Singapore Raptor Report Early Autumn Migration, July-September 2019

Osprey, 110719, SBWR, Sim Chip Chye

A Western Osprey with a big catch, Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, 11 July 2019, by Sim Chip Chye

Summary:

The early migrants included all the five expected species, namely the Western Osprey, Oriental Honey Buzzard, Chinese Sparrowhawk, Japanese Sparrowhawk, and Peregrine Falcon, during the July to September period.

A total of 46 Oriental Honey Buzzards were recorded. There were at least seven immature orientalis in July, four in August, and three in September – these are individuals hatched last year, over-summering here this year and are expected to migrate to the north only next spring. At least two torquatus were recorded – one photographed at Springleaf on 20 July by Alex Fok, and a tweeddale morph photographed at Upper Seletar Reservoir on 10 September by Deborah Friets.

The first Japanese Sparrowhawk was recorded on 13 September at Jalan Bahar, and on 26 September, Adrian Silas Tay recorded 28 at The Pinnacles Duxton, including a flock of 12. Aother eight were recorded at Henderson Waves on 28 September. All in, 47 early arriving Japanese Sparrowhawks were recorded.

The first three Chinese Sparrowhawks were recorded on 22 September at Tuas. They were followed by two on 27 September at Jelutong Tower, 3 on 28 September at Henderson Waves, and 8 on 29 September at Tuas.

Four Western Ospreys were recorded, with one at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve (SBWR) on 11 July having caught a big fish. The others were singles at the Botanic Gardens on 7 July, Seletar Dam on 14 September, and Marina Bay on 26 September.

Four Peregrine Falcons were recorded – an adult ernesti on 6 Jul at Telok Blangah; a juvenile of indeterminate race on 27 July at Pulau Ubin; a far individual at Marina Bay on 3 August, possibly an ernesti; and another at Kranji Marsh on 29 Sep.

PF Capture

A resident ernesti Peregrine Falcon, note the dark ‘helmet’ and rufous-buff wash on chest, Telok Blangah, 6 July 2019, by Ros Qian

For the resident raptors, seven diurnal species were recorded. Apart from the usual ones, there were records of the rare Crested Serpent Eagle at Pulau Ubin on 2 July & 8 September, and at Malcolm Road on 6 July & 6 September. Notably for nocturnal raptors, a recently fledged juvenile Spotted Wood Owl at Pasir Ris Park fell to the ground on 11 July, but managed to climb back up the tree to reunite with its parents.

For a pdf version with more details, please click Singapore Raptor Report, Early Autumn Migration, Jul-Sep 2019.

Many thanks to everyone for their records and to Sim Chip Chye and Ros Qian for the use of their photos.

 

Singapore Bird Report – September 2019

by Geoff Lim & Tan Gim Cheong (ed.)

September 2019 marked the appearance of rarities such as the Glossy Ibis, Black-naped Monarch, Blue Rock Thrush, and Japanese Paradise Flycatcher; as well as the first arrivals of many migrants.

Glossy Ibis Sighting

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Photo-montage of the Glossy Ibis at Kranji Dam on 29 September 2019 by Goh Cheng Teng

The Glossy Ibis, Plegadis falcinellus, is a widely distributed species that is found in Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, Central and North America. However, it is a very rare vagrant in Singapore. The sighting on 28 and 29 September 2019 by Raghav and Goh Cheng Teng, respectively, was our fifth sighting to date. Prior sightings were at Lorong Halus in 12-16 June 1984, Sungei Buloh in May 1989, Sime Road in October 1992, and November 2007. Wells (1999: 107) noted that the species is a vagrant in Peninsular Malaysia and highlighted that the sightings in 1984 and 1989 may have been wild sightings; captive birds were ruled out since the sightings comprised of adults and juveniles. Traded birds tended to be of a uniform age, since birds would be taken as fledglings.

Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR) & Fringes

Possibly first for the season, a Forest Wagtail, Dendronanthus indicus, was spotted in flight on 2 September 2019 at Jelutong Tower by Francis Yap. Another was spotted within CCNR on 6 September 2019 by Dillen Ng; who also spotted an Arctic Warbler, Phylloscopus borealis, on the same day.  Also on 6 September 2019, an Eastern Crowned Warbler, Phylloscopus coronatus, was spotted at Jelutong by Francis Yap. On 10 September 2019, a Red-legged Crake, Rallina fasciata, was seen skulking about within the CCNR by Timothy Chua Jia Yao.

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Chestnut-bellied Malkoha spotted from Jelutong Tower on 13 September 2019 by Alan Owyong

Jelutong proved to be a good location to observe other species, which included a Chestnut-bellied Malkoha, Phaenicophaeus sumatranus, on 13 September 2019 (Alan Owyong), and five Crested Honey Buzzard, Pernis ptilorhynchus, perched on a tree in the rain on 14 September 2019 (Tan Kok Hui). It was also from this vantage point on 27 September 2019 that two Chinese Sparrowhawk, Accipiter soloensis, three Crested Honey Buzzard, a Japanese Sparrowhawk, Accipiter gularis and an Oriental Pratincole, Glareola maldivarum, were seen flying over CCNR by Francis Yap and Richard White.

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Oriental Pratincole over Jelutong Tower on 27 September 2019 by Francis Yap

The Venus-Windsor-Lower Peirce corridor yielded the second Eastern Crowned Warbler, Phylloscopus coronatus, of the season on 2 September 2019 (Venus Loop, Ho Siew Mun). A White-rumped Shama, Copsychus malabaricus, a species vulnerable to poaching, was spotted on 4 September 2019 (Lower Peirce, Mei Hwang) while a Common Emerald Dove, Chalcophaps indica, was seen on 5 September 2019 (Venus Loop, Terence Tan), and a Banded Woodpecker, Chrysophlegma miniaceum, on 9 September 2019 (Windsor Park, Lim Sheen Taw). Further away, a torquatus race tweeddale morph Crested Honey Buzzard, Pernis ptilorhynchus, was spotted on 10 September 2019 at Upper Seletar Reservoir (Deborah Friets).

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Barred Eagle Owl at Singapore Quarry on 27 September 2019 at Art Toh

Dairy Farm Nature Park (DFNP) and Singapore Quarry continues to be a high yield CCNR-fringe location.  An Eastern Crowned Warbler, Phylloscopus coronatus, was seen on 2 September 2019 (Choong YT), as was a first-for-the-season Asian Brown Flycatcher, Muscicapa daurica, on 5 September 2019 (Ho Siew Mun), a Brown-streaked Flycatcher, Muscicapa williamsoni, also on 5 September 2019 (Peter Lim), a Common Emerald Dove, Chalcophaps indica, on 7 September 2019 (Pary Sivaraman), a Sunda Scops Owl, Otus lempiji, on 10 September 2019 (Norhafiani A Majid), a Chestnut-bellied Malkoha, Phaenicophaeus sumatranus, on 11 September 2019 (Kok M Lee), and a Red-crowned Barbet, Megalaima rafflesii, on 12 September 2019 (James Quek). Fans of the Barred Eagle-Owl, Bubo sumatranus, were not disappointed. The owls appeared on 8 September 2019 (female; Martin Kennewell), 10 September 2019 (Leong Kai Kee & Low Chong Yang) and 27 September 2019 at 7:08pm (one bird; Art Toh).

Just outside DFNP, a Slaty-breasted Rail, Gallirallus striatus, was spotted in a canal by the Dairy Farm condominium on 2 September 2019 (Michael Phua), while at the nearby Bukit Batok Nature Park (BBNP), a Crimson Sunbird, Aethopyga siparaja, was reported on 7 September 2019 by Wing Chong.

Singapore Botanic Gardens

On  10 September 2019, a Crested Goshawk, Accipiter trivirgatus, was spotted near the Gardens by Brian Powell, while on 12 September 2019, a Grey-rumped Treeswift, Hemiprocne longipennis, was spotted at the gardens’ Eco Lake by Timothy Chua.

Central Singapore

Despite its much reduced size, Bidadari continued to support migrating birds. Birders visiting the grounds on 5 September 2019 were rewarded with sightings of a Eastern Crowned Warbler, Phylloscopus coronatus (T. Ramesh) and a first of the season Yellow-rumped Flycatcher, Ficedula zanthopygia (Herman Phua). Also spotted at the former cemetery were an Oriental Pied Hornbill, Anthracoceros albirostris (9 September 2019; Tracy Thu Trang Doan), a male adult Jambu Fruit Dove, Ptilinopus jambu (10 September 2019; Tracy Thu Trang Doan with Ellen Tan; and 13 September 2019, T. Ramesh), a Brown-streaked Flycatcher, Muscicapa williamsoni (10 September 2019; Krishna Gopagondanahalli), Daurian Starling, Agropsar sturninus (12 September 2019; Ramesh T.), Tiger Shrike, Lanius tigrinus (13 September 2019, T Ramesh), Crow-billed Drongo, Dicrurus annectans (27 September 2019; Pary Sivaraman), Dark-sided Flycatcher, Muscicapa sibirica (28 September 2019, Alfred Chia; 29 September 2019, Angie Cheong), the Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher, Cyornis brunneatus (29 September 2019, Yang Chee Meng) and Brown Shrike, Lanius cristatus (30 September 2019, Joseph Lim).

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Jambu Fruit Dove at Bidadari on 13 September 2019 by T. Ramesh

A Crested Serpent Eagle, Spilornis cheela, was spotted on 6 September 2019 at Malcolm Road, while a Barred Buttonquail, Turnix suscitator, was found dazed and resting at a basketball court at Ang Mo Kio Ave 10 by Sandra Chia, who took care of the bird and released it the next morning.

Northern Singapore

A Rusty-breasted Cuckoo, Cacomantis sepulcralis, was spotted on 8 September 2019 on Coney Island (Kerry Pereira), while a Grey Wagtail, Motacilla cinerea, was spotted on 23 September 2019 at Marsiling Park by Benny Ng.

Eastern Singapore

Pulau Ubin hosted several interesting species of birds, including a Red-necked Stint, Calidris ruficollis, seen on 1 September 2019 among a flock of Lesser Sand Plover by Adrian Silas Tay. Four were seen the next day, on 2 September 2019, during an NParks survey, and photographed by See Toh Yew Wai. About a week later, a female Black-naped Monarch, Hypothymis azurea, was spotted on 7 September 2019 by Jason Lee, while a calling and thermalling Crested Serpent Eagle, Spilornis cheela, on 8 September 2019 caught the attention of Adrian Silas Tay. Further afield, a first-of-the-season Grey Plover, Pluvialis squatarola, arrived on Pulau Tekong on 14 September 2019 and was spotted by Frankie Cheong.

Back on the mainland, an Eastern Crowned Warbler, Phylloscopus coronatus, was spotted on 11 September 2019 at Pasir Ris Park by Feroz Ghazali, while a juvenile Laced Woodpecker, Picus vittatus, was seen on 28 September 2019 at Tampines Eco-Green by Ken Joree Tan.  Farther east, a  Green Imperial Pigeon, Ducula aenea, was spotted on 7 September 2019 at  Changi Business Park by T Ramesh, while a juvenile Eastern Yellow Wagtail, Motacilla tschutschensis, was seen on 24 September 2019 by  YT Choong.

Southern Singapore

A Dark-sided Flycatcher, Muscicapa sibirica, became the first record for the species for this year’s winter migration when it was spotted on 11 September 2019 along the Southern Ridges by Tay Kian Guan.

