to perch on a branch of tall tree,  probably not wanting to be disturbed. After landing on the tree, it hopped and flew to an even higher tree branch. I could still see it with the backlight,  but not see its prey. I took some shots and video of it plucking the prey’s feathers for records, before leaving it in peace.  What an amazing sight to witness its precision hunting skills.





NSS Blue and Green Survey 22 Feb 2018

The Nature Society (Singapore) is conducting monthly Marine, Bird and Plant surveys along the North West coast and around the Southern Islands of Singapore. The Blue and Green Alliance between Raffles Marina and Nature Society ( Singapore) is a long standing and significant partnership for the cause of nature protection. We are grateful to Raffles Marina for their continued support and look forward to exciting initiatives together as we celebrate IYOR2018. We started off with the first survey on 22 Feb 2018 on board Lady Olivia, a 38 footer Grand Banks from Raffles Marina.

NSS Blue and White Survey 22 Feb 2018Part of the NSS Survey Team. From left Stephen Beng, Davy Koh, Alan OwYong, Lester Tan and Ong Shean Boon. Photo: Ong Shean Boon and Raffles Marina.

The route covered the coast of the newly reclaimed land slated for the development of the mega Tuas Port across south of Jurong Island towards Pulau Samakau ending at Pulau Jong. We made a stop over at Pulau Hantu on the way back.


Mega shipyards for VLCC and oil rigs are already operating off the reclaimed land at Tuas.

We were off to a great start with the sighting of a Great-billed Heron feeding off beach next to Raffles Marina. I have seen this heron there in the early 2000s, the first record of this species in the northern part of Singapore.


Pleased to find this Great-billed Heron feeding off the beach next to Raffles Marina.


This patch of Casuarinas in the middle of the Tuas reclaimed land will be a migrant trap come September. Had to find a way to get in there, legally of course.

In all we recorded 20 species and one unidentified raptor. The highlight was the Mangrove Whistler at Pulau Hantu. It had gone missing for the past few years. So it was great to see it back at Hantu. The surprise was that we did not see a single tern or shorebird during the trip.


Good to see the return of the Mangrove Whistler to Pulau Hantu. Only one bird was seen. (Photo: Lester Tan.)

Three more Great-billed Herons were recorded, two off Pulau Salu, where we hope to reconnect with the long lost Beach Stone-Curlew.


One of the two Great-billed Herons seen off Pulau Salu where the last Beach Stone-curlew held out until 1999.

Terebu Bembang Besar

The highest one day count for the Great-billed Herons at the Southern Islands was 12 by NSSBG on 10.1.1999.  Like most herons, they skimmed the sea surface like this heron off Terebu Bembang Besar.


Pulau Jong stood out like an emerald isle north of the Western Anchorage. Very little surveys were done here. Hoping to find some rare plants or animals.


Interesting find on Pulau Jong was this pair of Large-billed Crows. We saw them flying off to Semakau most probably to scavenge on whatever is left from the incinerated garbage.


Stephen Beng and Davy Koh surveying the reefs off Pulau Jong. 

 Tigertail Seahorse (Hippocampus comes) and Gorgonian Fan Coral ( Gorgonia flabellum). (Photos by Stephen Beng.)


Lester Tan looking for signs of animal footprints, crabs and rare plants on Pulau Jong. He reported seeing lots of small fishes in the shallow waters and Hermit Crabs on the beach.


Close up of the coastal vegetation on Pulau Jong. Does anyone know which species of Pandanus is this?


Hermit Crabs on Pulau Jong ( Photo: Lester Tan).

Checklist of Birds seen on 22 Feb 2018 from Raffles Marina to Pulau Jong
Species              No
Barn Swallow  30+
Swiftlet spp      20+
Javan Myna     15
Spotted Dove   11
Scaly-breasted Munia 8
House Crow     7
Brahminy Kite 6
Grey Heron      6
Great-billed Heron  4
Intermediate Egret  4
Collared Kingfisher 3
White-bellied Sea-eagle   3
Brown-throated Sunbird 3
Black-naped Oriole 3
Striated Heron 2
Large-billed Crow 2
Black-winged Kite 2
Yellow-vented Bulbul 2
Little Egret 1
Mangrove Whistler 1
Unid Raptor 1

Reference: Lim Kim Seng. The Avifuana of Singapore 2009 Nature Society ( Singapore).

Yong Ding Li, Lim Kim Chuah and Lee Tiah Khee. A Naturalist Guide to the Birds of Singapore. John Beaufoy Publishing 2013.


