Singapore Raptor Report, Early Autumn Migration, July-September 2021

JSH, 200921, PRP, Philip Chua

Japanese Sparrowhawk, Pasir Ris Park, 20 September 2021, by Philip Chua

Summary:

A total of 8 Japanese Sparrowhawks Accipiter gularis were recorded in September, with the first arrival on 20 September; one individual was not aged, while the other seven were all adults. At Henderson Waves, there were 30 unidentified sparrowhawks on 24 September.

A total of 34 observations were made for the Oriental Honey Buzzard Pernis ptilorhyncus during the July to September period : 10 in July, 7 in August and 17 in September. As with the previous year, where photographs were available, the honey buzzards could be aged as sub-adults (2nd calendar year), right up to end September, these being over-summering birds. Moult of the primaries (feathers) progressed from 4-5 new primaries in July, to 5-6 new primaries in August, to 6-7 new primaries in September, consistent with last year’s observation. Although one individual had 7 new primaries on 14 August, it was probably not exceptional.

An adult torquatus Oriental Honey Buzzard was photographed at Upper Seletar Reservoir Park on 23 July, while a juvenile with uniform plumage was photographed at Thomson Nature Park on 7 September.

Two Peregrine Falcons Falco peregrinus of the ernesti subspecies were recorded – one adult photographed at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve flying towards Johor on 21 July, and another adult photographed at Marina East on 29 July. The ernesti at Fort Canning on 29 July might have been the same individual as the Marina East falcon.

The Western Osprey Pandion haliaetus, a regular during this time of the year, was recorded at Pulau Ubin (29 July), Yishun Dam (21 August) and Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve (5 September).

CHE, 110821, NTHL, SCC

Changeable Hawk-Eagle with a Changeable Lizard held by its beak and another in its right talons, Neo Tiew Harvest Lane, 11 August 2021, by Sim Chip Chye

For the resident raptors, the great rarity was the lone Black-thighed Falconet Microhierax fringillarius, discovered by Art Toh and Tang Choon Siang on 9 July at Jalan Mashhor, and which made brief appearances on the next two days before disappearing. The rare Crested Serpent Eagle Spilornis cheela was only recorded twice – an adult photographed at Pulau Ubin on 7 August, and another adult photographed at Kent Ridge Park on 6 September.

There were nesting-related records for a number of species of diurnal raptors. At Seletar, a pair of Black-winged Kites Elanus caeruleus was nest-building and mated in mid-August; while a pair of Brahminy Kites Haliastur Indus mated on 31 August and were adding sticks to their nest on 24 September.

At Little Guilin, a pair of Grey-headed Fish Eagles Haliaeetus ichthyaetus mated in late August. Their fledgling of a few months is probably about to become independent. At Pasir Ris Park, a pair of Crested Goshawks Accipiter trivirgatus comprising an adult male and a rather young (sub-adult) female mated on 19, 21, 24 and 28 July, as well as 9 August; while a different pair of adults mated on 25 September. For the White-bellied Sea Eagle Haliaeetus leocogaster, a juvenile was still at the vicinity of the nest on a tall tree at Singapore General Hospital on 5 August.   

Throughout these 3 months, a dark morph Changeable Hawk-Eagle Nisaetus cirrhatus had been frequenting Pasir Ris Park, catching a feral Junglefowl hen on 1 August. Another individual at Neo Tiew Harvest Lane caught two Changeable Lizards on 11 August.

BHO, 150821, Mandai Track 7, Vincent Yip

Brown Hawk-Owl, with yellow left iris and orange right iris, Mandai Track 7, 15 August 2021, by Vincent Yip

For nocturnal raptors, a fledgling Sunda Scops Owl Otus lempiji was photographed at Mandai Track 7 on 16 July. At Pasir Ris Park, the two juvenile Spotted Wood Owls Strix seloputo which left the nest in April were still with their parents on 21 August. At Hindhede Nature Park, the family of four Brown Hawk-Owls Ninox scutulata (found in June) were recorded again on 4 July and 2 August.

On 7 August, HP Tan photographed an interesting looking fish owl that appeared to be the Brown x Buffy Fish Owl hybrid offspring of the mixed Brown Fish Owl and Buffy Fish Owl pair recorded in February 2021.

BFO hybrid, posted 070821, Hindhede, HP Tan FBBS, pic, crop

This appears to be the hybrid Brown Fish Owl x Buffy Fish Owl offspring, Hindhede Nature Park, 7 August 2021, by HP Tan

At Yishun, a pair of Buffy Fish Owls Ketupa ketupu mated on 1 September. Unfortunately, on 16 September, one of the owls was found in the monsoon drain, appeared to be weak and would probably have floated away with the shallow water had it not been rescued.

At Mandai Track 7, an interesting Brown Hawk-Owl had yellow iris on the left eye and orange iris on the right eye. At Jalan Asas, an adult Barred Eagle Owl Bubo sumatranus was recorded on 19 July and 23 July.

Many thanks to everyone for their records, and to Philip Chua, Sim Chip Chye, Vincent Yip and HP Tan for the use of their photos.

For a pdf version with more details, please click Singapore Raptor Report, Early Autumn Migration, Jul-Sep 2021

Singapore Bird Report – August 2021

by Geoff Lim & Isabelle Lee,
and Tan Gim Cheong (ed.)

Residents continued to breed, and migrants started to make their way from their northern breeding grounds to Singapore in August; while most sightings of migrants were of shorebirds, migratory songbirds have also begun to arrive.

Central Catchment Nature Reserve – CCNR

CW Babbler, 018021, Geoff Lim

Chestnut-winged Babbler at Thomson Nature Park on 1 Aug 2021 by Geoff Lim.

Forest species continue to be observed within and along the tracks leading into the Central Catchment Nature Reserve.  The presence of species such as a Thick-billed Green Pigeon, Treron curvirostra, a Chestnut-bellied Malkoha, Phaenicophaeus sumatranus, a Short-tailed Babbler, Pellorneum malaccense, and a pair of Blue-winged Leafbird, Chloropsis cochinchinensis, were noted along Rifle Range Link on 29 August 2021 by Wai Heng Lua, who also spotted a Crested Honey Buzzard, Pernis ptilorhynchus. Other birds seen within the CCNR were one Red-crowned Barbet, Megalaima rafflesii, and three Asian Red-eyed Bulbul, Pycnonotus brunneus, spotted by Ester Gerber on 31 Aug 2021.

The tracks around Mandai, such as Mandai Track 7, have proven to be good birding grounds, given its proximity to old forests such as the Nee Soon forest complex. On 1 August 2021, a Malaysian Hawk-Cuckoo, Hierococcyx fugax, was spotted by Chen RX, while on 21 August 2021, forest specialists, such as a Cream-vented Bulbul, Pycnonotus simplex, and a Chestnut-winged Babbler, Cyanoderma erythropterum, were seen by Tan Kok Hui.

CCNR fringe parks supported species such as a pair of Chestnut-winged Babbler, Cyanoderma erythropterum, on 1 August 2021 at Thomson Nature Park by Geoff Lim, a Square-tailed Drongo Cuckoo, Surniculus lugubris, of which one was seen on 2 August 2021 at Thomson Nature Park by Yip Jen Wei; while along Old Upper Thomson Road, three Brown Hawk-Owl, Ninox scutulata, were reported on 10 Aug 2021 by Tanvi DG. Over at Windsor Nature Park, a Blue-eared Kingfisher, Alcedo meninting, on 27 Aug 2021 (Yap Bao Shen), two Blue-rumped Parrot, Psittinus cyanurus, and a Blyth’s Paradise Flycatcher, Terpsiphone affinis, on 28 Aug 2021 (Fadzrun A), as well as four Long-tailed Parakeet, Psittacula longicauda, on29 Aug 2021 (Matthijs van Bevervoorde) were spotted.