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Blue-eared Kingfisher at Gardens by the Bay on 29 September 2019 by Lim Sheen Taw

The Gardens and Satay by the Bay parks proved to be a fruitful location in September. A  Yellow-rumped Flycatcher, Ficedula zanthopygia, was seen on 12 September 2019 by Veronica Foo and on 30 September 2019 by Lim Sheen Taw; while Lesser Whistling Duck, Dendrocygna javanica, was seen on 24 September 2019 at Satay by the Bay by Annette Russell. The next two days had reports of Amur Paradise Flycatcher, Terpsiphone incei (Caszlyn Wong and Sim Chip Chye, 25 September 2019; first for the season) and Blyth’s Paradise Flycatcher, Terpsiphone affinis, (26 September 2019, Cheong Khan Hoong & Sim Chip Chye) at Satay by the Bay. Other species include four juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron, Nycticorax nycticorax, on 27 September 2019, at Satay by the Bay (Kelvin Ng Cheng Kwan); Asian Brown Flycatcher, Muscicapa latirostris, on 28 September 2019 (Raymond Bong); a  Blue-eared Kingfisher, Alcedo meninting, on 29 September 2019, (Lim Sheen Taw); and a  Common Kingfisher, Alcedo atthis, on 30 September 2019 (Lim Sheen Taw).

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Blue Rock Thrush at Pinnacle@Duxton on 25 September 2019 by David Fur

On 20 September 2019, sightings of a Blue Rock Thrush, Monticola soltarius, at Duxton Pinnacle by  Dillen Ng and others drew many to the block to see and photograph it; of these, Jojo Kuah spotted a total of two birds, of which one was a young male. Visiting Pinnacle on 26 September 2019 yielded a first for the season Pacific Swift, Apus pacificus, by Adrian Silas Tay. Two days later, on 28 September 2019, a Chestnut-winged Cuckoo, Clamator coromandus, was found along Marine Parade Road, by Jay Yip. Separately, on 23 September 2019, an Eurasian Magpie, Pica pica, the origin of which is unclear (possibly an escapee), was spotted at Sakra Road, Jurong Island, by Tan Boon Chong. Also, two Gull-billed Terns, Gelochelidon nilotica, were photographed near Sentosa on 21 September 2019, reported by Adrian Silas Tay.

Western Singapore

Jurong Lake Garden proved to be a good habitat for birds. These included:

  • White-headed Munia, Lonchura maja (7 September 2019; Norhafiani A Majid);
  • Crested Honey Buzzard, Pernis ptilorhynchus, (10 September 2019; Alok Mishra);
  • Wood Sandpiper, Tringa glareola, (29 September 2019; Norhafiani A Majid);
  • Chestnut-winged Cuckoo, Clamator coromandus, (28 September 2019; Norhafiani A Majid);
  • Amur Paradise Flycatcher, Terpsiphone incei, (29 September 2019; Norhafiani A Majid);
  • Japanese Paradise Flycatcher, Terpsiphone atrocaudata, a possible first-for-the-season (27 September 2019 Tay Kian Guan; 29 September 2019 Norhafiani A Majid);
  • Yellow-rumped Flycatcher, Ficedula zanthopygia, (28 September 2019; Norhafiani A Majid),
  • Tiger Shrike, Lanius tigrinus,on 30 September 2019 (Kok M Lee).
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Yellow-rumped Flycatcher at Jurong Lake Garden on 28 September 2019 by Norhafiani A Majid

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Wood Sandpiper at Jurong Lake Garden on 29 September 2019 by Norhafiani A Majid

Between 22 and 28 September 2019, up to four Cuthroat Finch Amadina fasciata, an introduced species, were also spotted within the garden’s grounds (Geri Lim and Jimmy Lim, respectively).

Further away at Jurong Lake, Whiskered Tern, Chlidonias hybrida, were spotted on 26 September 2019 by Tay Boon Kiat, while a Chestnut-winged Cuckoo, Clamator coromandus, was seen on 28 September 2019 by Norhafiani A Majid.

Jurong Eco-Garden continued to support bird life despite the reduction of surrounding woodland. On 11 September 2019, a Tiger Shrike, Lanius tigrinus, was spotted by Terence Tan, while a single juvenile Chestnut-bellied Malkoha, Phaenicophaeus sumatranus, was observed to have successfully fledged between 17 and 19 September 2019 (Kwok Tuck Loong, Alan Owyong and Joseph Lim). On 30 September 2019, a Brown Shrike, Lanius cristatus (confusus subspecies) was spotted by Joseph lim on the garden’s grounds.

Apart from the excitement over the Glossy Ibis at Kranji Dam, Whiskered Tern, Chlidonias hybrida, were spotted along the dam on 8 and 14 September 2019 by Martin Kennewell; a single bird on the 8th was a moulting adult with remnants of its dark belly and dark eye stripe, while two birds were seen on the 14th. White-winged Tern, Chlidonias leucopterus, were also observed within the reservoir on 30 September 2019 by Adrian Silas Tay.

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Whiskered Tern at Kranji on 30 September 2019, photographed by See Toh Yew Wai

Over at Kranji Marsh, a Straw-headed Bulbul, Pycnonotus zeylanicus was spotted on 5 September 2019 by Feroz Ghazali; while five to six Whiskered Tern, Chlidonias hybrida, were spotted perched at the metal railings of the PUB facility along the waters of Kranji Reservoir on 13 September 2019 by Oliver Tan. The resident Changeable Hawk-Eagle, Nisaetus cirrhatus, was also spotted on 28 September 2019 by Wing Cheong; while about two weeks prior to this sighting a dark-morph bird was seen on 10 September 2019 along Neo Tiew Harvest Lane by Steven Cheong predating on what appeared to be a rallid bird. Further away at Lim Chu Kang Lane 3, two adults and possibly one juvenile Common Moorhen, Gallinula chloropus, were spotted by Sandra Chia.

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Changeable Hawk-Eagle with rallid prey on 10 September 2019 at Neo Tiew Harvest Lane by Steven Cheong.

Over at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, we received reports of arriving waders through social media. On 3 September 2019, 37 Common Redshank, Tringa totanus, were spotted by Martin Kennewell, many were flagged but were too far to be deciphered. On the same day, a single Brown-streaked Flycatcher, Muscicapa williamsoni, was also seen by Martin. After making its arduous journey from the Arctic Circle, an Arctic Warbler, Phylloscopus borealis, found its way into the grounds of the reserve on 18 September 2019, making the sighting by Timothy Chua the first-of-the-season. On 20 September 2019, a Curlew Sandpiper, Calidris ferruginea, was spotted by David Li, while on 22 September 2019, a first-of-the-season Broad-billed Sandpiper, Limicola falcinellus, was spotted by Andy Dinesh and T. Ramesh. On 24 September 2019, a Purple Heron, Ardea purpurea, which is not commonly seen in the reserve, was spotted by Terence Tan.

The windswept Tuas yielded a Lesser Adjutant, Leptoptilos javanicus, on 22 September 2019 at Tuas Checkpoint (Fadzrun Adnan), a first-of-the-season Chestnut-winged cuckoo, Clamator coromandus and a first-of-the-season Malaysian Hawk-Cuckoo, Hierococcyx fugax, on 26 September 2019 (Alfred Chia).

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Grey-headed Fish-eagle at Pandan River on 26 September 2019 by Francis Yap

Other birds spotted in the western reaches of the island city include a first-of-the-season Japanese Sparrowhawk, Accipiter gularis, on 13 September 2019 (Lim Kim Seng), a “huge flock” of Daurian Starling, Agropsar sturninus, at Pandan Reservoir on 27 September 2019 (Evelyn Lee), and the regular family of  Grey-headed Fish Eagle, Haliaeetus ichthyaetus, along Pandan River on 26 September 2019 (Francis Yap).

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Pelagic Sightings

On 28 September 2019, the NSS Bird Group conducted a pelagic survey along the Straits of Singapore.  Key highlights included a total of 112 Swinhoe’s Storm Petrel, Oceanodroma monorhis, a far cry from the previous record of 532 birds in September 2018, as well as the fourteen Red-necked Phalaropes, Phalaropus lobatus. Note that pelagic sightings might not be in Singapore waters.

Red-necked Phalarope Sighting

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Eleven of the fourteen Red-necked Phalaropes spotted in the Singapore Strait north of Batam on 28 September 2019. Photo by Alan Owyong.

A total of fourteen juvenile Red-necked Phalaropes, Phalaropus lobatus, were spotted on the seas north of Batam (Indonesia), the first sighting of multiple phalaropes in a flock. Three previous sightings were of single birds, two on land and one at sea.

Red-necked Phalaropes are small waders that forage by picking from the surface of the waters while swimming, often spinning about when pursuing active prey (Wells, 1999:264-265). Known as vagrants during passage seasons, the birds have so far been seen mostly in marine habitats, although one report from Singapore occurred in the flooded reclaimed land in Tuas in November 1994.

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Close-up of the Red-necked Phalaropes spotted on 28 September 2019, showing the prominent white wing bar. Photo by Alan Owyong.

A total of fifteen adult and one juvenile Aleutian Terns, Sterna aleutica, were spotted, as were 55 Bridled Terns, Sterna anaethetus, with two flocks  of 18 and 7 flying eastwards in the direction of Horsburgh Lighthouse. Two adult and two juvenile Common Terns, Sterna hirundo,  were resting on flotsam, while 24 Swift Terns, Thalasseus bergii, (formerly Great Crested) and 10 Lesser Crested Terns, Thalasseus bengalensis, with four being unidentified, were seen. A total of six Little Terns, Sterna albifrons, were also seen and these may be winter visitors.

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Adult Aleutian Tern in breeding plumage spotted on 28 September 2019. Photo by Alan Owyong.

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Adult Bridled Tern spotted on 28 September 2019. Photo by Wilson Leung.

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Adult Common Tern in breeding plumage seen on 28 September 2019. Photo by Alan Owyong

Other birds seen include a Great-billed Heron, Ardea sumatrana, on Sister’s Island, 5 Barn Swallows Hirundo rustica, flying south, an Intermediate Egret, Egretta intermedia, and a soaring Chinese Sparrowhawk, Accipiter soloensis.

References:

Wells, D. R. (1999). The Birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsula. London: Academic Press.

Abbreviations:
BTNR: Bukit Timah Nature Reserve
CCNR: Central Catchment Nature Reserve
DFNP: Dairy Farm Nature Park
JEG: Jurong Eco-Garden
SBG: Singapore Botanic Gardens
SBWR: Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve
TEG: Tampines Eco-Green

This report is written by Geoff Lim and edited by Tan Gim Cheong. We are grateful for the birders and photographers whose postings in various Facebook birding pages, bird forums, individual reports and extracts from eBird make up this report. This compilation is not a complete list of birds recorded for the month and not all the records were verified.

Many thanks to Art Toh, David Fur, Francis Yap, Lim Sheen Taw, T. Ramesh, Goh Cheng Teng, Steven Cheong, See Toh Yew Wai, Alan Owyong and Norhafiani A. Majid for allowing us to use their photographs.