Singapore Raptor Report – January 2018


Peregrine Falcon, juvenile, at Kranji Marshes, on 14 Jan 2018, by Goh Cheng Teng

Summary for migrant species:

In January, 75 raptors of 9 migrant species were recorded. Apart from singles at Coney Island and Pasir Ris Park, a flock of 8 Jerdon’s Baza Aviceda jerdoni was recorded at Lorong Halus Wetlands on the 20th. The grey morph Oriental Scops Owl Otus sunia found on 9 Dec at Dairy Farm Nature Park was still around on 19 Jan. A juvenile Black Kite Milvus migrans (lineatus), a scarce migrant, was photographed at Bulim Avenue on the 15th and 21st.

A female Chinese Sparrowhawk Accipiter soloensis was still wintering at Ang Mo Kio, while another sub-adult female was photographed at Lorong Halus on the 20th. Only three Japanese Sparrowhawks Accipiter gularis were recorded: one at Sentosa on the 3rd, one at Tampines Eco Green on the 20th and another at Mount Faber on the 26th, all were juveniles.

Two Western Ospreys Pandion haliaetus were recorded, at the usual spots: one at Sungei Buloh – Kranji area and the other at Seletar Dam. Of the four Peregrine Falcons Falco peregrinus, one juvenile was at Pulau Ubin on the 7th, another juvenile at Jurong West also on the 7th, one at Sungei Buloh – Kranji area on multiple days, and the last one at Seletar Airport on the 27th.

For the Black Baza Aviceda leuphotes, up to 13 were in the Lorong Halus – Tampines area, 2 at Telok Blangah and another 5 at One North. Lastly, a total of 34 Oriental Honey Buzzards Pernis ptilorhyncus were recorded in January.

OHB, 020118, AMK, TErence Tan, torquatus tweeddale 2

Oriental Honey Buzzard, torquatus tweeddale morph, at Ang Mo Kio, on 2 Jan 2018, by Terence Tan.

Highlights for sedentary species:

January was a good month for the torquatus form of the Oriental Honey Buzzzard as four of these showed up, all of the tweeddale morph, one at Ang Mo Kio on the 2nd, one at Pasir Ris – Tampines area between the 2nd to 8th, one at Bukit Timah on the 18th, and one at Chinese Garden on the 31st.

The Crested Goshawk Accipiter trivirgatus pair at Sentosa was observed breaking off twigs for their nest and feeding on rodents at the beginning of the month; and as the leaves on the tree grew back, their nest high up the upper branches probably became more difficult to observe. Individuals were recorded at Pasir Ris, Mandai, and Telok Blangah, and another three at the Botanic Gardens.

The other sedentary raptors recorded included two Grey-headed Fish Eagle, two Black-winged Kites, nine Changeable Hawk-Eagles and the common White-bellied Sea Eagles and Brahminy Kites.

Table 1, revised

Changes (highlighted in yellow) include additional records of 1 Brahminy Kite, 2 White-bellied Sea Eagles, 1 Grey-headed Fish Eagle, 2 Changeable Hawk-Eagles and 1 unidentified Accipiter.

For a pdf version (revised) with more details, please click Singapore Raptor Report – Jan 2018, revised

Compiled by Tan Gim Cheong  

Many thanks to everyone who had reported their sightings in one way or another, and also thanks  to Goh Cheng Teng and Terence Tan for the use of their photos.

Singapore Bird Report – January 2018

Band-bellied Crake, 190118, SBG, Meena Vathyam

January’s mega find, the Band-bellied Crake, at Singapore Botanic Gardens on 19 Jan 2018, by Meena Vathyam

The string of rarities continued to show up and provided for an eventful January. The bird of the month is without doubt the Band-bellied Crake Porzana paykullii, found by Meena Vathyam at the Singapore Botanic Gardens (SBG) on the 19th. Thanks to her, many birders managed to see this mega rarity as their lifer. It is only the second record for Singapore after the first occurrence in 2014. The bird continued to be observed at the same small patch of vegetation for the rest of January and is probably still wintering there.

Green-backed Flycatcher, 310118, Dillenia Hut, Fryap

Another rarity, the Green-backed Flycatcher, at Dillenia Hut on 31 Jan 2018, by Francis Yap

On the 20th, See Toh Yew Wai found another rarity at the Jelutong Tower – an adult male Green-backed Flycatcher Ficedula elisae; Francis Yap found one at the junction of Sime Track and Rifle Range Link on the 26th; and Martin Kennewell also photographed this species 100m up the junction, on Rifle Range Link, on the 28th, likely the same individual. Elsewhere, Lim Kim Keang and Veronica Foo found another individual at Lorong Lada Hitam on the 23rd. Francis Yap also recorded an individual at Dillenia Hut, CCNR on the 31st. Another rarity was a Sakhalin Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus borealoides found at BTNR on 27th by Lau Jia Sheng and Tan Kok Hui.