For the Stork-billed Kingfisher, Pelargopsis capensis, nest at Windsor Nature Park, one of the chicks fledged on 14 August 2021 and the nest appeared empty thereafter (Samuel CWJ). The status of the other chick is not known, it could have fledged earlier when no one was around. Nothing is known about the fledging period of the Stork-billed Kingfisher (Wells, 2007). The discovery of the nest on 20 July 2021, when young with unopened eyes were being fed by the parents, tells us that the fledging period is more than 25 days.

SBKF nest, 020821, WNP, Lee Chin Pong

Stork-billed Kingfisher feeding a chick at the nest, the other chick’s bill can be seen near the top of the nest hole, Windsor Nature Park on 2 Aug 2021 by Lee Chin Pong.

At Dairy Farm Nature Park, Yeong WaiKai found the nest of a Straw-headed Bulbul, Pycnonotus zeylanicus, on 25 August 2021. At the Singapore Quarry, an Oriental Darter, Anhinga melanogaster, a Laced Woodpecker, Picus vittatus, a Rufous Woodpecker, Micropternus brachyurus, and two Rufous-tailed Tailorbird, Orthotomus sericeus, were spotted on 28 August 2021 by Wai Heng Lua.

Singapore Botanic Gardens

The Singapore Botanic Gardens continues to be a verdant ground for birds with a Blyth’s Paradise Flycatcher, Terpsiphone affinis, that had just one tail feather, at the ethnobotanical garden on 23 August 2021 (Harry Loh). Over at the Healing and Fragrant Gardens, a Banded Bay Cuckoo, Cacomantis sonneratii, was seen on 25 Aug 2021 by Chen Boon Chong while a Common Kingfisher, Alcedo atthis, and three Coconut Lorikeet, Trichoglossus haematodus, were seen on 27 Aug 2021 by Jon Garcia. Meanwhile, on the same day, a migratory Tiger Shrike, Lanius tigrinus, was spotted by Norhafiani A Majid within the garden grounds.

Central Singapore

A single Asian Palm Swift, Cypsiurus balasiensis, was seen at Ang Mo Kio Avenue 1 on 14 August 2021 by A. Fadzrun A.

Northern Singapore

RC Sunbird, 060821, SBWR, SCC

Ruby-cheeked Sunbird seen on 6 August 2021 at SBWR by Sim Chip Chye.

Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve (SBWR), the premier birding location in northern Singapore, welcomed a rare Ruby-cheeked Sunbird, Chalcoparia singalensis, on 3 August 2021 (Chen RX), 4 August 2021 (Joseph Lim), 5 August 2021 (Gan Lee Hsia), 6 August 2021 (Sim Chip Chye), and on 29 August 2021 (Bhagwant Kurade). The reserve also started to welcome various wintering shorebirds from the north. These included the two Black-tailed Godwit, Limosa limosa, on 14 August 2021 (Kwok Tuck Loong), three Pacific Golden Plover, Pluvialis fulva, five Lesser Sand Plover, Charadrius mongolus, eighty-six Whimbrel, Numenius phaeopus, thirty-five Common Redshank, Tringa totanus, and three Common Greenshank, Tringa nebularia, on 31 August 2021 (Alfred Chia).  Evergreen locals included a Great-billed Heron, Ardea sumatrana, (A. Fadzrun), a pair of Red Collared Dove, Streptopelia tranquebarica, (A. Fadzrun), and one Eastern Cattle Egret, Bubulcus coromandus, (Mike Hooper) on 21 August 2021, one Lesser Adjutant, Leptoptilos javanicus, (Ester Gerber) on26 August 2021, a pair of Copper-throated Sunbird, Leptocoma calcostetha, (Chen Boon Chong) on28 August 2021, and two Little Egret, Egretta garzetta, (Alfred Chia) on 31 August 2021.

A pair of Ashy Tailorbirds, Orthotomus ruficeps, was seen bringing food to their nest at the reserve on 6 August 2021 (Tan Gim Cheong), and Kwan Kee Ming observed that a Lineated Barbet, Psilopogon lineatus, started to build its nest there on 1 August 2021.

Over at Kranji Marsh, a Rusty-breasted Cuckoo, Cacomantis sepulcralis, was seen on 15 August 2021 by Kaeden Sim; a pair of introduced Golden-backed Weavers, Ploceus jacksoni, was building a nest on 11 August 2021 (Tan Gim Cheong); a pair of the introduced Common Waxbill, Estrilda astrild, was building a nest on 23 August 2021 (Keith Hutton); and a nest of the Malaysian Pied Fantail, Rhipidura javanica, contained two chicks (Shahrul Kamal). Another Malaysian Pied Fantail nest contained one chick, which fledged on 28 August 2021, but the fledgling fell into the water and was eaten by a large frog (Felix Wong).

Searchers found White-browed Crake, Porzana cinerea, at Neo Tiew Harvest Link on 15 Aug 2021 (Chen Boon Chong), and four Little Ringed Plover, Charadrius dubius, scurrying in the monsoon drain at Lim Chu Kang Lane 3 on 29 Aug 2021 (Daryl Yeo).  Further eastwards, an Intermediate Egret, Egretta intermedia, a House Swift, Apus nipalensis, and a Golden-bellied Gerygone, Gerygone sulphurea, were reported on 29 August 2021 by Kwok Tuck Loong. Traversing across the northern coastline, we noted the report of a single Western Osprey, Pandion haliaetus, and some Daurian Starling, Agropsar sturninus, along Yishun Dam on 21 August 2021 by Norman Wu, while at Lorong Halus Wetland, an Oriental Dollarbird, Eurystomus orientalis, was seen on 30 August 2021 by John Chin. In the heart of Sengkang, four Rose-ringed Parakeet, Psittacula krameri, and four relatively uncommon Common Myna, Acridotheres tristis, were spotted at Sengkang Riverside Park on 31 Aug 2021 by Tan Kok Hui.

Ashy Tailorbird, 060821, SBWR, TGC_6836,-Ashy-Tailorbird,-m-N-f,-960v

Ashy Tailorbirds, male on left and female on right (paler underparts), 6 August 2021 at SBWR by Tan Gim Cheong.

Eastern Singapore

On 4 August 2021, a fledgling Blue-winged Pitta, Pitta moluccensis, was spotted by Tan Gim Cheong in the understorey of the forest at Pulau Ubin, following a parent pitta; and on 27 August 2021, a fledgling of the similar-looking Mangrove Pitta, Pitta megarhyncha, was calling in the mangroves but no adult pitta came to attend to it (Francis Yap).

The idyllic island also hosted migratory shorebirds such as three Grey Plover, Pluvialis squatarola, and a Terek Sandpiper, Xenus cinereus, which were seen on 13 August 2021 by Oliver Tan, while other visitors encountered residents and local visitors such as the Black-naped Tern, Sterna sumatrana, (Mike Hooper), Black Hornbill, Anthracoceros malayanus, (Tan Hui Zhen), and Green Broadbill, Calyptomena viridis, (Tan Hui Zhen) on 22 August 2021, while an  Abbott’s Babbler, Malacocincla abbotti,  was seen on 23 August 2021 (Tan Gim Cheong), and a White-rumped Shama, Copsychus malabaricus, was seen the next day on 24 August 2021 (Max Khoo). Ubin’s eastern neighbour, Pulau Tekong, yielded a single Grey-tailed Tattler, Tringa brevipes, on 2 August 2021 (Frankie Cheong).

Pasir Ris Park yielded a Lesser Adjutant, Leptoptilos javanicus, on 20 August 2021 (Robert Teo), a Green Imperial Pigeon, Ducula aenea, on 22 August 2021 (Kwok Tuck Loong), and a Black-crowned Night Heron, Nycticorax nycticorax, on 28 August 2021 (Clarice Yan), while five Lesser Whistling Duck, Dendrocygna javanica, were spotted at Bedok Reservoir Park on 26 August 2021 (Jiah Rai).