 

2019 ANNUAL BIRD CENSUS REPORT

By Lim Kim Chuah

Asian Openbill by Geoff Lim crop

Asian Openbill at SBWR, 24 March 2019, by Geoff Lim

The 2019 Annual Bird Census (ABC) was conducted on 24 March. Weather was generally fine at all the 17 sites covered. Another three sites on Ubin which were counted on 10 March as part of the Comprehensive Ubin Survey Monthly Survey were also added. This brings the number of sites counted to 20. The three sites counted on Ubin represented the sites which were traditionally counted during the ABC.

A total of 5,575 birds was counted, a 66% increase (2,207) compared to 2018. The number of species counted was 143 species, an increase compared to 137 species in 2018. The increases in both numbers and species counted in 2019 compared to 2018 could be due to the increase in the number of sites counted, 20 versus 17.

Some highlights from this year’s census include:

  • Asian Openbill – 1 at Buloh Route 1
  • Ashy Drongo – 1 at Telok Blangah
  • Black Bittern – 1 each at Bishan Park and Dairy Farm Nature Park
  • Black-browed Reed-Warbler – 1 at Kranji Marsh
  • Blue-rumped Parrot – 4 at Bukit Batok West (Sadly, this is likely to be the last year that this site will be covered as the place is currently being developed into the Tengah New Town)
  • Blue-winged Pitta – 1 at Lower Pierce and at Bukit Batok West and 3 at Poyan
  • Chestnut-bellied Malkoha – 1 at Poyan
  • Chestnut-winged Cuckoo – 1 at Halus
  • Cinnamon Bittern – 1 at Buloh Route 2 and 1 at Kranji Marsh
  • Crested Serpent Eagle – 1 at Malcolm Park
  • Dark-sided Flycatcher – 1 at Lower Pierce Reservoir
  • Great-billed Heron – 2 at Buloh Route 1, 1 at Buloh 2, 1 at Lower Seletar, 2 at Ubin East
  • Green Imperial Pigeon – 1 at Pasir Ris Park
  • Large Hawk Cuckoo – 1 at Pasir Ris Park
  • Lesser Adjutant – 2 at Buloh Route 1 and 1 at Kranji Marsh
  • Lesser Whistling Duck – 11 at Buloh Route 2
  • Little Grebe – 2 at Lorong Halus and 1 at Ubin East
  • Oriental Pratincole – 2 at Ubin West
  • Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler – 1 at Kranji Marsh
  • Straw-headed Bulbul – 46 counted at 8 locations with most of them from Ubin
  • Violet Cuckoo – 2 at Poyan
  • Watercock – 1 at Kranji Marsh

Despite the increase in number of birds counted this year compared to 2018, the total is still below the last 10 years’ average of 7,356. This could be attributed to the lesser number of sites counted due largely to the lack of manpower which meant some key sites like Sungei Mandai had to be left out in 2019.

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Chart below shows the total number of birds and species counted from 2010-19:

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Chinese Garden turned out to be the site with the highest number of birds counted (432). And Kranji Marsh remained the site with the highest number of species counted (73).

Chart below shows the number of birds counted at each site:

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Chart below shows the number of species counted at each site:

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And again, it was not surprising that our ubiquitous Javan Myna is the most numerous birds counted, reclaiming its position from the Asian Glossy Starling which it relinquished to in 2018.

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NSS Bird Group would like to thank the following volunteers for participating and helping with the census. Without their support, we would not have been able to continue to monitor the state of the birdlife here in Singapore all these years.

Lee Ee Ling, KP Teh, Alfred Chia, Veronica Foo, Wing Chong, John Spencer, Keita Sin, Danny Lau, Nessie Khoo, Alvin Seng, Terry and Jane Heppell, Francis Chia, Betty Shaw, Steven Shields, Alan Owyong, Con Foley, Yan Jiejun, Tan Kok Hui, Eunice Kong, Lee Bee Yong, Milton Tan, Beh Swee Hua, John Marriott, Woo Lai Choo, Cheng Li Ai, Pary Sivaraman, Arasu Sivaraman, Gahyatree Arasu, Lena Chow, Kong Lai Peng, Anandaraman Sivakumar, Patricia Lorenz, Jean-Marc Chavatte, Yong Jun Zer, Lim Jia Xuan and Lim Li Fang.

Singapore Bird Report – August 2019

by Geoff Lim & Tan Gim Cheong (ed.)

Two non-descript little brown birds (known by birders worldwide as “little brown jobs”) dominated everyone’s attention during the first portion of August 2019. Also reported were the arrival of our familiar migrants, such as the plovers, sandpipers and Common Kingfisher, across the island.  

A visiting Brown-streaked Flycatcher Muscicapa williamsoni turned up in an urban park located within Choa Chu Kang on 9 August 2019 (Lim Joseph) and was present until 16 August 2019. The bird was distinguished from other flycatchers by a distinct pattern of its  wing coverts and tertials. Sometimes considered a race of the Asian Brown Flycatcher Muscicapa daurica, this species is known to breed in SE Myanmar, S Thailand to NW Malaysia. Non-breeding birds have been reported at Singapore, Sumatra and W Borneo (Clement & Bonan, 2019).

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Brown-streaked Flycatcher at Choa Chu Kang taken on 10 August 2019 by Khoo Mei Lin

When the excitement over this little brown job dissipated somewhat, the news of a Mangrove Whistler Pachycephala cinerea at Jurong Eco-Garden electrified the community of local birders and photographers alike. Discovered on 19 August 2019 by Andrew Wood, who reached out through Instagram, for the identify of the bird, it continued to be seen until 26 August 2019 (Feroz Ghazali). Mangrove Whistlers previously recorded on mainland Singapore were mainly confined to the east in places such as Pulau Ubin and Pasir Ris Park. We can only speculate whether this brief western sighting was of a bird fleeing development in southern Johor or part of a small resident population lurking in the west.

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Mangrove Whistler at Jurong Eco-Garden on 19 August 2019 by Andrew Wood.

The Mangrove Whistler is more likely to be seen at Pulau Hantu Besar, a short boat ride from the mainland. It is also found at Pulau Tekong. Historically, there are even records from Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve.

Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR) & Fringes

On 2 August 2019, a Barred Eagle-Owl Bubo sumatranus perched in a tree along the Treetop Walk surprised Naomi Kim, who reported the sighting. Seven days later on 9 August 2019, a Chestnut-winged Babbler Stachyris erythroptera was heard within the CCNR boundaries by Martin Kennewell.  A House Swift Apus nipalensis was subsequently spotted within the reserve on 23 August 2019 by Oliver Tan.

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One of the Singapore Quarry Barred Eagle-Owls taken on 21 August 2019 by Francis Yap.

From the Singapore Quarry came a report of a Violet Cuckoo Chrysococcyx xanthorhynchus, on 1 August 2019 (Herman Phua). The quarry’s family of two adult and one juvenile Barred Eagle-Owl Bubo sumatranus received a strong following and were variously reported to have appeared on 1 August (Wee Boon), 7 August (Norhafiani A. Majid), 9 August (Liz How – male & juvenile), 12 August (Low Choon How), 19 August (John Marriott), 21 August (Francis Yap), 24 August (Art Toh) and 26 August (Raymond Poon).

Further afield at Bukit Batok Nature Park (BBNP), an adult Little Spiderhunter Arachnothera longirostra was reported to be feeding two juveniles on 15 August 2019 by Sim Chip Chye, who also reported that he encountered two juveniles the day before (14 August 2019). Also spotted within the Park was a Common Emerald Dove Chalcophaps indica on 25 August 2019 by Lim Sheen Taw; Van Hasselt’s Sunbird Leptocoma brasiliana on 26 August 2019 by Terence Tan; and three Violet Cuckoo Chrysococcyx xanthorhynchus on 30 Aug 19 by Dave Koh and Sim Chip Chye.

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Two juvenile Little Spiderhunters begging an adult at BBNP on 15 August 2019 by Sim Chip Chye

A fruiting tree at Wallace Centre, Dairy Farm Nature Park (DFNP) during the final week of August attracted several forest and urban species, including Lineated Barbet Megalaima lineata on 27 August 2019 by Alan Owyong; bulbuls (Asian Red-eyed Bulbul Pycnonotus brunneus and Yellow-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus goiavier on 27 August 2019 by Alan Owyong); pigeons (Pink-necked Green Pigeon Treron vernans on 27 August 2019 by Alan Owyong, and Thick-billed Green Pigeon Treron curvirostra on 27th by Alan Owyong, 28th (one male and one female – by Kok M Lee and Kelvin Ng Cheng Kwan) and 31st by Yang Chee Meng). Also spotted were Asian Fairy-bluebird Irena puella and Asian Glossy Starling Aplonis panayensis on 27 August 2019 by Alan Owyong.

Singapore Botanic Gardens

A Greater Coucal Centropus sinensis was spotted at the Eco Pond on 23 August by Khoo Meilin. A juvenile Grey-headed Fish Eagle Haliaeetus ichthyaetus, was spotted at the Learning Forest on 25 August 2019 by Art Toh, while on the same day a Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis, was seen at the Eco Pond by Guo Hui.

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Grey-headed Fish-eagle at Singapore Botanic Gardens on 25 August 2019 by Art Toh

Northern Singapore

Visitors to the Seletar Dam noted the presence of the Malaysian Plover Charadrius peronii, on 4 August 2019 (Oliver Tan, one immature bird), on 17 August 2019 (Ramesh T) and on 18 August 2019 (Martin Kennewell). A white morph Pacific Reef Heron Egretta sacra, was also seen on 29 August 2019 (Pary Sivaraman).

Also seen during the month were migratory shorebirds, including a Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus, on 18 August 2019 (Martin Kennewell), three Pacific Golden Plover Pluvialis fulva, on 24 August 2019 (Khoo Mei Lin) and a Terek Sandpiper Xenus cinereus, on 28 August 2019 (Steven Cheong). Farther afield, a total of 74 Pacific Golden Plover Pluvialis fulva, were counted on 31 August 2019 by Zahidi Hamid.

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Part of the group of 74 Pacific Golden Plover counted at Seletar on 31 August 2019 by Zahidi Hamid.

 

Apart from the resident Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis at Lorong Halus Wetland, of which one was seen on 22 August 2019 (Leong Wai Kai), one low flying Eastern Barn Owl Tyto delicatula was spotted ten days prior, on 12 August 19, by Choong YT.

Eastern Singapore

The birds reported from Pasir Ris Park include a Green Imperial Pigeon Ducula aenea seen on 21 August 2019 (Lo Chun Fai); a pair of Rufous Woodpecker Micropternus brachyurus on 23 August 2019 (Feroz Ghazali); one Crested Goshawk Accipiter trivirgatus a Sunda Scops Owl Otus lempiji, the family of three Spotted Wood Owl Strix seloputo, a pair of Stork-billed Kingfisher Pelargopsis capensis, and a female Laced Woodpecker Picus vittatus, by James Tann, as well as a Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis by Lo Chun Fai on 25 August 2019.

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One of the two Rufous Woodpeckers spotted at PRP on 23 August 2019 by Feroz Ghazali.

Further away at the Tampines Eco-Green, a Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis was seen on 18 August 2019 (Khoo Mei Lin) as was a single Savanna Nightjar Caprimulgus affinis on 28 August 2019 (Alvin Seng); while four Green Imperial Pigeon Ducula aenea were spotted on 10 August 2019 at Changi Business Park by Ramesh T.

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Savanna Nightjar at Tampines Eco-Green on 28 August 2019 by Alvin Seng.