Black-winged Flycatcher-shrike, 200118, Jelutong, Thio HB

A rare non-breeding visitor, the Black-winged Flycatcher-shrike, at Jelutong Tower on 20 Jan 2018, by Thio Hui Bing

The non-migrant rarities for the month included a Black-winged Flycatcher-Shrike Hemipus hirundinaceus, the 3rd record for this non-breeding visitor, found by Martin Kennewell, in the company of Richard Carden and Thio Hui Bing, at Jelutong Tower on the 20th. Additionally, Thio Hui Bing and Lim Kim Seng also recorded two individuals of the locally rare Black-headed Bulbul Pycnonotus atriceps on the same date & locality.

At Pulau Tekong, Frankie Cheong recorded an uncommon Greater Sand Plover Charadrius leschenaultii and a flock of over 20 Marsh Sandpipers Tringa stagnatilis on the 3rd; and on the 20th, he recorded the Curlew Sandpiper Calidris ferruginea, Red-necked Stint Calidris ruficollis and Long-toed Stint Calidris subminuta. A Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius was also recorded at Pulau Tekong on 3rd by Frankie Cheong, and two birds at Kranji Golf Course on 4th by Luke Milo Teo.

Two Lesser Whistling Ducks Dendrocygna javanica were recorded at Kranji Golf Course on the 4th and 14 of these birds at Marina Bay MRT on the 10th, both by Luke Milo Teo. Also at Kranji Golf Course, an Eastern Yellow Wagtail Motacilla tschutschensis was recorded on the 5th by Alan OwYong;  and a White Wagtail Motacilla alba on the 6th by Luke Milo Teo. A Red-rumped Swallow Cecropis daurica was recorded at Kranji Golf Course on the 5th by Alan OwYong and at Bulim on the 6th by See Toh Yew Wai.

White-rumped Munia, 270118, SBG, Goh Cheng Teng

White-rumped Munia, at SBG on 27 Jan 2018, by Goh Cheng Teng

Alan OwYong recorded a sub-adult Hodgson’s Hawk Cuckoo Hierococcyx nisicolor at West Coast Park on the 3rd. Earlier in the morning Anthony Nik and Stuart Campbell photographed two unusual female flycatchers there. One was a Blue and White/ Zappey’s Flycatcher and the other had yet to be identified. Veronica Foo found another Hodgon’s Hawk Cuckoo at Bambusetum, SBG, where she also spotted the White-rumped Munias Lonchura striata, on 21st. The munias were present throughout the rest of the month feeding on seeds. A Chestnut-winged Cuckoo Clamator coromandus was recorded at SBWR on the 20th by Gautham, while a Violet Cuckoo Chrysococcyx xanthorhynchus was found at Telok Blangah Walk on the 22nd by Mark Nelson Valino . At Lorong Lada Hitam on the 23rd, a Chestnut-bellied Malkoha Phaenicophaeus sumatranus was recorded on the 23rd by Lim Kim Keang and Veronica Foo. On the 24th, an adult Drongo Cuckoo Surniculus lugubris was recorded at Hindhede NP by Alan OwYong.

Lester Tan photographed a Swinhoe’s Snipe Gallinago megala in flight at Jurong Street 22 on the 3rd, identification made possible by its tails feathers which were spread. This encouraged Alan OwYong to attempt to photograph snipes in flight and he managed to photograph a probable Pintail Snipe Gallinago stenura at Bulim on the 15th.

A Black-capped Kingfisher Halcyon pileata was recorded by Luke Milo Teo at Turut Track on 4th, and by Alan OwYong at Kranji Marshes on 5th, and was still there on the 28th during an NSS outing. Another was photographed in flight at SICC Golf Link on the 5th by Francis Yap. On the 27th, Vincent Lao found an Oriental Dwarf (Black-backed) Kingfisher Ceyx erithaca at Lower Pierce Reservoir.

A Cinnamon Bittern Ixobrychus cinnamomeus was recorded at Bedok Central on the 5th by Eileen Ruth; another at Bulim on the 6th by See Toh Yew Wai; and another at Neo Tiew Lane 3 on the 14th by Alan OwYong. At Bulim on the 7th, Alan OwYong found a Von Schrenck’s Bittern Ixobrychus eurhythmus, an uncommon migrant. At Lorong Lada Hitam on the 23rd, a Black Bittern Dupetor flavicollis was found by Lim Kim Keang and Veronica Foo.