A White-headed Munia, Lonchura maja, was seen within the grounds of Eastwood Estate on 27 Aug 2021 (Oliver Tan), while Plaintive Cuckoo, Cacomantis merulinus, and Barn Swallow, Hirundo rustica, were seen on 29 Aug 2021 along the Changi Coast Track by A. Fadzrun.

Southern Singapore

Visitors to Gardens-by-the-Bay East spotted a Pacific Reef Heron, Egretta sacra, on 15 Aug 2021 (Fermandez Francis) and seven Masked Lapwing, Vanellus miles, on 28 Aug 2021 (Andrew William). At the breakwater along Marina East Drive in late August, Pary Sivaraman counted 160 Little Terns, Sternula albifrons.

After a failed nesting last month, a pair of Malaysian Plovers, Charadrius peronii, was seen guarding an egg on 1 August 2021 but when revisited 10 days later, “they were gone” (Ko Engwee). The nesting in July failed due to a House Crow which carried off the chick (Low Chong Yang). The chick was at least 25 days old – discovered on 26 June (Max Khoo) and predated on 20 July (Low Chong Yang).

Western Singapore

Jurong Lake Gardens, the swathe of park and wetland abutting the Chinese and Japanese Gardens, proved to be a hit for birds. The heronry continued to support various species of large heron, including one Purple Heron, Ardea purpurea, seen on 29 August 2021 by Andrew William. The highly elusive Barred Buttonquail, Turnix suscitator, proved no match for Norhafiani A Majid who spotted one on 30 August 2021, along with a pair of Buffy Fish Owl, Ketupa ketupu. Other birds that provided considerable excitement and cardio workout included the rarely seen Brown-streaked Flycatcher, Muscicapa williamsoni, on 29 August 2021, which was spotted by the keen and young eyes of Kaeden Sim, as well as a migratory Yellow-rumped Flycatcher, Ficedula zanthopygia, female, spotted on 31 August 2021 by Chen Boon Chong.

BW Stilt, 260821, TSA16, Art Toh

Black-winged Stilt seen on 26 August 2021 at Tuas by Art Toh.

The NTU campus yielded a pair of Red-legged Crake, Rallina fasciata, and a Sunda Scops Owl, Otus lempiji, which were spotted on 26 August 2021 by Yip Jen Wei, while a Grey Wagtail, Motacilla cinerea, was seen on 27 August 2021 by Frank Chen. Nearer the Lim Chu Kang cemeteries, a Blue-winged Pitta, Pitta moluccensis, was seen along Jalan Murai on 28 August 2021 by Eyzat Amer.

Visitors to Tuas South Avenue 16 reported seeing a Red-necked Stint, Calidris ruficollis, on 24 August 2021 (Raghav Narayanswamy), Black-winged Stilt, Himantopus himantopus, on 26 August 2021 (Art Toh), Malaysian Plover, Charadrius peronii, on 29 August 2021 (Bear Jia), four Wood Sandpiper, Tringa glareola, on 29 August 2021 (Max Khoo), and a Curlew Sandpiper, Calidris ferruginea, on 30 August 2021 (Pary Sivaraman).

Over at the Clementi Forest-Holland Plain nexus, a Greater Coucal, Centropus sinensis, was reported on 11 August 2021 from Clementi Forest, while four Tanimbar Corella, Cacatua goffiniana, and one Large-billed Crow, Corvus macrorhynchos, were seen around Holland Plain on 30 August 2021. All records were provided by Lynn Tan.

This report is compiled/written by Geoff Lim and Isabelle Lee, 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 Lee Chin Pong, Sim Chip Chye and Art Toh for allowing us to use their photographs. 

The Black-Thighed Falconet in Singapore.

THE BLACK-THIGHED FALCONET IN SINGAPORE

Lim Kim Seng

Introduction

The Black-thighed Falconet Microhierax fringillarius was previously classified as a resident breeder as there had been specimens collected from Singapore as well as records since the 1920s and up to the 1990s (Lim 2009) but is likely to have become extirpated thereafter. It was re-categorized by the Nature Society (Singapore) Bird Group Records Committee, or NSSBGRC, as a non-breeding visitor as there have been no confirmed breeding record and no confirmed sightings for thirty years (Lim 2021). The Black-thighed Falconet was put into Category B, a category for wild birds, resident, visitor or vagrant, that have not been recorded for thirty years. In 2021 alone, however, there were three separate records of Black-thighed Falconet and as a result, it was re-instated in Category A by NSSBGRC.

Black-thighed Falconet was re-instated by the NSSBGRC in 2021. Photo taken at Panti Forest by Jimmy Chew.

Global Range, Habitat Requirements, Altitudinal Range, Breeding Habits and Conservation Status of Black-thighed Falconet

The Black-thighed Falconet is a monotypic species first described by Drapiez in 1824. It is one of five falconets in the world, all of which occur in southern China, South and Southeast Asia. Its natural range spans the Thai-Malay Peninsula, Sumatra, Borneo and Java. Its habitat is primary and secondary forests (including on limestone), edges of forests, rubber plantations, fruit orchards, cultivated land, parkland and wooded gardens up to 1,700 m (Ferguson-Lees & Christie 2000, Lim et al 2020, Wells 1999). The Black-thighed Falconet occurs as a common resident in most parts of its range and it is not known to undertake any movements (Robson 2000). In north Borneo, this species is replaced by the endemic White-fronted Falconet M. latifrons (Myers 2009).

In the Thai-Malay Peninsula, it breeds from November to July (Khoo 2021, Wells 1999). Nests are usually in tree cavities abandoned by woodpeckers and larger barbets, mostly in dead trees. In a site monitored in Perak, Malaysia, birds used a cavity in a limestone outcrop and nested successfully (Khoo 2021). Clutch size is three to six. The young remain with their parents for at least two months after fledging (Khoo 2021, Wells 1999).  It breeds from December to June in Borneo (Myers 2009). There is also evidence of communal feeding by birds other than parents, possibly by older siblings, and birds have also been seen to use old nest cavities as communal roost sites (Khoo 2021).

In Perak, Malaysia, they used cavities in Limestone outcrops to nest. Photo: Khoo Siew Yoong.

The Black-thighed Falconet is treated as “least concern” by IUCN (BirdLife International 2016).

Identification and Ecology of Black-thighed Falconet

The Black-thighed Falconet is one of the smallest raptors in the world at 15-17 cm in length from bill tip to tail tip. It is the same size as the White-fronted Falconet but smaller than Collared and Pied Falconets and has the distinction of being the smallest bird of prey of the world! In comparison, the Coppersmith Barbet Megalaima haemacephala measures 15-17 cm, Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker Yungipicus moluccensis, 13 cm and Yellow-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus goiavier measures 19-21 cm. Females are slightly larger than males and an adult weighs about 43 g (Wells 1999). In terms of its jizz, the Black-thighed Falconet has a big-headed, stout-bodied appearance with a medium-sized tail.

The small size of the falconet makes it hard to confuse with other birds although distance may make identification challenging as this species usually hawks from tall trees. It is mostly black on the head, eyestripe, ear patch, upperparts, bill, leg and tail, with mostly white on forehead, eyebrow and underparts, and orange-rufous on throat and lower breast to vent. Juveniles show pinkish horn bill and cere, rusty eyebrow and ear stripe, pale fine edges to upperparts and less rufous on lower underparts.

Its flight is rapid and direct, with fast wingbeats and sharp pointed wings, often accompanied by short periods of gliding.

Its voice is a shrill squeal kweer-week (Wells 1999).