 

On 3 August 2019, the following waders were seen feeding, by Danny Lau, on a sandbar at Chek Jawa, Pulau Ubin:

  • Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola (5)
  • Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus (2)
  • Terek Sandpiper Xenus cinereus (1)

The next day, 4 August 2019, a team comprising Martin Kennewell, Adrian Silas Tay & Francis Yap saw the following at Chek Jawa during the low tide:

  • Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola (9 birds)
  • Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus, (8 birds)
  • Terek Sandpiper Xenus cinereus (1 bird)
  • Red-necked Stint Calidris ruficollis (3 birds)

Frankie Cheong, our harbinger of excitement from Pulau Tekong, reported an Intermediate Egret Egretta intermedia and a Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius on 1 August 2019 from the island.

Southern Singapore

The Gardens by the Bay, Satay by the Bay and nearby environs received reports of a Plaintive Cuckoo Cacomantis merulinus on 10 August at the Gardens by Evelyn Lee, and a Crested Goshawk Accipiter trivirgatus on 25 and 26 August 2019 at Satay by the Bay by Siew Mun and Sim Chip Chye, respectively.

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Crested Goshawk spotted at Satay by the Bay on 25 August 2019 by Siew Mun.

 

Farther afield, a pair of Malaysian Plover Charadrius peronii were seen at Marina Barrage on 2 and 7 August 2019 by T. Ramesh and several photographers, who posted their sightings on social media. On 26 August 2019, a Sulphur-crested Cockatoo Cacatua galerita was spotted on Sentosa island by John Marriot.

Western Singapore

The Kranji-Lim Chu Kang-Turut corridor had reports of Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius as early as 9 August 2019 at the Kranji Sanctuary Golf Course, Neo Tiew Harvest Lane and Lim Chu Kang Avenue 3  (Adrian Silas Tay), while other birds were spotted on 11 August (Lim Chu Kang Avenue 3 – Mike Hooper), 15 August 2019 (Neo Tiew Harvest Lane – Francis Yap), 12 August 2019 (Kranji Marsh – Peter Carr) and 17 August 2019 (Kranji Marsh  – Martin Kennewell). Also spotted were the Long-toed Stint Calidris subminuta on 11 August 2019 on a sandbar at Lim Chu Kang Avenue 3 by Mike Hooper and the Pacific Golden Plover Pluvialis fulva on 21 August 2019 at Neo Tiew Harvest Lane (Kok M Lee). Some Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus were seen at Lim Chu Kang Avenue 3 on 11 August 2019 by Mike Hooper and on 12 August 2019 by Tay Kian Guan. Also seen were a Jambu Fruit Dove Ptilinopus jambu on 20 August 2019 at Kranji Marsh by Steven Kurniawidjaja, who spotted its unmistakable emerald green plumage and pink face as it associated with Pink-necked Pigeon Treron vernans; a House Swift Apus nipalensis on 24 August 2019 at the marsh by Tan Kok Hui, and a dark morphed Changeable Hawk-Eagle Nisaetus cirrhatus feeding on its prey on 24 August 2019 at Turut Track by Koh Tse Hsien.

Over at the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve (SBWR), Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus were seen on 12 August 2019 by YK Han and on 17 August 2019 by Martin Kennewell, while a Lesser Adjutant Leptoptilos javanicus was seen on 20 August 2019 by Steven Kurniawidjaja.

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An adult Zitting Cisticolas with two fledged chicks at Jurong Lake Gardens on 24 August 2019. Photo by Norhafiani A. Majid.

The Jurong Lake Garden yielded two pairs of nesting Zitting Cisticola Cisticola juncidis sometime around 26 August 2019 (Norhafiani A. Majid) while a Little Bronze Cuckoo Chrysococcyx minutillus was being fed by a Golden-bellied Gerygone at Jurong West on 1 August 2019, seen by Gan Lee Hsia. The Pandan River yielded a Crested Honey Buzzard Pernis ptilorhynchus on 20 August 2019 (Sim Chip Chye) and a Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis on 23 August 2019 (Goh Zao Fa).  A dark morph Pacific Reef Heron Egretta sacra was seen at West Coast Park on 20 August 2019 by Steven Wong while House Swift Apus nipalensis continued to be reported at West Coast Drive on 24 August 2019 by Tay Kian Guan, who also reported seeing a Buffy Fish Owl Ketupa ketupo in the canal just off Ghim Moh on 26 August 2019.

This report is written by Geoff Lim and edited by Tan Gim Cheong. We are grateful for the birders and photographers whose postings in various Facebook birding pages, bird forums, individual reports and extracts from eBird make up this report. This compilation is not a complete list of birds recorded for the month and not all the records were verified.

Many thanks to Khoo Mei Lin, Alvin Seng, Andrew Wood, Art Toh, Francis Yap, Zacc HD, Feroz Ghazali. Sim Chip Chye, Siew Mun, and Norhafiani A. Majid for allowing us to use their photographs.

REFERENCE

Clement, P. & Bonan, A. (2019). Asian Brown Flycatcher (Muscicapa dauurica). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from https://www.hbw.com/node/59025 on 30 September 2019).

LIST OF BIRDS REPORTED IN AUGUST 2019

Family Species Name Scientific Name Date
Podicipedidae Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis 22-Aug-19
Ciconiidae Lesser Adjutant Leptoptilos javanicus 20-Aug-19
Ardeidae

 

Intermediate Egret Egretta intermedia 1-Aug-19
Pacific Reef Heron Egretta sacra 29-Aug-19
Pacific Reef Heron Egretta sacra 20-Aug-19
Accipitridae

 

Crested Honey Buzzard Pernis ptilorhynchus 20-Aug-19
Changeable Hawk-Eagle Nisaetus cirrhatus 27-Aug-19
Changeable Hawk-Eagle Nisaetus cirrhatus 24-Aug-19
Crested Goshawk Accipiter trivirgatus 25-Aug-19
Crested Goshawk Accipiter trivirgatus 25-Aug-19
Crested Goshawk Accipiter trivirgatus 26-Aug-19
Grey-headed Fish Eagle Haliaeetus ichthyaetus 25-Aug-19
Rallidae

 

Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus 11-Aug-19
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus 12-Aug-19
Charadriidae

 

Pacific Golden Plover Pluvialis fulva 24-Aug-19
Pacific Golden Plover Pluvialis fulva 31 Aug 19
Pacific Golden Plover Pluvialis fulva 21-Aug-19
Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola 3-Aug-19
Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola 4-Aug-19
Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius 1-Aug-19
Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius 9-Aug-19
Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius 9-Aug-19
Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius 9-Aug-19
Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius 11-Aug-19
Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius 12-Aug-19
Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius 15-Aug-19
Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius 17-Aug-19
Malaysian Plover Charadrius peronii 4-Aug-19
Malaysian Plover Charadrius peronii 17-Aug-19
Malaysian Plover Charadrius peronii 18-Aug-19
Malaysian Plover Charadrius peronii 2-Aug-19
Malaysian Plover Charadrius peronii 7-Aug-19
Scolopacidae

 

Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus 3-Aug-19
Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus 4-Aug-19
Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus 18-Aug-19
Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus 12-Aug-19
Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus 17-Aug-19
Terek Sandpiper Xenus cinereus 3-Aug-19
Terek Sandpiper Xenus cinereus 4-Aug-19
Terek Sandpiper Xenus cinereus 28-Aug-19
Red-necked Stint Calidris ruficollis 4-Aug-19
Long-toed Stint Calidris subminuta 11-Aug-19
Columbidae

 

Common Emerald Dove Chalcophaps indica 25-Aug-19
Pink-necked Green Pigeon Treron vernans 27-Aug-19
Thick-billed Green Pigeon Treron curvirostra 27-Aug-19
Thick-billed Green Pigeon Treron curvirostra 28-Aug-19
Thick-billed Green Pigeon Treron curvirostra 28-Aug-19
Thick-billed Green Pigeon Treron curvirostra 31 Aug 19
Jambu Fruit Dove Ptilinopus jambu 20-Aug-19
Green Imperial Pigeon Ducula aenea 10-Aug-19
Green Imperial Pigeon Ducula aenea 21-Aug-19
Cuculidae

 

Violet Cuckoo Chrysococcyx xanthorhynchus 1-Aug-19
Violet Cuckoo Chrysococcyx xanthorhynchus 30 Aug 19
Little Bronze Cuckoo Chrysococcyx minutillus 1-Aug-19
Plaintive Cuckoo Cacomantis merulinus 10-Aug-19
Tytonidae Eastern Barn Owl Tyto delicatula 12-Aug-19
Strigidae

 

Sunda Scops Owl Otus lempiji 25-Aug-19
Barred Eagle-Owl Bubo sumatranus 1-Aug-19
Barred Eagle-Owl Bubo sumatranus 2-Aug-19
Barred Eagle-Owl Bubo sumatranus 7-Aug-19
Barred Eagle-Owl Bubo sumatranus 9-Aug-19
Barred Eagle-Owl Bubo sumatranus 12-Aug-19
Barred Eagle-Owl Bubo sumatranus 19-Aug-19
Barred Eagle-Owl Bubo sumatranus 21-Aug-19
Barred Eagle-Owl Bubo sumatranus 24-Aug-19
Barred Eagle-Owl Bubo sumatranus 26-Aug-19
Buffy Fish Owl Ketupa ketupu 26-Aug-19
Spotted Wood Owl Strix seloputo 25-Aug-19
Caprimulgidae Savanna Nightjar Caprimulgus affinis 28-Aug-19
Apodidae

 

House Swift Apus nipalensis 23-Aug-19
House Swift Apus nipalensis 24-Aug-19
House Swift Apus nipalensis 24-Aug-19
House Swift Apus nipalensis 24-Aug-19
Alcedinidae

 

Stork-billed Kingfisher Pelargopsis capensis 25-Aug-19
Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis 4-Aug-19
Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis 18-Aug-19
Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis 25-Aug-19
Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis 25-Aug-19
Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis 23-Aug-19
Megalaimidae Lineated Barbet Megalaima lineata 27-Aug-19
Picidae

 

Laced Woodpecker Picus vittatus 25-Aug-19
Rufous Woodpecker Micropternus brachyurus 23-Aug-19
Rufous Woodpecker Micropternus brachyurus 29-Aug-19
Cacatuidae Sulphur-crested Cockatoo Cacatua galerita 26-Aug-19
Pachycephalidae

 

Mangrove Whistler Pachycephala cinerea 18-Aug-19
Mangrove Whistler Pachycephala cinerea 24-Aug-19
Mangrove Whistler Pachycephala cinerea 25-Aug-19
Mangrove Whistler Pachycephala cinerea 26-Aug-19
Pycnonotidae

 

Yellow-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus goiavier 27-Aug-19
Asian Red-eyed Bulbul Pycnonotus brunneus 27-Aug-19
Cisticolidae Zitting Cisticola Cisticola juncidis 26-Aug-19
Timaliidae Chestnut-winged Babbler Stachyris erythroptera 9-Aug-19
Irenidae Asian Fairy-bluebird Irena puella 27-Aug-19
Sturnidae Asian Glossy Starling Aplonis panayensis 27-Aug-19
Muscicapidae

 

Brown-streaked Flycatcher Muscicapa williamsoni 10-Aug-19
Brown-streaked Flycatcher Muscicapa williamsoni 11-Aug-19
Brown-streaked Flycatcher Muscicapa williamsoni 12-Aug-19
Brown-streaked Flycatcher Muscicapa williamsoni 16-Aug-19
Nectariniidae

 

Van Hasselt’s Sunbird Leptocoma brasiliana 26-Aug-19
Little Spiderhunter Arachnothera longirostra 14-Aug-19
Little Spiderhunter Arachnothera longirostra 15-Aug-19

NSS Pelagic Survey-September 2019.