Greater Painted Snipe, 140118, Bulim Avenue, Pary Sivaraman

Amazing flight views of a Greater Painted Snipe, at Bulim Avenue on 14 Jan 2018, by Pary Sivaraman

At Bulim on the 6th, See Toh Yew Wai recorded 6-8 Greater Painted Snipes Rostratula benghalensis, a Black-browed Reed Warbler Acrocephalus bistrigiceps, Oriental Reed Warbler Acrocephalus orientalis, and Intermediate Egret Egretta intermedia. On the 7th, Adrian Silas Tay found 4-5 Watercocks Gallicrex cinerea. The Greater Painted Snipes were still around on the 14th, photographed by Pary Sivaraman.

Two Baillon’s Crakes Porzana pusilla were found by See Toh Yew Wai at Bulim on the 6th, while David Tan reported another found inside an apartment at Tampines on the 11th, and Goh Cheng Teng found another of this scarce migrant at Turut Track on the 14th.

Blue Rock Thrush, 080118, Labrador Villa Rd (private pty), Art Toh

Blue Rock Thrush, at Labrador Villa Rd on 8 Jan 2018, by Art Toh

Art Toh had a lucky encounter with a Blue Rock Thrush Monticola soltarius at Labrador Villa Road on the 8th. He also found a Blue-winged Pitta Pitta moluccensis at SBG on the 18th. The next day, on the 19th a Hooded Pitta Pitta sordida was recorded at BTNR by Looi Ang Soh Hoon.

Martin Kennewell reported seeing around 50 White-shouldered Starlings Sturnia sinensis feeding on Bottlebrush trees at Seletar Club Road on the 16th. A Grey Nightjar Caprimulgus jotaka was recorded at NTU on the 22nd by Luke Milo Teo, and another at Bidadari on the 27th by See Toh Yew Wai. At DFNP on the 24th, an Orang-headed Thrush Geokichla citrina with a deformed (crossbeak) bill was found by Laurence Eu.

At Marina Barrage on the 18th, Pary Sivaraman recorded 12-15 Kentish Plovers Charadrius alexandrinus and 10-12 Swinhoe’s Plovers (dealbatus subspecies of the Kentish Plover). At nearby Marina East Drive, Lee Chuin Ming redorded a Lesser Crested Tern Thalasseus bengalensis on the 21st; while Feroz Fizah found a Greater Crested Tern Thalasseus bergii at Changi Coastal Walk on the 22nd.

BTNR: Bukit Timah Nature Reserve
CCNR: Central Catchment Nature Reserve
NSS: Nature Society (Singapore)

NTU: Nanyang Technological University
SICC: Singapore Island Country Club

This report is produced by Tan Gim Cheong and Alan OwYong based on selected postings in various facebook birding pages, bird forums, individual reports and extracts from ebird. This compilation is not a complete list of birds recorded for the month and not all the records were verified. We wish to thank all the contributors for their records. Many thanks to Meena Vathyam, Francis Yap, Thio Hui Bing, Goh Cheng Teng, Pary Sivaraman, and Art Toh for the the use of their photos. 

Singapore Raptor Report – December 2017

OHB, 081217, Sgp, Teo Chee Kee

Oriental Honey Buzzard, adult female dark morph, on 8 Dec 2017, by Teo Chee Kee.

Summary for migrant species:

December marked the arrival of two migrant raptor species. The first Eastern Marsh Harrier for the season, a juvenile, was photographed in flight at Kranji Marshes on the 2nd at 6:59am. This is fairly typical behaviour for the species as they are early movers. The first Black Kites of the season came in a group of three over Pulau Ubin on the 26th. The three juveniles were flying about over Pulau Sekudu and the nearby fish farms, probably hoping to scavenge.

The rufous morph Oriental Scops Owl found on 30 November at Dairy Farm Nature Park was still around on the 1st, but disappeared thereafter. On the 9th, a grey morph Oriental Scops Owl was found roosting high up a nearby tree; it was recorded again on the 11th and the 17th at the same locality. This grey morph individual might also have been the same one found in January this year, returning to the same locality in Singapore after breeding in the northern latitudes!