Black-thighed Falconets hunt socially or alone, making sorties from a dead tree. Its diet is mainly arthropods, typically termites, butterflies and moths, dragonflies, carpenter bees, beetles, mantids, grasshoppers and cicadas, birds such as House Swift Apus nipalensis, sunbirds and munias, mammals such as bats and rats, and geckos (Khoo 2021, Wells 1999). Prey is usually snatched on the wing, occasionally from the ground, to be consumed from a perch, and there is evidence that falconets choose flowering trees with an abundance of nectar feeders to hunt (Wells 1999).

Birds indulge in head bobbing and tail wagging in close proximity and allo-preening has been observed (Wells 1999).

Historical Status of the Black-thighed Falconet in Singapore

The earliest reference to the occurrence of the Black-thighed Falconet in Singapore can be found in Bucknill & Chasen (1927) who stated that it “sometimes visit Singapore”. Gibson-Hill (1950) mentioned that it was “resident in small numbers” while RAFOS (1966-1969) and Tweedy (1970) mentioned the existence of several records in the 1960s.

There were no records until almost two decades when I found the first of four sight records within a period of seven years, all from a dead durian tree in my wooded garden in Jalan Ulu Sembawang in the north of Singapore. All records were of singles and included a juvenile seen on the following dates – 11 October 1979, 2 October 1983, 1 December 1983 and 12 April 1986 (Lim 1992). These records indicate the presence of a small and possibly breeding resident population in the area or that of non-breeding visitors from nearby Johor state, Malaysia. There were no further records from this site which was resettled and developed as part of the new Sembawang Estate in the early 1990s. Our most recent record was an adult seen on a dead tree, near the current Ranger’s Station, in the Central Catchment Nature Reserve on 7 October 1990 (Lim 2009).

In addition to these records, there were also four unconfirmed records between 1992 and 2005 from Sime Road, Loyang and Bukit Batok Nature Park. There are also nine specimens collected from MacRitchie Reservoir, Jurong and Singapore in the Lee Kong Chian Nature History Museum collection.  

Due to the fact that there have been no records for thirty years and also no confirmation of breeding, the Black-thighed Falconet’s status was reviewed by NSSBGRC in early 2020 as no longer fitting that of a wild bird for Category A, which is the category for all wild birds recorded within the last thirty years. It was re-categorised as belong to Category B, which is the category for all wild birds recorded within Singapore but not within the last thirty years (Lim 2021).

As fate would have it, soon after the release of the new checklist, news came of our first sighting of Black-thighed Falconet since 1990. This came from a juvenile that was seen and photographed by Lee Lay Na at a HDB block in Yishun Street 71 on 12 February 2021 (Tan, G.C. & Lim, G. 2021). The report of a juvenile is interesting as it indicates local or regional breeding.

A typical perch of the Black-thighed Faconet on top of tree at Goldhill Avenue by Art Toh.

There were two additional records, both also backed by photographs. One was a bird photographed using the top of a tree at Goldhill Avenue on 20 May 2021 by Art Toh (Tan, G.C. 2021) while the second was another adult from Jalan Mashhor on 9 July 2021, reported by Art Toh and Tan Choon Siang, and still present on 12 July 2021, reported by Vincent Lao (Lim, G. et al 2021).

A far away photo of the second adult falconet taken at Jalan Mansor two months later again by Art Toh.

These three sightings from 2021 have the effect of reinstating the Black-thighed Falconet into the Singapore List once again. At the moment, it is probably best considered a rare non-breeding visitor due to the short-term nature of their occurrences in 2021. Hopefully, one day, we will find them nesting in Singapore again.

Concluding Remarks

Birders and bird photographers are much more active than two decades ago. There are people at various locations in Singapore every day and most of them carry some sort of photographic equipment with them. This number of people watching birds daily is bound to yield rewards in the form of documenting the occurrence of rarities as well as species that are either new to Singapore or those thought to have been extirpated. Recent records of Javan Plover and Green Broadbill attest to this increased opportunity of detecting something really sensational!

Would-be falconet seekers are encouraged to focus on sites in the central and north of Singapore, where all confirmed sightings have been made since 1979. Bukit Brown would be another place to pay attention to given the recent record (and nearby, in Goldhill). Searches on Pulau Ubin may also yield results due to the island’s proximity to Malaysia as well as the island’s reputation for attracting Malaysian visitors. Prime habitats to look for this elusive raptor are the edges of forests and woodland as well as areas where there are tall trees or snags.

It is hoped that birders and bird photographers will continue to help us make new discoveries or re-discoveries in the case of the Black-thighed Falconet, the smallest bird of prey in the world.

Acknowledgements

I would like to thank Yong Ding Li for helpful suggestions with the drafting of this article, Jimmy Chew, Khoo Siew Yoong and Art Toh for the use of their photographs.

References

BirdLife International. (2016). Microhierax fringillarius. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016. Downloaded on 10 September 2021.

Bucknill, J.A.S & Chasen, F.N. (1927).  The birds of Singapore Island. Government Printing Office, Singapore.

Ferguson-Lees & Christie, D.A. (2001). Raptors of the World. Christopher Helm, London.

Gibson-Hill, C.A. (1950). A checklist of the birds of Singapore Island. Bull. Raffles Mus. No. 21: 132-183.

Khoo, S.Y. (2021). Breeding ecology of Black-thighed Falconets in Perak, Malaysia. Nature Society (Singapore) Bird Group. https://singaporebirdgroup.wordpress.com/tag/black-thighed-falconet/

Lim, G., Lee, I. & Tan, G.C. (2021). Singapore Bird Report – July 2021. Nature Society (Singapore) Bird Group.  https://singaporebirdgroup.wordpress.com/category/monthly-bird-reports/

Lim, K.S. (1992). Vanishing birds of Singapore. Nature Society (Singapore), Singapore.

Lim, K.S. (2009). The avifauna of Singapore. Nature Society (Singapore), Singapore.

Lim, K.S. (2021). Bird Records Committee Report (January 2021). Nature Society (Singapore) Bird Group. https://singaporebirdgroup.wordpress.com/2021/02/02/birds-records-committee-report-jan-2021/

Lim, K.S., Yong, D.L. & Lim, K.C. (2020). A field guide to the birds of Malaysia and Singapore. John Beaufoy Publishing, Oxford.

Myers, S. (2009). A field guide to the birds of Borneo. Talisman Publishing, Singapore.

Royal Air Force Ornithological Society (1966-1969). Bulletins of the Singapore Branch & unpublished correspondence with members.

Tan, G.C. (2021). Singapore Raptor Report, Late Spring Migration, April-June 2021. Nature Society (Singapore) Bird Group. https://singaporebirdgroup.wordpress.com/category/raptor-report/singapore-raptor-report/

Tan, G.C. & Lim, G. (2021). Singapore Bird Report – February 2021. Nature Society (Singapore) Bird Group. https://singaporebirdgroup.wordpress.com/category/monthly-bird-reports/

Tweedy, L. (1970). The birds of Singapore. Army Birdwatching Club (Far East).

Wells, D.R. (1999). The birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsula, Volume One: Non-passerines. Academic Press, London.

Nesting of Little Terns in Singapore.

LITTLE TERN (Sternula albifrons)

By Frankie Cheong

I came across some Little Tern nests in end May and early June at my place. There were at least 5 nests. Each nest, in a shallow depression in the sand, consisted of 2 to 3 eggs. Fig 1 & 2

Fig 1
Fig 2

I started to monitor them. The adult birds took turn to sit on the eggs, normally for around 2 hours, then the other bird would take over. Fig 3, 4.

Fig 3
Fig 4

Every time when people or vehicle passed by or moved too close to their nests, they would fly up and made lots of loud and alert calls . Fig 5.

Fig 5

In mid June, I started seeing the hatchings, these are day old chicks, most of the time they still hide under the parent for protection. Fig 6,7,8,9.

Fig 6
Fig 7
Fig 8
Fig 9

2 to 3 days later, these chicks started to venture out moving around close to the nest area.