We could not have asked for a better day to do the autumn pelagic on Saturday 28 September 2019. The sea was calm, with a light breeze blowing. The sun was shining through as the month-long haze seemed to have dissipated, in part due to the change in direction of the monsoon winds.

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Our first bird of the day, a crested tern flying over. We were blessed with good weather and calm seas today.

On the boat was also Audrey Tan, Environment Correspondent at the Straits Times, and her photo journalist Lim Yaohui. They had joined us on this trip to learn more about the research which the Nature Society (Singapore) and the National Parks Board are conducting to survey and study the seabirds which use the Strait of Singapore on their annual autumn and spring migrations.

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The happy NSS survey team at the end of the trip at Sentosa Cove. 

Three hours into the boat trip and we were cruising north of Batam Island when we saw a small flock of dark-shaped birds floating on the waters just ahead of us. They looked like the storm petrels which we had been seeing flying in small flocks westwards on their way to the Indian Ocean earlier. In total, we would have seen 118 of these Swinhoe’s Storm Petrels, Oceanodroma monorhis, when we finished the trip that day. This was a far cry from the 532 which we had on a similar pelagic last September.

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Part of a flock of 11 Red-necked Phalaropes we found floating on the waves. Photo: Lim Kim Keang.

The dark-shaped birds flew up as we got nearer, their white underwings and bodies gleaming in the bright sun. Kim Keang, our leader for the trip, shouted “Phalarope!” but it was lost to those on board!

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We got very close to these three Red-necked Phalaropes as they were busy feeding on the small marine crustaceans among the sea grasses. Photo: Lim Kim Keang. Their habit of swimming around in small circles helps to pool the food to the center for easy pickings.

Floating further on the water were 11 Red-necked Phalaropes, Phalaropus lobatus, while another 3 were much closer, allowing all on board to have good close-up views. As they were feeding and flying around the boat, there were ample opportunities to photograph them. This was the first sighting of multiple phalaropes in a flock as the previous three sightings were of single birds. Interestingly all were juveniles.

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The Red-necked Phalarope foraging among a sea of floating sea grasses out in the Straits. Photo: Shruti.

Terns also put up a good show. There were 55 Bridled Terns, Sterna anaethetus, with two flocks  of 18 and 7 flying eastwards in the direction of Horsburgh Lighthouse.

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A breeding Bridled Tern resting on a plank by Wilson Leung. The head pattern is similiar to the Aleutian but the dark plumage of the Bridled Tern is a good identification feature for this tern.

Aleutian Terns, Sterna aleutica, that migrated all the way from Alaska was a species which we hope we could show to the members on board. They did not disappoint. 15 adults, 8 of them still in their breeding plumage and a juvenile were present.

Aleutian

An Aleutian Tern in breeding plumage. They are often seen resting on flotsams. Presence of a small wintering population recorded at the Karimun Islands in 1998.

Aleutian NB

Aleutian Tern in non-breeding plumage showing the dark trailing edge of the secondaries, a good identification feature for this tern.

Also seen were 4 Common Terns, Sterna hirundo, comprising two adults and two juveniles. These uncommon terns (despite their name) were resting on flotsam and all were happy to manage close-up shots of them.

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One of the four Common Terns we saw during the trip. This one is in breeding plumage.

As the Crested Terns were in flight and at a distance, it took a while before they were separated and counted. There were 24 Swift Terns, Thalasseus bergii, (formerly Great Crested) and 10 Lesser Crested Terns, Thalasseus bengalensis, with four being unidentified. 6 Little Terns, Sterna albifrons, were also seen on the trip and these may be winter visitors.

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A hazy looking Swift Tern. It is a large tern that can be found flying along the Straits of Johor. Photo: Alan OwYong.

Other birds seen on the trip include a Great-billed Heron, Ardea sumatrana, on Sister’s Island, 5 Barn Swallows Hirundo rustica, flying south, an Intermediate Egret, Egretta intermedia, and a soaring Chinese Sparrowhawk, Accipiter soloensis.

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A Bridled Tern flying in the same direction of the tanker towards Horsburgh Lighthouse, where seven specimens were collected in October 1921, our first record of this tern.

A big thank you to Alfred Chia for making all the arrangements for this trip and to everyone for helping out with the count.

Many thanks to Lim Kim Keang, Alan OwYong, Shruti and Wilson Leung for the use of their photos.

Reference: A Field Guide to the Waterbirds of Asia. Wild Birds Society of Japan.          Lim Kim Seng. The Avifauna of Singapore. Nature Society (Singapore) 2009.

Nature’s Vitamins for the Birds.

By Seng Alvin.

We go to our Watson’s and Guardian for our vitamins and health supplements fix paying an arm and a leg for them. But our avian friends can get theirs for free at our parks and gardens when the Palm Oil trees (Elaeis guineensis) fruit. Scattered over most green areas around the island, these remnant palms survived the development partly due to the dispersal of the seeds by the birds themselves.

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Woodpeckers have no problem getting to the pulp of the Palm fruit. The male Common Goldenback had the pick of the crop. Link https://wp.me/p4VGho-aF on how they feed.

During my walks around Pasir Ris Park, I was fortunate to come across a large variety of birds feeding on the fruit of the oil palms at the park. The orange freshy pulp, mesocarp, has a high content of beta-carotene, a provitamin that helps the body to make Vitamin A. It is also an antioxidant. (Wikipedia). Pet shops sell bird food containing Red Palm Oil supplement that claims to provide Vitamin A and E and Omega 3 and 6 for parrots. That may be the reasons why the birds at the park are so healthy and happy.

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This greedy Red-breasted Parakeet is having the whole fruit for itself. Easy meal for its strong bill.

More than 20 species of birds have been documented to feed on the palm oil seeds in various forums and articles. Here are some of the “healthy” birds that I found taking their vitamins regularly at Pasir Ris Park.

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Our lupsup Asian Glossy Starling takes just about everything that is edible.

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Rose-ringed Parakeets chose the ripest and best fruit.

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Even our domestic chicken cannot pass up the fruits that dropped to the ground.

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If my cousin the Goldenback likes it, it must be good.

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Javan Mynas fighting each other over an oil palm fruit.

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A seed eating weaver bird having a change of diet, enjoying the taste of the palm fruit.

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The Spotted Dove just cannot stand by and watch others taking the fruit. 

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

 

“Singapore Birds on the Brink” A Retrospective.

“Singapore Birds on the Brink” Exhibition.

Following the successful conclusion of the Mapletree sponsored Straw-headed Bulbul Conservation Planning Workshop in 6 May 2019, Mr. Wan Kwong Weng, Group Chief Corporate Officer proposed to host an exhibition on this globally threatened Bulbul for the public. Yong Ding Li, Asia Advocacy and Policy Manager, Birdlife International (Asia) agreed to work with the Nature Society (Singapore) to curate it but felt that a single species-focused exhibition may not capture enough public interest and suggested to expand it to include the endangered songbirds like the White-rumped Shama and Green Leafbirds.

Chung Cheong 5

He consulted the Bird Group of the Nature Society (Singapore) for contributions of photographs and material. It was during the discussion that we hit on the idea of showcasing the threatened birds of Singapore in our national Red Data Book, which also includes the many song birds that we wish to highlight. Mr. Wan gave the go ahead, came up with the title and the “Singapore Birds on the Brink” was conceived.

The closing panel of the exhibition highlighting the globally threatened Straw-headed Bulbul, the species that kick-started this exhibition. Panel photos: Alan OwYong. and Francis Yap. Photo by Chung Cheong.

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To be included in Mapletree Arts in the City’s August event to be held at Vivocity, we had just over two months to set up this exhibition. There were more than 50 resident species of birds listed in the Red Data Book as nationally threatened mainly due to loss of natural habitat, and this provided the foundation of our exhibition. Photo: Alan OwYong.

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Group photo of the contributing photographers with GOH Mayor Low Yen Ling. From left Cheng Heng Yee and Quek Oon Hong, Wang Bin, Lee Tiah Khee with Samuel Lim, Alan OwYong, Mohamad Zahidi (Zack), Francis Yap and Keita Sin. Absent Con Foley, Bjorn Olesen and Derrick Wong. Photo: Chung Cheong.

Luckily all our bird photography friends gave their full support and provided us with their best photographic images of some of the uncommon and rare species for the exhibition. We thank them all ( Alan OwYong, Bjorn Olesen, Cheng Heng Yee and Quek Oon Hong, Con Foley, Derrick Wong, Francis Yap, Keita Sin, Lee Tiah Khee, Mohamad Zahidi (Zack) and Wang Bin) for their generosity and a special thanks to Alfred Chia and Yong Ding Li for the panel and species write ups. We are grateful to have Mapletree Investments coming in as the main supporter of this initiative to bring awareness of our imperilled resident birds and natural habitat, to the larger public and masses.

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The exhibition was declared opened at Vivocity on the 16 August by Ms. Low Yen Ling, Mayor of South West District and Senior Permanent Secretary Ministry of Education and Manpower and Mr. Edmund Cheng, Chairman of Mapletree Investments. Our special guests are from the National Junior College Greenlink Club. Photo courtesy of Mapletree Arts in the City.

Geoff Lim

GOH Ms. Low Yen Ling, Mayor of South West District touring the exhibition with Mr. Edmund Cheng Chairman of  Mapletree and Mr. Wan Kwong Weng, Group CCO with Yong Ding Li and Alan OwYong in attendance Photo: Geoff Lim.

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Lee Tiah Khee explaining to Mayor Low Yen Ling on how he took the photo of the rare Cotton Pygmy Goose at the Gardens by the Bay. Photo: Mapletree Arts in the City.

Nationally Critically Endangered
Cotton Pygmy Goose Nettapus coromandelianus. 棉凫     

A very rare resident, the Cotton Pygmy Goose is a shy waterfowl which inhabits freshwater marshes, ponds and reservoirs. They may be found singly, in pairs or in small groups. This species may still be found in the Western Catchment but due to its inaccessibility, information on its presence there is scant. They have also been seen in Kranji Marsh and Lorong Halus Wetlands in recent years. Extinction rank high for this species as numbers may now be in the single digit.

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Cheng Heng Yee and his wife Quek Oon Hong sharing the moment of the shot of a pair of Changeable Hawk Eagles with Mayor Low Yen Ling. Photo: Mapletree Arts in the City.

Changeable Hawk Eagle

The Changeable Hawk Eagle is a surprisingly powerful predator that can take prey as large as a small monkey. Although medium-sized animals like squirrels and large lizards form the mainstay of its diet, these eagles have been observed in the wild to threaten far larger prey. One individual was seen to have successfully taken a young Banded Leaf Monkey from its troop at the edge of the forest, while another made a number of unsuccessful attempts on a young macaque.

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Francis Yap contributed more than 10 photos for the exhibition including this panel of four photos (from top left clockwise): Red-crowned Barbet, Mangrove Whistler, Red-legged Crake and Short-tailed Babbler.