Three Jerdon’s Bazas were recorded. One frequented the Tampines Eco Green to Pasir Ris Park area throughout the month; another was recorded at Ang Mo Kio Town Garden West on the 10th and 11th; and the last one flew by Jelutong Tower on the 22nd. Two Common Buzzards were recorded; the first was photographed on the 2nd at Seletar Aerospace Drive; on the 6th, 2 birds were photographed at nearby Seletar West, and one of the birds may have been the same bird first recorded on the 2nd.

Five Chinese Sparrowhawks were recorded. A male at Pasir Ris Park on the 3rd and 9th; a female at Ang Mo Kio Town Garden West on the 9th, two over Henderson Wave on the 20th, and a female at Sentosa on the 24th. Two Peregrine Falcons were recorded; one at Clementi and the other at Seletar Airport area. Three Western Ospreys were recorded; one at SBWR-Kranji Marshes area, another at Yishun Dam and the last at Pasir Ris Park.

Finally, we come to the most abundant migrant raptors. 19 Japanese Sparrowhawks were recorded; a number of them at Henderson Waves, probably just passing through for destinations further south. 20 Black Bazas were recorded, and a small group is probably wintering at Pasir Ris Park. The Oriental Honey Buzzard is tops again with 93 birds; a number were recorded at Henderson wave, also probably just passing through on their way farther south.

Crested Goshawk (Accipiter Trivirgatus), 281217, Sentosa, Michael Phua

Crested Goshawks mating, at Sentosa, on 28 Dec 2017, by Michael Phua.

Highlights for sedentary species:

For the uncommon Crested Goshawk, 11 birds were recorded. Notably the pair at Sentosa was observed mating on four days: the 24th, 25th, 26th and 28th. The pair was observed bringing small branches to reinforce their nest high up the bare tree and on the 25th, the female goshawk was photographed breaking a small branch with its beak. A juvenile goshawk, probably from the pair’s last breeding attempt, was also seen at the tree on the 24th.

All three records of the torquatus Oriental Honey Buzzards were of the tweeddale form. An adult male was recorded at Pasir Ris Park on the 15th, the record on the 21st was probably of the same individual. Another was recorded at Toa Payoh on the 17th.

Of the two Grey-headed Fish Eagles recorded, one was at Bishan Park and the other at Little Guilin, where a new nest had been built on a tall tree but nesting was not observed during the month. The other resident raptors recorded included the Changeable Hawk Eagle, Brahminy Kite and White-bellied Sea Eagle.

Table 1

Compiled by Tan Gim Cheong 

Many thanks to everyone who had reported their sightings in one way or another, and especially to Teo Chee Kee and Michael Phua for the use of their photos.

For a pdf version with more details, please click Singapore Raptor Report – Dec 2017


Personal Observations of the Plovers at Marina East Drive.

By Dr. Pary Sivaraman.

These are my own personal observations on the 17th and 18th January 2018 at Marina East Drive. Similar observations on both dates and I was the only birder on both dates.

There was a group of about 10 to 12 Swinhoe’s or White faced Plovers, ssp. dealbatus. Some were in breeding plumage. Just beside them but as a separate group there were about 15 to 16 Kentish Plovers, Charadrius alexandrinus. Some were in breeding plumage. On the first date, the Kentish Plovers were closer to me. On the second date the White faced Plovers were closer to me.


Kentish Plover in breeding plumage.

The groups tolerated a certain distance between me and them.
When I moved closer they would start walking a few feet.
If I continued, they would fly but interestingly the group closer to me would fly off first.
On the first date, the Kentish Plovers flew off first but the White faced Plovers moved a couple steps further from me and stayed.

On the second date, the White faced Plovers behaved similarly. They were closer and flew off first. The Kentish Plovers didn’t fly off but moved a couple of steps further from me and stayed.


Swinhoe’s or White-faced Plover in breeding plumage.

I thought it was interesting since the White faced Plovers or Kentish Plovers seemed to stick together as a group. I must emphasize I didn’t move too quickly to them. I presume if I did all of them would have flown away.

I have attached the photos of the Kentish and White faced Plovers in breeding plumage.
I have taken more photos for my own understanding how the birds.

Singapore Bird Report – December 2017

Singapore Bird Report-December 2017

The birding community could not ask for a better ending for the year. A national first (pending review by Record’s Committee), a second record after 11 years and several rare winter visitors gave many of us our year end lifers.

BW Fadhil

First photo of the “Booted Warbler” taken on 4th by Muhd Fadhil of NParks. 

Martin Kennewell was quick to alert us on an odd looking tree warbler at Kranji Marshes on 9th. After much consultation with overseas friends, the consensus is a Booted Warbler Iduna caligata, a long way from its wintering grounds in India and Sri Lanka. Muhd. Fadhil, an Nparks staff first photographed it on 4th. It is still there during the first week of January. Our thanks to Martin and Fadhil. 