As the place is a bare reclamation land without any trees and very hot during the day, these little chicks were smart enough to hide under some long grass to shade themselves from the sun. Fig 10, 11, 12, 13.

Fig 10
Fig 11
Fig 12
Fig 13.

The parents continued to bring food back for the chicks. Sometimes, they would use the fish to teach the chicks to move forward to catch, I believed this is part of the training for survival. Fig14.15.

Fig 14
Fig 15

I monitored them till mid July when all the chicks fledged. F 16, 17, 18 .

Fig 16

Likely this is a 2 to 3 weeks old chick. fig 17,18.

Fig 17

A slightly older one.

Fig 18

A family photo.

It was a great privilege to study and document the nesting of our only resident tern that breeds on mainland Singapore, even though this site is on an offshore island. The Little Tern is listed as a common resident, but suitable breeding sites across the island is diminishing. It was featured in Lim Kim Seng’s 1992 book “Vanishing Birds of Singapore” as vulnerable. At 2019 Mapletree Investment’s exhibition “Singapore Birds on the Blink” at Vivocity, it was one of the species highlighted.

Reference:

Lim Kim Seng. Vanishing Birds of Singapore 1992.

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

Singapore Bird Report – July 2021

Geoff Lim, Isabelle Lee
Tan Gim Cheong (ed.)

TGC_0319_01,-Blue-winged-Pitta,-160721,-v,-nd

A fledgling Blue-winged Pitta at Mandai Track 15 on 16 Jul 2021, by Tan Gim Cheong

Two spectacular July discoveries were reported in the NSS Bird Group blog – the first evidence of breeding of the Blue-winged Pitta, Pitta moluccensis, on mainland Singapore (and only the second breeding record in country), as well as the amazing discovery of the Javan Plover, Charadrius javanicus, a species hitherto never found outside Indonesia.

The story about the Blue-winged Pitta can be found here, while the exciting discovery of the Javan Plover can be accessed here.

Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR)

Within the CCNR core, a Malaysian Hawk-Cuckoo, Hierococcyx fugax, was spotted on 16 July 2021 by Bryan Lim, while a Square-tailed Drongo-Cuckoo, Surniculus lugubris, was seen on 28 July 2021 by Marcel Finlay. A pair of Chestnut-bellied Malkoha, Phaenicophaeus sumatranus, and a single White-rumped Shama, Copsychus malabaricus, were seen on 22 July 2021 within Sime forest by Clarice Yan, while a Blue-eared Kingfisher, Alcedo meninting, two Cream-vented Bulbul, Pycnonotus simplex, Asian Red-eyed Bulbul, Pycnonotus brunneus, and a Blue-winged Leafbird, Chloropsis cochinchinensis, were seen on 25 July 2021 along Rifle Range Link by Lim Kim Chuah. Meanwhile, the regular and solo Oriental Darter, Anhinga melanogaster, was spotted at Hindhede Nature Park, on 17 July 2021 (Matthew Teng) and 27 July 2021 (Martti Siponen).

The western fringe parks abutting CCNR yielded two Van Hasselt’s Sunbird, Leptocoma brasiliana, seen on 10 July 2021 at Dairy Farm Nature Park, by Raghav Narayanswamy, one Short-tailed Babbler, Pellorneum malaccense, and two Blue-winged Leafbird, Chloropsis cochinchinensis, on 11 July 2021 at Chestnut Nature Park by Fadzrun A, while over at Singapore Quarry, three Red-breasted Parakeet, Psittacula alexandri were seen on 21 July 2021 by Sylvester Goh, while two Rufous-tailed Tailorbird, Orthotomus sericeus, and one Little Spiderhunter, Arachnothera longirostra, were spotted on 22 July 2021 by Martti Siponen.

Along Mandai Track 15, Joseph Lim made the stunning discovery of a fledgling Blue-winged Pitta, Pitta moluccensis, on 16 July 2021, while two Short-tailed Babbler, Pellorneum malaccense, were seen on 24 July 2021 at Jalan Ulu Sembawang by Norhafiani A Majid. Birders working along Mandai Road Track 7 reported a Changeable Hawk-Eagle, Nisaetus cirrhatus, two Red-crowned Barbet, Megalaima rafflesii, three Common Hill Myna, Gracula religiosa, and a Cream-vented Bulbul, Pycnonotus simplex, on 21 July 2021 (Oliver Tan); a Chestnut-winged Babbler, Cyanoderma erythropterum, was seen on the same day by Leslie Loh; and Steven Cheong found a Banded Woodpecker, Chrysophlegma miniaceum, feeding its chick at its nest hole on 22 July 2021. A Common Emerald Dove, Chalcophaps indica, was seen on 22 July 2021 at Upper Peirce Reservoir Park by Fermandez Francis.

TGC_7904,-RC-Barbet,-1000v

An excellent portrait of a Red-crowned Barbet taken on 14 Jul 2021 at Thomson Nature Park by Tan Gim Cheong

Visitors had been drawn to Thomson Nature Park in early July 2021 to look at a nesting Red-crowned Barbet, Megalaima rafflesii, which subsequently failed as the tree trunk broke during heavy rain. The birds re-commenced building another nest hole around 20 July 2021 but this, too, did not materialise. At another Red-crowned Barbet’s nest in the park, Tan Chuan Yean managed to photograph the barbet carrying a frog in its beak on 17 July 2021. During this period, visitors noted birds such as two Thick-billed Green Pigeon, Treron curvirostra, on 18 July 2021 (Kaeden Sim), two Plume-toed Swiftlet, Collocalia affinis, and one Asian Palm Swift, Cypsiurus balasiensis, on 19 July 2021 (Krishna Gopagondanahalli), as well as a pair of Chestnut-winged Babbler, Cyanoderma erythropterum, on 27 July 2021 (Joyce Le Mesurier), a species that has become increasingly rare in our forests. On 31 July 2021, a Brown-streaked Flycatcher, Muscicapa williamsoni, was photographed by Meng Kuang Han.

Other breeding records at Thomson Nature Park included a Banded Bay Cuckoo, Cacomantis sonneratii, being fed by a Common Iora, Aegithina tiphia, on 7 July 2021, by Alex Kang; a pair of Crimson Sunbirds, Aethopyga siparaja, feeding their two chicks behind the ladies toilet also on 7 July 2021, by Jojo Kuah; and on 23 July 2021, the successful nesting of a pair of Olive-winged Bulbuls, Pycnonotus plumosus, that the chicks fledged but were still being fed by their parents, also by Jojo Kuah.

At Windsor Nature Park, on 20 July 2021, the nest of the Stork-billed Kingfisher, Pelargopsis capensis, was discovered by Frankie Low. This is the first nest of this kingfisher to be found in Singapore, and it was built in a termite nest on the vertical trunk of a sturdy tree. Frankie Low photographed an adult feeding fish to a chick through the hole in the termite nest.   

Further afield, two Asian Red-eyed Bulbul, Pycnonotus brunneus, were seen on 20 July 2021 along Old Upper Thomson Road by Tan Kok Hui. The Lornie-MacRitchie area also yielded a Red-legged Crake, Rallina fasciata, on 17 July 2021 at MacRitchie Reservoir Park (Marcel Finlay) and an Abbott’s Babbler, Malacocincla abbotti, spotted on 20 July 2021 along Lornie Road (Chen Boon Chong).

Singapore Botanic Gardens

A Buffy Fish Owl, Ketupa ketupu, was spotted within the garden grounds on 11 July 2021 by Joyce Le Mesurier, while a juvenile Banded Bay Cuckoo, Cacomantis sonneratii, was being fed by Common Iora, Aegithina tiphia, from 11 July 2021 (Vincent Chin) to 20 July 2021 (Andrew William). On 15 July 2021, Philip Ng reported three Banded Bay Cuckoo fledglings at separate areas being fed by their foster parents.  