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Keita Sin (right) giving Mayor Low Yen Ling a brief history of our White-bellied Woodpecker in the company of Yong Ding Li. Con Foley was away and was not able to personally elaborate on how he shot this pair of woodpeckers. Photo: Chung Cheong

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Derrick Wong happily posing next to his photo of a Little Tern dropping its catch in mid air. He did not realised that he captured this moment until after he reviewed his photos later that day.

Little Tern Sternula albifrons 白额燕鸥 Nationally Endangered

The aptly named Little Tern is one of the smallest of the nearly 50 tern species in the world. In Singapore, it is best seen at some of our reservoirs such as Kranji, and in our coastal waters. Because of its tendency to nest on open sandy ground, especially on beaches, Little Terns are extremely vulnerable to human disturbance (especially from beach-goers), as well as the conversion of its sandy shore habitat to development.

68391526_2465849020137850_2391441041703043072_o

The public can participate in the crossword puzzle at the back of these cards to win shopping vouchers from Mapletree. A fun way to learn about our threatened birds. We had to do a reprint as it ran out on the first day.  Green Imperial Pigeon and Barred Eagle Owl on the panel, Mangrove Pitta, Blue-naped Monarch and Straw-headed Bulbul on the cards. Photo: Chung Cheong.

Great-billed Heron_Mohamad Zahidi

Mohamad Zahidi’s photo of the nationally threatened Great-billed Heron, the largest bird in Singapore.

Nationally Critically Endangered
Great-billed Heron Ardea sumatrana 大嘴鹭

Standing at well over a metre, the Great-billed Heron is among the world’s largest herons. In Singapore, small numbers may be found in coastal mangroves, mudflats, reefs and the rocky coasts of the offshore islands. Extensive development along Singapore’s southern coastline meant that the Great-billed Heron has lost most of its habitat here. It is also one of the bird species from Southeast Asia described and named by Sir Stamford Raffles, who was himself an ardent naturalist.

Blue-eared Kingfisher_Bjorn Olesen

A brilliant take on our Blue-eared Kingfisher by Bjorn Olesen, an international award winning photographer and author.

Nationally Critically Endangered
Blue-eared Kingfisher Alcedo meninting 蓝耳翠鸟   

 A shy and rare resident kingfisher that inhabits forested streams within the Central Catchment Forest previously, the Blue-eared Kingfisher has, in recent years, been seen in various other localities like the Bukit Batok Nature Park and Neo Tiew area. Although the increasing numbers of places where this species can be sighted now is an encouraging sign, its population remains low and continued protection of its habitat is vital.

Chung Cheong 7

Wang Bin sharing the plight of the Little Grebe in Singapore (Wang Bin’s photo at the top) with GOH Mayor Low Yen Ling and Vinayagan Dharmarajah Regional Director Birdlife International Asia.  Less than ten Little Grebes are struggling to survive at only one location in Singapore. Another threatened wetland species, the Greater Painted Snipe by Alan OwYong is featured at the bottom panel.

Nationally Critically Endangered
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis 小䴙䴘

The Little Grebe is a rare resident found in freshwater ponds and marshes. The Singapore population of the Little Grebe has never been stable and numbers are low though they have been observed in some disused quarries. Small numbers may appear in a locality and disappear just as quickly, either through habitat destruction or disturbance.

Threatened birds featured in the Exhibition:

Cinnamon-headed Pigeon , Green Imperial Pigeon, Thick-billed Pigeon (EN), Jambu Fruit Dove, Barred Eagle Owl, Buffy Fish Owl (CR), Spotted Wood Owl (CR), Blue-rumped Parrot (CR), Long-tailed Parakeet, Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot (EN), Straw-headed Bulbul (EN), Black-headed Bulbul (CR), Lesser Whistling Duck (EN), Little Grebe (CR), Crested Serpent Eagle (CR), Crested Goshawk (CR), Changeable Hawk Eagle (EN), Grey-headed Fish Eagle (CR), Black-naped Tern (EN), Little Tern (EN), Violet Cuckoo (EN), Drongo Cuckoo (CR), White-chested Babbler (CR), Chestnut-winged Babbler (EN), Short-tailed Babbler, Cotton Pygmy Goose (CR), Great-billed Heron (CR), Malaysian Plover (CR), Malaysian Eared Nightjar (CR), Greater Painted Snipe (CR), Plume-toed Swiftlet (CR), Ruddy Kingfisher (CR), Blue-eared Kingfisher (CR), Mangrove Pitta (CR), Mangrove Whistler, Mangrove Blue Flycatcher (CR), Scarlet Minivet (CR), Black-naped Monarch (CR), Greater Green Leafbird (CR), Lesser Green Leafbird (CR), Yellow-vented Flowerpecker (CR), Beach Stone Curlew (CR), Red-crowned Barbet, Red-legged Crake (VU), White-bellied Woodpecker (CR), Yellow-eared Spiderhunter (CR) and Zitting Cisticola.

National Status: VU- Vulnerable. EN- Endangered.  CR- Critically Endangered.

Reference: The Singapore Red Data Book. Threatened Plants & Animals of Singapore. Edited by G.W.H Davison, PK.L. Ng and Ho Hua Chew. Second Edition.

Many thanks to Mapletree Arts in the City, Chung Cheong, Geoff Lim, Derrick Wong and Alan OwYong for the use of their photos.

Singapore Bird Report – July 2019

by Geoff Lim & Tan Gim Cheong (ed.)

July 2019 was an amazing month, with the first record of the Pied Stilt, not just occurring, but also breeding, in Singapore; and the first breeding record of the rare Black-winged Stilt, so far only known as a visitor. The month also closed with the complete loss of a brood of 11 ducklings of a pair of Lesser Whistling Ducks.

First record of Pied Stilt in Singapore.

In July 2019, Frankie Cheong reported the first record of the Pied Stilt Himantopus leucocephalus in Singapore, on the new reclaimed land around Pulau Tekong. It was on 17 July 2019 that he saw an adult Pied Stilt and four juveniles that appeared to associate with the adult. The four juvenile stilts were seen again on 23 July 2019.

Pied Stilt, posted 180719, Tekong, Frankie Cheong

Adult Pied Stilt (above) and four juvenile stilts (below) spotted on 17 July 2019, by Frankie Cheong.

Pied Stilt, posted 180719, Tekong, Frankie Cheong, juveniles

First breeding record of Pied Stilt in Singapore.

Just three days later, on 20 July 2019, he found that a pair of Pied Stilts were nesting! The nest contained one egg on 20 July 2019, and by 23 July 2019, the nest yielded four eggs. On 27 July 2019, the Pied Stilts were still sitting on their eggs.

Pied Stilt breeding, posted 20 Aug, Tekong, Frankie Cheong 2

Pied Stilt showing its long black ‘mane’ on back of neck, 20 July 2019. Photo by Frankie Cheong.

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Pied Stilt with nest containing one egg on 20 July 2019. Photo by Frankie Cheong.

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Pied Stilt nest containing four eggs on 23 July 2019. Photo by Frankie Cheong.

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Pied Stilt sitting on its nest on 27 July 2019, by Frankie Cheong.

The rare Black-winged Stilts

A rare Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus was also seen in the same vicinity on 17 July 2019, and again on 23 July 2019, fighting with the Pied Stilt.

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Black-winged Stilt spotted on 17 July 2019 by Frankie Cheong.

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Black-winged (left) and Pied (right) Stilts fighting on 23 July 2019. Photo by Frankie Cheong.

First breeding record of Black-winged Stilt in Singapore.

On 25 July 2019, Frankie stumbled on yet another nest with four eggs. This time, it belonged to a pair of Black-winged Stilts, which was unexpected as these birds have so far been known as rare migrants. By 27 July 2019, one chick was visible and tended to by its parents, while the nest only had one egg visible. The two other eggs had disappeared. By 29 July 2019, the Black-winged Stilt’s nest was empty, while two chicks were seen nearby, in the presence of two adult birds.

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Black-winged Stilt with chick on 27 July 2019, by Frankie Cheong.

The Black-winged Stilt is widely distributed and is found from France and Iberia S to sub-Saharan Africa and Madagascar, and E to C Asia and NC China, Indian Subcontinent (including Sri Lanka), Indochina and Taiwan; winters S to Africa (Pierce and Kirwan, 2019), while the Pied Stilt, also known as the White-headed Stilt, occurs in Sumatra and Java, E to New Guinea, and S to Australia, Tasmania and New Zealand; winters N to Philippines, Greater Sundas and Sulawesi, and as far as Sri Lanka (Pierce and Kirwan, 2019). Historically, the Black-winged Stilt is listed as the only species of stilt found in the Malay Peninsula (Wells, 1999:273-274).

Hitherto, the Black-winged Stilt has been listed as a rare migrant to Singapore. The last three sightings were at the main hide at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve in November 2011, Punggol Barat in December 2012 and Kranji Marsh in November 2015. Hence, Frankie’s breeding records presents new knowledge on the status of the bird in Singapore.

The Pied Stilt had previously been considered a sub-species of the Black-winged Stilt (Pierce and Kirwan, 2019) and is notably a largely Indonesian/Australasian species. In recent years, it has more frequently been accorded full species status (Sonobe & Usui, 1993; Robson, 2005). There are no previous records of the Pied Stilt in Singapore, much less a breeding record, therefore Frankie’s sightings constitute the first records of the Pied Stilt in Singapore.

Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR) & Fringes

While resident species continued to hold sway, early migratory species have begun to reach our shores. In the heart of the CCNR, observers reported regular forest residents such as the Violet Cuckoo Chrysococcyx xanthorhynchus on 10 July 2019 (Francis Yap), Black-headed Bulbul Pycnonotus atriceps on 13 July 2019 at Jelutong Tower (Joseph Lim), the Chestnut-winged Babbler Stachyris erythroptera on 23 July 2019 (Martin Kennewell), Short-tailed Babbler Malacocincla malaccensis on 23 July 2019 (Martin Kennewell – 2 heard) and on 25 July 2019 (Kelvin Ng Cheng Kwan – 1 bird seen on trail to Jelutong Tower), and Greater Green Leafbird Chloropsis sonnerati (Evelyn Lee – female at Jelutong Tower). A migratory Brown-streaked Flycatcher Muscicapa williamsoni was reported as being seen on 22 July 2019 by Raghav N.

Violet Cuckoo, 100719, JT, Fryap

Violet Cuckoo at Jelutong Tower on 10 July 2019 by Francis Yap.

STB, KNCK

Short-tailed Babbler at CCNR on 25 July 2019 by Kelvin Ng Cheng Kwan.

CCNR fringe parks also received a fair amount of attention. Dairy Farm Nature Park (DFNP) hosted a conference of Van Hasselt’s Sunbird Leptocoma brasiliana between 1 and 4 July 2019 (Peter Lim), beginning with 11 individuals on 1 Jul 2019, to 7 birds and eventually 4 birds by 4 July 2019. The Chestnut-bellied Malkoha Phaenicophaeus sumatranus was spotted on 27 July 2019 (Yeong Wai Kai) and a female Thick-billed Pigeon Treron curvirostra was seen on 31 July 2019 (Roberta Cheok). Along the Rail Corridor, a Tanimbar Corella Cacatua goffiniana was spotted on 5 July 2019 (Lim Sheen Taw).

CBM, YWK

Chestnut-bellied Malkoha at DFNP on 27 July 2019 by Yeong Wai Kai.

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Tanimbar Corella along Rail Corridor on 5 Jul 2019 by Lim Sheen Taw.