Esther Ong

The photo that started the frenzy. Esther Ong’s photo of the Asian Emerald Cuckoo taken on 23rd December. 

While looking for the Chinese Hwamei Garrulax canorus, at Sentosa’s Siloso Park on 23th, Tuck Loong, Esther Ong and friends spotted a female Asian Emerald Cuckoo Chrysococcyx maculatus, feeding on the caterpillars on a bare Ficus superba there. Our first record for this non-breeding visitor was on 31 May 2006 at Seletar Reservoir Park. Incredibly a second female was reported six days later at the same tree feeding together. It stayed until 3rd January when all the caterpillars were gone, long enough for all of us to add a national tick to our list. A rare Yellow-browed Warbler Phylloscopus inornatus was also spotted there on 23rd (Lim Kim Chuah & Seng Beng) and along the Skywalk in following days.

Choon How

The rare Yellow-browed Warbler spent a week wintering along the Skywalk at Sentosa, giving many photographers a great chance to shoot this at eye level. Photo: Low Choon How.

The month started with a rufous morph Oriental Scops Owl Otus sunia returning to the same tree at DFNP on 1st. Another, a grey morph also returned on the 9th (Luke Milo Teo). Earlier in the year, on 10th Jan 2017, both of them were seen on the same tree there, a case of site fidelity assuming they were the same owls. Lena Chow got a first for Bukit Brown with a sighting of a Grey Nightjar Caprimulgus jotaka, there on 2nd. Another Grey Nightjar was back at Bidadari on 17th (Tan Kok Hui). At least 5 Eastern-crowned Warblers Phylloscopus coronatus, were counted at Upper Peirce Reservoir on 14th by Veronica Foo. An uncommon Black Drongo Dicrurus macrocercus, was videoed at PRP on 20th by Marc Ng.


Portrait of a rufous morph Oriental Scops Owl taken at DFNP by Luke Milo Teo.

Several rare flycatchers were still stopping over this month. Two Ferruginous Flycatchers Muscicapa ferruginea at DFNP on 1st (Oliver Tan), with another on 28th at RRL (Goh Cheng Teng and Lester Tan), our third of the season, a Japanese Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone atrocaudata at Lower Peirce Reservoir on 5th (Basil Chia), a dead Blue and White/ Zappey’s from SGH on 13th (David Tan) and another 1st winter Blue and White Cyanoptila cyanomelana, male at Siloso on 30th (Tan Kok Hui and Co), the rare Green-backed Ficedula elisae, at CCNR on 5th (David Gibson) and a female at RRL on 23th (Alan OwYong and Lim Kim Keang), ending with a Mugimaki Ficedula mugimaki, at Siloso on 27th by Martin Kennewell.

Green-backed Flycatcher

The rare Green-backed Flycatcher resting at the Central Catchment Forest. Photo by Alan OwYong taken at Rifle Range Link. 

The cuckoos made a great showing this month in part due to the caterpillars on the bare ficus at Sentosa. Spotted there were 2 Chestnut-winged Cuckoos Clamator coromandus, one adult and one juvenile Indian Cuckoo Cuculus micropterus, one juvenile and one adult Large Hawk Cuckoo Hierococcyx sparverioides, a Malaysian Hawk-cuckoo Hierococcyx fugax and a Hodgson’s Hawk-cuckoo Hierococcyx nisicolor. A Hodgon’s was also photographed at Bishan Park on 8th by Terence Tan, a Malaysian Hawk-cuckoo at Healing Gardens on 14th by Laurence Eu, a dead Indian Cuckoo at NUS on 29th found by Yong Ding Li and a wintering Chestnut-winged Cuckoo at the SBG. 

Mark Itol

Mark Itol’s eye level shot of the Chestnut-winged Cuckoo wintering at the SBG.

Migrant thrushes, a favourite with the birders and photographers, showed up at Hindhede NP with the rare Siberian Thrush Geokichla sibirica on 5th (Oliver Tan), an Eye-browed Thrush Turdus obscurus, at Bukit Brown on 14th (Marcel Finlay) and the Orange-headed Thrush Geokichla citrina returning to the SBG on 26th (Goh Cheng Teng and Lester Tan).

Siew Mun

Siew Mun’s Baillon’s Crake taken at Satay by the Bay, a first for the gardens.