Central Singapore

BT Falconet, 090721, Jln Mashhor, Tang Choon Siang

Black-thighed Falconet at Jalan Mashhor on 9 Jul 2021 by Tang Choon Siang.

On 9 July 2021, a Black-thighed Falconet, Microhierax fringillarius, was spotted at Jalan Mashhor by Art Toh and Tang Choon Siang. The bird was seen on subsequent days up till 12 July 2021 (Vincent Lao). At the same locality, a pair of Common Hill Mynas, Gracula religiosa, mated on 10 July 2021, seen by Chew Serteck. At Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park, a Common Kingfisher, Alcedo atthis, was photographed on 16 July 2021 by Vincent Ng, and a Grey-headed Fish Eagle, Haliaeetus ichthyaetus, spotted on 20 July 2021 by Clarice Yan.  Along Potong Pasir, a Purple Heron, Ardea purpurea, was seen on 21 July 2021 by S.O Wu. At Bukit Brown on 21 July 2021, SB Lim photographed a female Pink-necked Green Pigeon, Treron vernans, mounting another female!

Northern Singapore

Note: Sg Buloh, the Kranji Marshes and the Lim Chu Kang-Neo Tiew farmlands are now moved to the section on Northern Singapore to align with NPark’s geographical description of the main Singapore island.

Two Baya Weaver, Ploceus philippinus, were seen on 12 July 2021 at Lorong Halus Wetland (Fermandez Francis), while two Black-crowned Night Heron, Nycticorax nycticorax, were spotted on 24 July 2021 at the Serangoon Estuary (Tan Kok Hui). A single Spotted Wood Owl, Strix seloputo, was seen on 26 July 2021 at the Hampstead Wetlands Park (Steven Cheong).

The Kranji-Lim Chu Kang area yielded a Black-winged Kite, Elanus caeruleus, at the grounds of Kranji Marsh on 19 July 2021 (Martti Siponen) and five early arriving Wood Sandpiper, Tringa glareola, on 25 July 2021 at Lim Chu Kang Lane 3 (Raghav Narayanswamy); further afield, the report of the Ruby-cheeked Sunbird, Chalcoparia singalensis, at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve on 11 July 2021 by YK Han electrified the local birding community, while the report of six Lesser Adjutant, Leptoptilos javanicus, at the Reserve on 12 July 2021 by Martti Siponen served to anchor the birds’ presence in the island republic.

At Kranji Marshes on 14 July 2021, Kok M Lee recorded a Malaysian Pied Fantail, Rhipidura javanica, feeding its foster chick, a Rusty-breasted Cuckoo, Cacomantis sepulcralis, and on 23 July 2021, Avadi L Parimalam saw the mating of a pair of Pied Trillers, Lalage nigra, and the Malaysian Pied Fantail building a nest. 

Eastern Singapore

Javan Plover, 150721, Tekong, Frankie Cheong

Javan Plover taken on 15 Jul 2021 by Frankie Cheong

July witnessed the spectacular discovery of the Javan Plover, Charadrius javanicus, on 15 July 2021 on reclaimed land adjoining one of our eastern islands by Frankie Cheong. At Pulau Ubin, the Green Broadbill, Calyptomena viridis, continued to be seen on 2 July 2021 (Isabelle Lee) until the end of the month; and a Ruddy Kingfisher, Halcyon coromanda, of the resident subspecies minor, given the timing, was heard and photographed on 20 July 2021 by Keita, Dillen and Hong Yao. (The first record of the resident subspecies H. c. minor on Pulau Ubin was in August 2016.)

Other visitors reported the presence of Ubin regulars, such as the Greater Crested Tern, Thalasseus bergii, on 4 July 2021 (Raghav Narayanswamy), Black Hornbill, Anthracoceros malayanus, on 19 July 2021 (Jared Tan), Blue-winged Pitta, Pitta moluccensis, Mangrove Pitta, Pitta megarhyncha, and Copper-throated Sunbird, Leptocoma calcostetha, on 20 July 2021 by Darren Leow and others, as well as up to six White-rumped Shama, Copsychus malabaricus, on 25 July 2021 by Fitri Adnan. Near the site of the Green Broadbill, two Buffy Fish Owls were seen, one blind in the right eye, reported by Tan Chuan Yean.

Green Broadbill, 020721, Ubin, Geoff Lim

Green Broadbill taken on Pulau Ubin on 2 Jul 2021 by Geoff Lim

Other notable sightings in eastern Singapore included a Red Turtle Dove, Streptopelia tranquebarica, at Changi Business Park on 19 July 2021 by T. Ramesh; and at Pasir Ris Park, two Black-crowned Night Heron, Nycticorax nycticorax, on the same day by Joshua Chong.

Breeding-related records at Pasir Ris included a juvenile Slaty-breasted Rail, Lewinia striata, with its parents, on 7 July 2021, and a nest of the Yellow-vented Bulbul, Pycnonotus goaiver, with two chicks on 12 July 2021 when the adult bulbul was photographed holding a young Changeable Lizard in its beak, both by Alvin Seng; and Andrew Hunt found the Collared Kingfishers, Todiramphus chloris, feeding their chicks in their nest at car park D on 21 July 2021, and the chicks reportedly fledged the next day.

YVB catch changeable lizard, 120721, PRP, Alvin Seng

Yellow-vented Bulbul holding a young Changeable Lizard, Pasir Ris Park, 12 Jul 2021, by Alvin Seng

Southern Singapore

Birders who visited the Marina East area reported an early Common Sandpiper, Actitis hypoleucos, and two Lesser Whistling Duck, Dendrocygna javanica, on 18 July 2021 (Max Khoo), while a Great-billed Heron, Ardea sumatrana, was spotted on 20 July 2021 (Krishna Gopagondanahalli) and 24 July 2021 (Jon Garcia). A pair of Malaysian Plover, Charadrius peronii, was also spotted on 20 July 2021, as was a Greater Painted-Snipe, Rostratula benghalensis, and eight Little Tern, Sternula albifrons, all by Krishna Gopagondanahalli.

Other sightings included a pair of Ruddy-breasted Crake, Porzana fusca, at Gardens by the Bay on 5 July 2021 (Joshua Chong), a Chinese Hwamei, Garrulax canorus, at Fort Siloso on 11 July 2021(Chen Boon Chong), a Barred Buttonquail, Turnix suscitator, at Lazarus Island on 16 July 2021 (Rajesh Nagaraj), as well as a White-rumped Munia, Lonchura striata, at Telok Blangah Hill Park on 25 July 2021 (Low Zhi Hao).

Breeding records included a Little Tern, Sternula albifrons, feeding its chick at Lazarus Island on 6 July 2021, by Cecilia Lee; and the Collared Kingfisher feeding its chicks at Buona Vista, by Tan Chuan Yean.

Western Singapore

Two Spotted Wood Owl, Strix seloputo, were seen near King Albert Park on 17 July 2021 by Jai Humphries, while at the nearby Holland Plain, a pair of fairly regular Red-wattled Lapwing, Vanellus indicus, were seen on 21 July 2021, as was an Oriental Dollarbird, Eurystomus orientalis, and five Long-tailed Parakeet, Psittacula longicauda, by Lynn Tan, who also spotted a single Grey-rumped Treeswift, Hemiprocne longipennis, at Maryland Drive the day before on 20 July 2021. Incidentally a single Greater Coucal, Centropus sinensis, was spotted at Holland Plain on 20 July 2021 by Lynn Tan, while two birds were reported on 23 July 2021 by Richard Sanders. It remains to be seen if the Green Corridor area supports more than a pair of these prehistoric-looking birds.

Two Square-tailed Drongo-Cuckoo, Surniculus lugubris, and a Laced Woodpecker, Picus vittatus, were spotted at Bukit Batok Nature Park on 20 July 2021 by Tan Hwee Main. At Jurong Lake Gardens, one Barred Buttonquail, Turnix suscitator, was reported on 28 July 2021 by Tay Kian Guan.