Further away at the Singapore Quarry, a foraging Brahminy Kite Haliastur indus was spotted on 3 July 2019 (Kelvin Ng Cheng Kwan), a pair of Barred Eagle Owl Bubo sumatranus and its juvenile were variously spotted on 16 July 2019, from 21 to 25 July 2019 by Art Toh and friends, and heard on 28 July 2019 by Yong Ding Li and Geoff Lim; while a Violet Cuckoo Chrysococcyx xanthorhynchus was spotted on 30 July 2019 by Francis Yap. Observers also noted the presence of the Brown Hawk Owl Ninox scutulata at Hindhede Park on 4 and 26 July 2019 (Terence Tan and Joseph Lim).

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Barred Eagle Owl at Singapore Quarry on 31 July 2019 by Herman Phua.

A Malaysian Hawk Cuckoo Hierococcyx fugax was spotted at Upper Peirce Reservoir on 24 July 2019 by Morten Strange and Bee Choo.

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Malaysian Hawk Cuckoo at Upper Peirce Reservoir on 24 July 2019 by Morten Strange & Ng-Strange Bee Choo.

Singapore Botanic Gardens

Two Red-legged Crake Rallina fasciata were seen on 2 July 2019 by Mike Smith, while the White-rumped Munia Lonchura striata was spotted on 13 July 2019.

RLC, Smith

Red-legged Crake at SBG on 2 Jul 2019 by Mike Smith.

Central Singapore

A White-bellied Sea-Eagle Haliaeetus leucogaster was seen at Potong Pasir Park Connector on 5 July 2019 by Paul Tan, while three Crested Serpent Eagle Spilornis cheela were seen at Goldhill Avenue on 6 July 2019 by Soon Yi Pak

Northern Singapore

The Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis was spotted at the Lorong Halus Wetland by Dean Tan and Siew Mun on 5 and 17 July 2019. Towards the end of July, Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia were spotted at Yishun Dam on 28 July 2019 (Art Toh), as were up to four Lesser Sand Plover Charadrius mongolus on 31 Jul 2019 (Khoo Mei Lin), together with Malaysian Plover Charadrius peronii, on 28 July 2019 (Art Toh) and 31 July 2019 (Khoo Mei Lin).

MP, Art

Malaysian Plover at Yishun Dam on 28 July 2019 by Art Toh.

Eastern Singapore

Singapore’s eastern flanks contain habitats that yielded surprises. Pulau Ubin delivered spectacular species, such as a rare Black-and-Red Broadbill Cymbirhynchus macrorhynchos discovered during a joint NParks-NSS Ubin survey on 7 July 2019, a Crested Serpent Eagle Spilornis cheela on 2 July 2019 by Feroz Ghazali, while the Black-winged Flycatcher-shrike Hemipus hirundinaceus put up two appearances on 14 and 21 July 2019 at Chek Jawa for Francis Yap. There were also shorebirds lingering farther away – three Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus and two Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos spotted on 18 July 2019 by Feroz Ghazali, and Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola, Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia and more Whimbrel on 21 July 2019 by Francis Yap.

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Black-winged Flycatcher-shrike at Chek Jawa, Pulau Ubin on 21 July 2019 by Francis Yap.

Pasir Ris Park continued to support Yellow-crested Cockatoo Cacatua sulphurea (14 July 2019; Steven Cheong), the adult and juvenile Spotted Wood Owl Strix seloputo (28 July 2019; Jimmy Ng), the one-eyed Buffy Fish Owl Ketupa ketupu (28 July 2019; Jimmy Ng), and the juvenile Blue-eared Kingfisher Alcedo meninting with a deformed foot (31 July 2019; Dean Tan). Nearby at the Sungei Tampines Canal East, Little Tern Sternula albifrons had been seen earlier on 1 July 2019 foraging above the waters by Alvin Seng.

Changi Business Park continued to be a stronghold for the Green Imperial Pigeon Ducula aenea, which was reported on 14 July 2019 (T. Ramesh) drinking water in the canal, and on 19 July 2019 at a more conventional location. Also spotted was an early arriving Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea, seen on 17 July 2019 by T. Ramesh.

SWO, JN

Juvenile Spotted Wood Owl at Pasir Ris Park on 28 July 2019 by Jimmy Ng.

Southern Singapore

Gardens by the Bay gave nature lovers much grief and anxiety when the ducklings belonging to a pair of Lesser Whistling Duck Dendrocygna javanica were systematically decimated through the course of the month. (From 11 ducklings on 27 June 2019), by 1 July 2019, there were seven ducklings, as counted by Isabelle Lee and other birders. Staff from the Gardens took pains to build a floating platform for the birds to provide a safe haven from suspected underwater predators. Despite everyone’s best effort, the family was eventually reduced to four survivors by 22 July 2019 (Ronnie Koh), as individuals were picked off by predatory fish lurking beneath the murky waters under the lotus pads. On 24 July 2019, the family decided to move to the ponds at Gardens by the Bay East, and by 25 July 2019, the family was down to a single duckling (Mary Yeo). Then, on 26 July 2019, there were no more ducklings (Jeremiah Loei).

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Lesser Whistling Duck and young using platform built by Gardens by the Bay staff on 7 July 2019, by Isabelle Lee.

Barely a kilometre away, another family of birds captured the attention of photographers and birders. A pair of Masked Lapwing Vanellus miles made a nest out of a scrape on the ground next to a construction site at Marina Bay East. Four eggs were reported on 16 July 2019, which eventually hatched by 19 July 2019. The chicks were rescued by construction workers when they could not surmount the kerb when their parents moved to the golf course across the construction site.

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Masked Lapwing with chicks at Marina East Drive on 25 July 2019 by Norhafiani A. Majid.

Further away, White-rumped Munia Lonchura striata were reported at Telok Blangah Hill Park on 19 July 2019 by John Marriott, who also reported Yellow-crested Cockatoo Cacatua sulphurea at Sentosa on 23 July 2019.

Western Singapore

The Kranji Marshes and surrounding habitat comprising Turut Track and Neo Tiew Harvest Lane received reports of migrants and residents alike. Two Red-wattled Lapwing Vanellus indicus were reportedly inspecting a hole at Turut Track on 3 July 2019 by Steven Wong, who also reported the sighting of a Changeable Hawk-Eagle Nisaetus cirrhatus in the vicinity on the same day. A Cinnamon Bittern Ixobrychus cinnamomeus was reportedly seen on 7 July 2019 at Neo Tiew Harvest Lane by William Legge, who noted that “a small bittern uniformly salmon cinnamon coloured flew away from us”. Two Straw-headed Bulbul Pycnonotus zeylanicus were spotted on 17 July 2019 within Kranji Marshes by Vincent Chin, while a juvenile Banded Bay Cuckoo Cacomantis sonneratii was seen on 28 and 29 July 2019 by Yeong Wai Kai; the young cuckoo was being fed by a Common Iora Aegithina tiphia on 28 July 2019. An adult Scaly-breasted Munia Lonchura punctulata was also seen regurgitating food for three young birds on 30 July 2019 at Kranji Marsh by Yeo Seng Beng. Migratory Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola and Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius were reported to have arrived at Neo Tiew Harvest Lane on 28 July 2019 by Art Toh.

BBC, YWK

Juvenile Banded Bay Cuckoo fed by adult Common Iora at Kranji Marsh on 28 July 2019 by Yeong Wai Kai.

WS, AT

Wood Sandpiper at Neo Tiew Harvest Lane on 28 July 2019 by Art Toh.

Shorebirds were also reported at the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve. As early as 7 July 2019, Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus were seen huddling together at the main pond by William Legge. Other shorebirds reported were a lone Common Redshank Tringa totanus on 14 July 2019 (Adrian Silas Tay), and Pacific Golden Plover Pluvialis fulva on 23 July 2019 (YK Han). The Lesser Adjutant Leptoptilos javanicus were also spotted on 7 July 2019 by YK Han, 14 July 2019 perched on a tree at Platform 2 by Adrian Silas Tay and two overflying birds on 20 July 2019 by Ng Wei Khim & Ng Wee Hao.

Two adults and a juvenile Buffy Fish Owl Ketupa ketupu were reported at the newly opened Jurong Lake Garden on 21 July 2019 by Yeong Wai Kai and seen again on 27 July 2019 by Ang Siew Siew, while the White-headed Munia Lonchura striata was also spotted on 23 July 2019 by Vincent Chin. The munia species was also seen along the Ulu Pandan Park Connector Network on 18 July 2019 by Brenda Chua LH, while further afield, a Pacific Reef Heron Egretta sacra was spotted at the West Coast Park on 22 July 2019 by John Marriott.
Abbreviations:
CCNR: Central Catchment Nature Reserve
DFNP: Dairy Farm Nature Park

This report is written by Geoff Lim and edited by Tan Gim Cheong. We are grateful for the birders and photographers whose postings in various Facebook birding pages, bird forums, individual reports and extracts from eBird make up this report. This compilation is not a complete list of birds recorded for the month and not all the records were verified.

Many thanks to Frankie Cheong, Francis Yap, Kelvin Ng Cheng Kwan, Yeong Wai Kai, Lim Sheen Taw, Herman Phua, Morten and Bee Choo Strange, Mike Smith, Art Toh, Jimmy Ng, Isabelle Lee, and Norhafianni A. Majid for allowing us to use their photographs.

REFERENCES

Pierce, R.J. & Kirwan, G.M. (2019). Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from https://www.hbw.com/node/53759 on 26 August 2019).

Robson, C. (2005). Birds of South-east Asia. New Holland Publisher: UK.

Sonobe, K. & Usui, S. (1993). A Field Guide to the Waterbirds of Asia. Wild Bird Society of Japan: Tokyo.

Wells, D. R. (1999). The Birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsula. Academic Press: London.