The visiting waterbirds reported this month include a Black Bittern Dupetor flavicollis at Hampstead Gardens (Veronica Foo) and SBTB (Heather Gossels) both on 8th, Von Schrenck’s Bittern Ixobrychus eurhythmus at SBG on 9th (Martin Kennewell and Richard Carden), a Malayan Night Heron Gorsachius melanolophus, photographed flying over Changi Coastal Road by Goh Cheng Teng also on the 9th, a Baillon’s Crake Porzana pusilla, at the SBTB on 17th (Siew Mun), 2 Watercocks Gallicrex cinerea on 18th, one at Japanese Gardens (Philip Toh) and the other found injured at Pasir Laba Camp by Daniel Ng. One of the largest flock of Oriental Pratincoles Glareola maldivarum, over 200 was seen flying over Turuk Track on 17th by Yong Ding Li.

MNH Goh Cheng Teng

Is this the first photograph of a Malayan Night Heron in flight taken in Singapore?. Photo: Goh Cheng Teng.

The uncommon Black-capped Kingfisher Halcyon pileata, was reported at Neo Tiew Lane 3 on 17th by Francis Yap and another back wintering at WCP on 21st. On the same day a dead Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher Ceyx erithaca was found dead along Allenbrooke Road at Sentosa by Wahidah Dayanara.

Francis Yap 2

A much sought-after and very skittish Black-capped Kingfisher well hidden at Neo Tiew Lane 3.  Photo: Francis Yap. 

Notable shorebirds for the month include 2 globally threatened Great  Knot Calidris tenuirostris, at Chek Jawa on 6th (Lim Kim Keang) and Long-toed Stint Calidris subminuta, at Tekong on 23rd (Frankie Cheong).

Resident species of interest include Plume-toed Swiftets Collocalia affinis and Asian Palm Swift Cypsiurus balasiensis, at SBG on 5th by See Toh Yew Wai and 8th by Zacc respectively, a juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax at Eco Lake on 9th by Martin Kennewell, Greater Coucal Centropus sinensis at Telok Blangah Walkway on 12th by James Tann and a White-rumped Munia Lonchura striatabelow KRP canopy walk on 15th by Marc Ng. Its wild status is in question.


Not an easy swift to see over our skies. an Asian Palm Swift shot over Eco Lake by Mohamad Zahidi (Zacc HD).

An uncommon Cinnamon Bittern Ixobrychus cinnamomeus was spotted at SBTB by Tan Eng Boo on 19th. On the same day, Lim Kim Seng came across the long introduced Chinese Hwamei at Sentosa. It went missing for a large part of the year. The Oriental Darter Anhinga melanogaster at Pekan Quarry at Pulau Ubin picked out by Deborah Friets on 26th ends this report. Happy New Year and Good Birding 2018!

Location Abbreviations: DFNP Dairy Farm Nature Park, PRP Pasir Ris Park, NUS National University of Singapore, SBTB Satay by The Bay, WCP West Coast Park, KRP Kent Ridge Park and RRL Rifle Range Link.


Lim Kim Seng. The Avifauna of Singapore. 2009. Nature Society (Singapore).

Yong Ding Li, Lim Kim Chuah and Lee Tiah Khee. A Naturalist’s Guide to the Birds of Singapore. 2013. John Beaufoy Publishing Limited.

Craig Robson. A Field Guide to the Birds of Thailand and South East Asia. 2000.

This report is compiled by Alan OwYong and edited by Tan Gim Cheong from selected postings in various facebook birding pages, bird forums, individual reports and extracts from ebird. This compilation is not a complete list of birds recorded for the month and not all the records were verified. We wish to thank all the contributors for their records. Many thanks to Muhd Fadhil, Esther Ong, Low Choon How, Luke Milo Teo, Alan OwYong, Mark Itol, Siew Mun, Goh Cheng Teng, Francis Yap and Mohamad Zahidi for the the use of their photos. Please notify if you find errors in these records.



Raptor Migration ( Autumn) along Henderson Waves

Raptor Migration (Autumn) along Henderson Waves

Article and photos by Keita Sin

Autumn migration

Birdwatching in Singapore gets particularly exciting during the migratory season. One of the groups of birds that migrate through Singapore is what are generally referred to as “raptors” – birds of prey from the order Accipitriformes (eagles, hawks, harriers etc) and Falconiformes (falcon, kestrels etc).

The majority of raptors migrate through Singapore around October to November for the autumn migration, during which they head south to their wintering grounds. During the spring migration in mid-February to mid-April, they will head back north towards their breeding grounds.