Breeding records at Jurong Lake Gardens included a Slaty-breasted Rail foraging with its young, still in black downy feathers, on 1 July 2021, by Kok M Lee; three Common Tailorbirds, Orthotomus sutorius, fledged on 4 July 2021, by Felix Wong who also recorded the nesting of the Yellow-vented Bulbul, Pycnonotus goaiver; and a pair of Lesser Coucal, Centropus bengalensis, mating on 7 July 2021, when the male offered a grasshopper to the female during the process, photographed by Tan Boon Tiong. At Ulu Pandan on 8 July 2021, Tan Boon Tiong photographed a House Crow, Corvus splendens, carrying a Black-naped Oriole, Oriolus chinensis, chick in its beak as it flew.

Farther west, we noted the report of a Pacific Reef Heron, Egretta sacra, from Pioneer South on 15 July 2021 by Raghav Narayanswamy, while a Buffy Fish Owl, Ketupa ketupu, was reported from the grounds of NTU on 25 July 2021 by Frank Chen.

This report is compiled/written by Geoff Lim and Isabelle Lee, 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 Tang Choon Siang, Frankie Cheong, Geoff Lim, and Alvin Seng for allowing us to use their photographs.

First Records of the Javan Plover in Singapore

First Records of the Javan Plover in Singapore

By Frankie Cheong & Lim Kim Seng

Figure #1: Javan Plover photographed at Pulau Tekong on 16th July 2021. Photo © Frankie Cheong. Note the flesh-coloured long legs, buff breast patch and eyestripe, and white supercilium extending beyond eye.

     I (FC) was going for my usual round exploring the reclaimed land on Pulau Tekong on the morning of 16th July 2021. My main reason for going to this area was to follow up on a Pied Stilt Himantopus leucocephalus to get a better look since it is a rare breeding visitor in Singapore only recorded at this location to date.

Upon reaching the area, I heard the call of a Pied Stilt, so I stopped my car and scanned the area. I was not able to find it. However, I did see three waders busy foraging about 20 to 30 m away.  I pointed my camera and looked through the view finder to try and see what they were. They are appeared to me to be Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus, a species known to be an uncommon winter visitor and passage migrant in Singapore (Lim 2009; Lim et al. 2020) so I just clicked a few shots for record purposes and continued to search for the stilt.

Once I had downloaded and processed my photographs, one of these plovers were identified as a “Kentish Plover” and subsequently shared online on a Facebook group. I was pleasantly surprised to received messages from Dave Bakewell and James Eaton were both saying that this could be something rarer than Kentish Plover. There was a mad rush to google and messages were flying. Later that day. James Eaton messaged me to confirm that this is a Javan Plover Charadrius javanicus, a species never before seen outside Indonesia and Timor Leste!

He wrote, the plumage is spot on for Javan (gingery breast sides and ear coverts) but it has a long, sleek appearance with quite long thin bill and very leggy typical of Javan”. I also sent a short report, with my photographs, to the Records Committee of the Nature Society (Singapore) Bird Group as this species was not on the official bird checklist for Singapore.

Subsequently, I went back to my archives because I remember seeing the same plovers some time ago at Pulau Tekong. Indeed, I have some badly taken photos on 20th June 2021! There were also three birds, one of which looked like a juvenile. I sent these photos to James Eaton and he concurred that this was a juvenile, which meant that breeding could be taken place for the first time here in Singapore and outside Indonesia and Timor Leste! So, not only was this a new species for Singapore, it was also a new breeding record for Singapore! In addition, this was also a new record for continental Southeast Asia! What a mega tick! The three birds were still there on 2nd August.

If accepted by the Records Committee, these will be the first records, and the first breeding record of the Javan Plover in Singapore, something unprecedented since a similar event when Savanna Nightjar Caprimulgus affinis turned up in 1988 (Lim 2009, Lim et al 2020).

Status and Range of Javan Plover

The Javan Plover is a monotypic resident shorebird found across Java, the Lesser Sundas, southern Sumatra (Lampung) Bangka and Belitung (Iqbal et al. 2013; Iqbal 2015, Eaton et al 2016). The species is locally common at a number of sites it is known from in Indonesia (e.g. Jakarta Bay). The species is essentially endemic to Indonesia and Timor-Leste until the Singapore records. The records from the south-east coast of Sumatra and Belitung are fairly recent (within the last decade) and suggests a northward trajectory of range expansion of the species. The species occurs in a variety of habitats ranging from beaches and shrimp ponds to coastal mudflats and wetlands, occasionally straying into semi-open scrubland. The Singapore records suggest a northward expansion of its range towards continental Southeast Asia, and the species may already be occurring undetected in the Riau Archipelago, e.g. on Bintan (Yong, D.L., Adha Putra, C. in litt.). The Javan Plover is rated as globally Near-Threatened in view of its small and declining range (BirdLife International 2021).

Identification of the Javan Plover

The Javan Plover is a small plover with sandy brown upperparts, white lores, white supercilium extending behind eye and white collar, buff-coloured eyestripe and breast patches. Its bill is long and black and its legs are long and flesh-coloured. Compared to Kentish Plover, it has a bigger head with a less sloping forehead, a slenderer body and distinctly longer legs. The Malaysian Plover Charadrius peroni is similar but is shorter-billed with distinctly mottled upperparts. The Swinhoe’s Plover Charadrius dealbatus can be differentiated from the other two plovers by its head shape (steep forehead), the broad, white supercilium extending almost to the collar, the absence of the dark patch on its lores (giving it a ‘white-faced’ appearance), its shorter bill and legs.

Recommendations for future fieldwork

More fieldwork needs to be conducted in coastal (wetland) habitats around Singapore and its offshore islets as well as southern Peninsular Malaysia and the Riau Archipelago to determine if the Javan Plover has established a presence further northward as the Singapore records would suggest. There are known areas of coastal wetlands used by shorebirds in the northern and western coastline of Bintan (Yong, D.L. in litt.) and these sites should be further surveyed for their shorebird communities.

Acknowledgements

I would like to thank Dave Bakewell and James Eaton for helpful comments on my photographs on Facebook. Thanks also go to Alan OwYong and Yong Ding Li for the use of his photograph of Kentish Plover and White-faced Plover, as well as input on the species from the region from Yong Ding Li and Chairunas Adha Putra.

Figure #2. Javan Plover photographed at Pulau Tekong on 16th July 2021. Photo © Frankie Cheong.

Figure #3. Javan Plover photographed at Pulau Tekong on 16th July 2021. Photo © Frankie Cheong.

Figure # 4 & 5. Javan Plovers photographed at Pulau Tekong on 20th June 2021. Photos © Frankie Cheong.

Figure # 6 & 7. Javan Plover photographed at Pulau Tekong on 20th June 2021. Photos © Frankie Cheong.

References

BirdLife International (2021) Species factsheet: Charadrius javanicus. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 31/07/2021.  

Eaton, J.A., van Balen, B., Brickle, N.W. & Rheindt, F.E. (2016). Birds of the Indonesian Archipelago. Greater Sundas and Wallacea. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.

Iqbal, M. 2015. Javan Plover Charadrius javanicus on Belitung Island, a new site for Sumatra (Indonesia). Wader Study 122(2): 160–161.

Iqbal, M., Taufiqurrahman, I., Gilfedder, M. & Baskoro, K. 2013. Field identification of Javan Plover Charadrius javanicus. Wader Study Group Bull. 120(2): 96–101.

Lim, K.S. (2009). The avifauna of Singapore. Nature Society (Singapore), Singapore.

Lim, K.S., Yong, D.L. & Lim, K.C. (2020). A field guide to the birds of Malaysia and Singapore. John Beaufoy, Oxford.

Figure # 8. Kentish Plover at Marina East on 31st January 2021. Photo © Alan OwYong.