LIST OF BIRDS REPORTED IN JUNE 2019

Family Species name Scientific Name Date
Anatidae Lesser Whistling Duck Dendrocygna javanica 1 Jul 2019
Anatidae Lesser Whistling Duck Dendrocygna javanica 22 Jul 2019
Podicipedidae Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis 5 Jul 2019
Podicipedidae Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis 17 Jul 2019
Ciconiidae Lesser Adjutant Leptoptilos javanicus 7 Jul 2019
Ciconiidae Lesser Adjutant Leptoptilos javanicus 14 Jul 2019
Ciconiidae Lesser Adjutant Leptoptilos javanicus 20 Jul 2019
Ardeidae Cinnamon Bittern Ixobrychus cinnamomeus 7 Jul 2019
Ardeidae Pacific Reef Heron Egretta sacra 22 Jul 2019
Accipitridae Crested Serpent Eagle Spilornis cheela 2 Jul 2019
Accipitridae Crested Serpent Eagle Spilornis cheela 6 Jul 2019
Accipitridae Changeable Hawk-Eagle Nisaetus cirrhatus 3 Jul 2019
Accipitridae Brahminy Kite Haliastur indus 3 Jul 2019
Accipitridae White-bellied Sea Eagle Haliaeetus leucogaster 5 Jul 2019
Rallidae Red-legged Crake Rallina fasciata 2 Jul 2019
Recurvirostridae Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus 17 Jul 2019
Recurvirostridae Pied Stilt Himantopus leucocephalus 17 Jul 2019
Charadriidae Red-wattled Lapwing Vanellus indicus 3 Jul 2019
Charadriidae Masked Lapwing Vanellus miles 16 Jul 2019
Charadriidae Masked Lapwing Vanellus miles 19 Jul 2019
Charadriidae Masked Lapwing Vanellus miles 19 Jul 2019
Charadriidae Pacific Golden Plover Pluvialis fulva 23 Jul 2019
Charadriidae Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola 21 Jul 2019
Charadriidae Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius 28 Jul 2019
Charadriidae Malaysian Plover Charadrius peronii 28 Jul 2019
Charadriidae Malaysian Plover Charadrius peronii 31 Jul 2019
Charadriidae Lesser Sand Plover Charadrius mongolus 31 Jul 2019
Scolopacidae Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus 7 Jul 2019
Scolopacidae Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus 18 Jul 2019
Scolopacidae Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus 21 Jul 2019
Scolopacidae Common Redshank Tringa totanus 14 Jul 2019
Scolopacidae Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia 21 Jul 2019
Scolopacidae Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia 28 Jul 2019
Scolopacidae Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola 28 Jul 2019
Scolopacidae Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos 18 Jul 2019
Laridae Little Tern Sternula albifrons 1 Jul 2019
Columbidae Thick-billed Green Pigeon Treron curvirostra 31 Jul 2019
Columbidae Green Imperial Pigeon Ducula aenea 14 Jul 2019
Columbidae Green Imperial Pigeon Ducula aenea 19 Jul 2019
Cuculidae Chestnut-bellied Malkoha Phaenicophaeus sumatranus 27 Jul 2019
Cuculidae Violet Cuckoo Chrysococcyx xanthorhynchus 10 Jul 2019
Cuculidae Violet Cuckoo Chrysococcyx xanthorhynchus 30 Jul 2019
Cuculidae Banded Bay Cuckoo Cacomantis sonneratii 28 Jul 2019
Cuculidae Banded Bay Cuckoo Cacomantis sonneratii 29 Jul 2019
Cuculidae Malaysian Hawk-Cuckoo Hierococcyx fugax 24 Jul 2019
Strigidae Barred Eagle-Owl Bubo sumatranus 16 Jul 2019
Strigidae Barred Eagle-Owl Bubo sumatranus 18 Jul 2019
Strigidae Barred Eagle-Owl Bubo sumatranus 30 Jul 2019
Strigidae Buffy Fish Owl Ketupa ketupu 21 Jul 2019
Strigidae Buffy Fish Owl Ketupa ketupu 27 Jul 2019
Strigidae Buffy Fish Owl Ketupa ketupu 28 Jul 2019
Strigidae Spotted Wood Owl Strix seloputo 28 Jul 2019
Strigidae Brown Hawk-Owl Ninox scutulata 4 Jul 2019
Strigidae Brown Hawk-Owl Ninox scutulata 26 Jul 2019
Alcedinidae Blue-eared Kingfisher Alcedo meninting 31 Jul 2019
Cacatuidae Tanimbar Corella Cacatua goffiniana 5 Jul 2019
Cacatuidae Yellow-crested Cockatoo Cacatua sulphurea 14 Jul 2019
Cacatuidae Yellow-crested Cockatoo Cacatua sulphurea 23 Jul 2019
Eurylaimidae Black-and-Red Broadbill Cymbirhynchus macrorhynchos 7 Jul 2019
Tephrodornithidae Black-winged Flycatcher-shrike Hemipus hirundinaceus 14 Jul 2019
Tephrodornithidae Black-winged Flycatcher-shrike Hemipus hirundinaceus 21 Jul 2019
Pycnonotidae Straw-headed Bulbul Pycnonotus zeylanicus 17 Jul 2019
Pycnonotidae Black-headed Bulbul Pycnonotus atriceps 13 Jul 2019
Timaliidae Chestnut-winged Babbler Stachyris erythroptera 23 Jul 2019
Pellorneidae Short-tailed Babbler Malacocincla malaccensis 23 Jul 2019
Pellorneidae Short-tailed Babbler Malacocincla malaccensis 25 Jul 2019
Muscicapidae Brown-streaked Flycatcher Muscicapa williamsoni 22 Jul 2019
Chloropseidae Greater Green Leafbird Chloropsis sonnerati 27 Jul 2019
Nectariniidae Van Hasselt’s Sunbird Leptocoma brasiliana 1 Jul 2019
Estrildidae White-rumped Munia Lonchura striata 13 Jul 2019
Estrildidae White-rumped Munia Lonchura striata 19 Jul 2019
Estrildidae Scaly-breasted Munia Lonchura punctulata 30 Jul 2019
Estrildidae White-headed Munia Lonchura maja 18 Jul 2019
Estrildidae White-headed Munia Lonchura maja 23 Jul 2019
Motacillidae Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea 17 Jul 2019

Nesting of Zitting Cisticolas at Jurong Lake Gardens.

Nesting of Zitting Cisticolas at Jurong Lake Gardens.

By Norhafiani A. Majid and Alan OwYong.

  1. Introduction:

The Zitting Cisticola, Cisticola juncidis, formerly known as Streaked Fantail Warbler is listed as a common resident occurring in grasslands, reed beds and open fields throughout mainland Singapore. It has a wide global range from Southern Europe, Africa, Asia and SEA to Australia. The sub species in Singapore is the Malaya.

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Successful nesting of a family of Zitting Cisticolas at Jurong Lake Gardens. Parent with two newly fledged chicks. Photo: Norhafiani A. Majid.

It is not listed in the “Vanishing Birds of Singapore” (Lim Kim Seng 1992) or “The Singapore Red Data Book” (Second Edition 2008), but was included in the recent “Singapore Birds on the Brink” exhibition as they are under threat because of diminishing grasslands.

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A new habitat of Pennisetum and African Tail Feather Grasses at Jurong Lake Gardens home to insects and grassland birds. Photo: Norhafiani A. Majid.

  1. A New Home:

As part of the rejuvenated Jurong Lakeside District, the lakeside gardens were remodelled to include a big expanse of open rolling grasslands of Pennisetum ( Lee Kai Chong) and African Tail Feather Grasses ( Sim Chip Chye). Insects such as grasshoppers and crickets are thriving in the new habitat, a wonderful attraction for the resident insectivorous Zitting Cisticolas.

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With the abundance of insects like this grasshopper the Zitting Cisticolas have no problems feeding three to four chicks at the same time.

3. Time to nest:

The Zitting Cisticolas at Jurong Lake Gardens were seen gathering nesting materials from as early as 14 July. It became apparent that their nesting was successful when the adult pair started feeding their first brood recorded there from 19 July. While observing the first nest, there was a flurry of activities from as many as four other Zitting Cisticolas in other parts of the grasslands.

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Parent bringing back grasshoppers for it chicks. The nest is hidden deep in the middle of the grass bush. Photo: Norhafiani A. Majid.

On 8th August, another nest was found in a more open spot. Three chicks were visible and appeared to be two to three days old. The nest is a small cup of leaves and grasses wound together with cobwebs deep inside the grasses. It is not visible from the side. The male is the nest builder and invites the female in with a special display ( Wikipedia).

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Tender moment of the parent feeding a grasshopper to its chick captured. Photo: Norhafiani A. Majid.

In the days that follow, the cisticolas can be seen flying up and down regularly and bringing back food for the young. The food was mostly grasshoppers and crickets as expected. An interesting observation was that the parents would land a few meters away to survey its immediate surroundings before hopping back to its nest. They were able to find the nest even when they landed at different spots.

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Parent busy bringing back food to feed its hungry chicks.

  1. Fledglings

On 21 August the nest was empty.  We had a note from Lee Kai Chong that the chicks fledged on 20 August. Assuming that the chicks hatched on the 6 August, the time taken from hatching to fledging was about two weeks.  Three fledglings were seen on 24 August and a photo of the parent feeding the chick was captured. A new generation will be making their home here. It is heartening that the newly created habitat for grassland birds is thriving. The public garden provides easy access and enabled us to document the nesting behaviour of these Zitting Cisticolas.  We would like to thank our friends especially Chen Wah Piyong for sharing their knowledge and observations.

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This juvenile Zitting Cisticola is only a few days old but already has acquired all the markings of the parent.  Photo: Norhafiani A. Majid.

Reference:

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

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

 

 

 

How do Cuckoos choose their hosts?

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We have been seeing numerous posts recently on juvenile cuckoos being fed by Common Ioras and Golden-bellied Gerygones in Singapore. Based on Francis Yap’s article “Resident Cuckoos and their host parents- A Pictorial Guide”, (https://wp.me/p4VGho-hJ), it seems that different species of our resident cuckoos prefer one or two specific bird species as hosts. Examples:

  1. Rusty-breasted Cuckoos choosing Malaysian Pied Fantails as hosts.
  2. Drongo Cuckoos choosing Bulbuls or Pin-striped Tit-babblers
  3. Plantive Cuckoos choosing Common or Ashy Tailorbirds
  4. Banded Bay Cuckoos choosing Common Ioras
  5. Little Bronze Cuckoos choosing Golden-bellied Gerygone or Olive-backed Sunbirds.

Kiakee Leong

Kaikee Leong’s dramatic photo of a Common Iora feeding a Banded Bay Cuckoo at Kranji Marshes taken in July 2019.

The current feeding of the Little Bronze Cuckoo by a pair of Golden-bellied Gerygones at Jurong West Neighbourhood Park was first reported by Lee Kia Chong on 23 July 2018 at the same park. (https://wp.me/p4VGho-4Gb).  The residents there said that this feeding had been going on for some years now ( per comms Koh Lian Heng)

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The abundance of fruit flies around the mango trees at the park must be the reason for these Golden-bellied Gerygones to nest there year after year. 

So why do the Little Bronze Cuckoo choose the Golden-bellied Gerygones as host parents year after year? There were a few theories if you do a search on line. One was that the similar colour of the eggs and another was the imprint of the host parents on the cuckoo chick. But there were no evidence to support these theories.

Based on a study by Barbara Taborsky and colleagues of Konrad Lorenz Institute in Vienna, it is the habitat ( Nature. 28 Jan. 1999). The cuckoos return to the same place that reminds them of where they fledged and where they they will most likely to encounter the same host parents.

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A Rusty-breasted Cuckoo chick begging for food from a Malaysian Pied Fantail at Tampines Eco Green. A 2015 photo by Seng Alvin.

In another study by Yang et al 2014 on Common Cuckoos hosted by Oriental Reed Warblers at the Zhalong National Reserves, China, reported in “Behaviour Ecology”, the female cuckoos spent some time monitoring the nests and will only lay the eggs if the nest is active and attended to.

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The super busy parents were feeding the cuckoo chick almost non stop. The Golden-bellied Gerygone at 10 cm is the smallest bird in Singapore.

This may explain why the Cacomantis cuckoos choose the mangrove species like Pied Fantails and Ashy Tailorbirds, forest dwelling Drongo Cuckoos going for forest edge Pin-striped Tit-babblers and Olive-winged Bulbuls and the Little Bronze and Banded Bay cuckoos seeking out the garden and parkland species.

Thank you all for sharing your sightings, records and photos of one of the more fascinating behaviours of our resident birds and help us to learn more about them.

Many thanks to KaiKee Leong and Seng Alvin for the use of their photos. Kevin Ng for the location.

Ref: Lim Kim Seng. The Avifauna of Singapore. 2009.

Craig Robson. A Field Guide to the Birds of Thailand and South-East Asia. Asia Books Co. Ltd.