There are several locations that have been known to be good spots for raptor watching in autumn. The annual Singapore Bird Group Raptor Count has been conducted at these locations, such as Pulau Ubin, Changi, Tuas and the Southern Ridges (Kent Ridge Park and Telok Blangah Hill Park).

Being a fan of raptors myself, I joined the Raptor Counts at Kent Ridge Park in 2015 and 2016 to watch the convoys of birds flying south-east along the ridge. During these counts, one particular question occurred to me: if the birds were filtering in at different points on the Southern Ridges before continuing to fly along the ridge, wouldn’t it be most productive to do a count as close as possible to its southernmost end?

The birds of Henderson Waves

On 17th November 2016, I made my way towards Mount Faber Park (the southernmost park along the ridge) to find out the answers to my question. However, the views offered there were rather disappointing, and I thus continued towards the Henderson Waves, which offered great views in all directions.

Photo 1 View from HWView from Henderson Waves (facing South)

I stood there from 9:20am to 1:00pm and was rewarded with 19 Crested Honey Buzzards; 9 Black Bazas; 1 Booted Eagle; 1 Chinese Sparrowhawk; 8 Japanese Sparrowhawks; and most importantly, 1 Eurasian Sparrowhawk, which then became the second accepted record for Singapore.

Photo 2 Eurasian SparrowhawkEurasian Sparrowhawk at Henderson Waves, 17 November 2016. Note the 6 “fingers” and bulky body

Observations in 2016 and 2017 by many pairs of eyes led to observations of many other uncommon migratory raptors including the Greater Spotted Eagle, Grey-faced Buzzard, Common Buzzard and Jerdon’s Baza. Other migratory raptors such as the Pied Harrier and Eastern Marsh-harrier were recorded nearby too. Resident raptors such as the Crested Goshawk, Changeable Hawk-eagle, Crested Serpent Eagle and Grey-headed Fish-eagle were also seen regularly (detailed counts in the monthly raptor report).

Photo 3 CollageLeft to right, from top row onwards: Jerdon’s Baza, Grey-faced Buzzard, Black Baza, Crested Goshawk, Changeable Hawk-eagle, Chinese Sparrowhawk, Eastern Marsh-harrier, Crested Honey Buzzard, Japanese Sparrowhawk.

Other migrants such as Oriental Pratincoles, Pacific Swifts, Barn and Red-rumped Swallows, Ashy Minivets, and Blue-throated and Blue-tailed Bee-eaters regularly flew over the bridge too.

Photo 4 Oriental PratincoleOriental Pratincoles at Henderson Waves, 15 November 2017

The highlights, however, were the Asian House Martin (solitary bird on 19 October) and Needletails. The second and fourth White-throated Needletails in Singapore were recorded (a solitary bird on 19 October, and another on 31 October flying together with 2 other unidentified needletails) and another single unidentified Needletail was photographed on 6 November (by Lawrence Cher).

Photo 5 White-throated NeedletailWhite-throated Needletail at Henderson Waves, 31 October 2017

The diversity of birds recorded at Henderson Waves is astonishing compared to the other sites along the Southern Ridges. It could be that many of the birds flew south through the Central Catchment and only entered the ridge halfway through, causing them to be unrecorded at the other locations. The better view offered at the bridge might also have contributed to the increased diversity observed.

The raptors (and other migrants) usually fly over the bridge from north-west to south-east (from Telok Blangah Hill Park towards Mount Faber Park). The collective observation of the large number of birders stationed at the bridge in 2017 seems to point to a rough trend of having better counts (in terms of both quantity and diversity) when the wind is blowing from the north-west direction.

Birding at Henderson Waves

On text, Henderson Waves sounds like the perfect place in Singapore to go raptor watching. It is, sadly, not as fantastic as it seems. This place offers no shelter from the scorching sun (and yet the hotter it is, the better for raptor migration) and the birds tend to fly very high along the ridge. For those whose main objective is bird photography, Henderson Waves will be a disappointment. However those who are prepared can be rewarded with beautiful sights of convoys of birds, and the occasional low-flying raptor. Those who keep local lists will no doubt be able to tick off a great number of uncommon species.

When birding at Henderson Waves, make sure you protect yourself against the sun – apply sunblock, wear a hat, and put on sunglasses. It will also be great to record the wind direction and share your sightings. A pair of binoculars is a must.

What about spring migration?

Singapore has a lower number (in terms of both quantity and diversity) of raptors recorded during the spring migration. This could be due to the different flight paths taken by the raptors during their return journey, and it would be interesting to find out how Henderson Waves performs then. Could there be a different site in Singapore that hosts the main bulk of raptors flying through in spring? There’s only one way to find out.