Figure #10. White-faced Plover at Marina Barrage by Yong Ding Li.

Tweeddale morph? Origins of the name for a uniquely plumaged Oriental Honey Buzzard (Pernis ptilorhyncus)

stray feathers jou 10 1887 hume_0544

19th century painting of “Pernis tweeddalii” by J. G. Keulemans

This post was triggered by an avid birder who asked the above question.

In the late 19th century, an Oriental Honey Buzzard Pernis ptilorhyncus with an (until then) never seen before blackish-and-white plumage was collected in the southeast of Sumatra, Indonesia. This specimen was described by British ornithologist Arthur Hay in 1877, under Pernis ptilorhyncus, apparently hesitating to separate it from the very variable Oriental Honey Buzzard.

Subsequently, another two specimens of similar plumage were collected, and the distinct plumage of these birds led ornithologists to treat them as a new species of Honey Buzzard. In 1880, this new species was christened Pernis tweeddalii, in honour of Arthur Hay, who was also known as Lord Tweeddale.

Along the way, it was lumped back into Oriental Honey Buzzard Pernis ptilorhyncus as it breeds with the normal brownish-plumaged OHBs resident in the tropics. Therein lies the origin of the name “Tweeddale morph” of the torquatus subspecies of the OHB.  

“Bubblegum-blowing” by tiny parrot – an apparently undescribed courtship display of the male Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot.

BCHP-bubblegumming,-010321,-Whampoa,-crop,-TGC,-200ms,-699x500

Male Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot (right) “blows bubblegum” (a glob of regurgitated food) in a courtship display to show the female (left) that he is well able to provide food for the family. Animated image by Tan Gim Cheong.

Whampoa, Singapore – a pair of tiny Blue-crowned Hanging Parrots Loriculus galgulus (12-14 cm) flew in to an old tree which had a hole in its trunk. The male flew down from the tree top first, urging the female to come down to check out the tree hole which he had found.

When the female came down to check out the tree hole, the male did something amazing – it started to blow a yellow “bubblegum”, suck it back and blow again, to impress the female. The “bubblegum” is actually a glob of regurgitated food (which is used to feed the chicks). It seems that this display has not been documented before, and is probably part of the male’s courtship ritual to show the female that he is able to provide food for the family.

Unfortunately for this pair, the tree hole was already taken by another pair of hanging parrots, so they both flew off after a while. Good luck finding another tree hole to make a nest, bubblegum blower!

– observed on 1 March 2021

The first sighting of a juvenile Blue-winged Pitta on mainland Singapore.

By Joseph Lim.

On the morning of 16 July this year, I went hiking to the Central Catchment Forest, Mandai Track 15 to look for the Sambar deer, a former native but probably escapees from the zoo. I started the hike at 7.40 am and shortly reached a stream where sightings of the deer had been reported. I tread slowly and quietly anticipating the deer to appear anytime. Suddenly, I saw some small movements at the bare dark patches of the bushes about 5 meters away.

Surprised to see that it was a juvenile Blue-winged Pitta, a first for mainland Singapore.

It was a small bird and from the size and shape I could see that it was a pitta even though it was dark and shaded at 8 am in the morning. As I got nearer I could see it “hopping” around just like a pitta. Upon seeing me coming, the pitta jumped up and perched on a low branch, instead of getting skittish and flee. At one point the pitta turned and looked straight at me in absolute silence. From my photos, I can see that it was a juvenile Blue-winged Pitta, Pitta moluccensis, with duller plumage and gape. On checking with my friends I was told that this is the first mainland record of a juvenile Blue-winged Pitta. The previous sighting of a fledged juvenile was at Pulau Ubin also around July in 2016 where its nest was discovered ( See reference).

The gape, duller and less defined plumage of the juvenile Blue-winged Pitta

I tried to move in for a closer shot and to avoid the many mountain bikers coming through as this was a shared track at this spot. Unfortunately a biker went by fairly fast and spooked the bird. It quickly hopped and flew further into the bushes.

I wandered around the vicinity to look for it. Then I heard the calls of a Blue-winged Pitta coming from a forest patch about 20 meters away. It turned out to be another pitta, a bigger adult with brighter plumage and clear define plumage perched on a small tree, 3 meters from the ground.

The adult Blue-winged Pitta calling loudly from a small tree.

This adult Blue-winged Pitta was calling loudly and regularly  throughout my observations. It remained perched for about 3 minutes and flew deeper into the forests when I approached it for closer shots. I can only assumed that this is the parent bird.

Both the adult and the juvenile could not be located and was not seen again.

Reference :

1.‘First documented records of the Blue-winged Pitta Pitta moluccensis breeding in Singapore, BING WEN LOW, ALFRED CHIA, GIM CHEONG TAN, WEE JIN YAP & KIM KEANG LIM

source:  https://singaporebirdgroup.wordpress.com/2017/03/18/first-nesting-record-of-the-blue-winged-pitta-in-singapore/?fbclid=IwAR07OKZ95cOOwwBNKrDr0OVpNyYrPXvdoBuD3pRVtdl4eomPPeT4J-8i2XQ

2.‘PITTAS (PITTIDAE) OF SINGAPORE’  NATURE IN SINGAPORE 2009 2: 155–165,

     A. F. S. L. Lok1*, K. T. N. Khor2 , K. C. Lim3 and R. Subaraj4

source:  https://lkcnhm.nus.edu.sg/wp-content/uploads/sites/10/app/uploads/2017/06/2009nis155-165.pdf

Breeding ecology of the Black-thighed Falconets in Perak, Malaysia.

By Khoo Siew Yoong

The recent sightings of the Black-thighed Falconet, Microhierax fringillarius, in Singapore after 30 years, created considerable interest of this long-lost former resident there. This seems to be a good time to share some observations of their breeding behavior in this blog with you.

A successful brood of four juveniles

I have been studying the nesting of this falconet around the limestone hills at my backyard in Ipoh since 2005.  

A female “helper” tearing the innards of a bird to feed the chicks.

I followed a particular super productive pair full time from 2007 till present. They renewed their courtship around November to March every year, successfully brooding 3-6 chicks each year with a bumper brood of 6 chicks in 2018. In a 9 year period, between 2011 and 2019, they successfully raise at least 30 chicks.

Courtship of the studied pair. Note the size difference between the male and female.

One interesting aspect I discovered during the study was the “outsider” breeding rendered by helper adults in incubating the eggs, feeding and looking after the chicks. All of them, the parents, the helpers and the chicks roost in the same nest hole in the cliff side. Some years back, I took my Singapore birding friend Alan OwYong and his wife to check on the nesting. They were amazed to count a total of 10 of them flying back cramming into one nest hole to roost!

The nest hole inside the side of the limestone cliffs is perfect for the whole family.
A 3 month old falconet already acquired adult plumage.

Breeding – Incubation: 3-3.5 weeks. Fledging: 2.5-3 weeks. Post fledgling: 1-7,5 months.

Diet – Bat & House swift (caught on the fly), house gecko, bee, dragonfly, butterfly, moth and small birds. Occasionally small rat. Collected more than 60 pellets during one nesting period for Prof, Puan at University Putra Malaysia for analysis by his undergrad students.

Some of the pellet droppings for analysis
 MaleFemaleJuvenile
SizeSmallerLargerSmall
Belly and ThighLight rufousSlight darker rufousLight rufous
ThroatWhite/Light rufousLight to darker rufousWhite/beige
Ear StripeWhiteWhiteRufous
SuperciliumWhiteWhiteRufous
Table 1. Field features of the males, females and juveniles.
Family photo of parents, young and helper showing the different plumages.

I hope that more falconets will expand beyond Johor down to Singapore and establish a breeding colony there.

References:

In correspondence with advice from David Wells and Alan Kemp.

Research expedition with the British Broadcasting Corporation on the Black – thighed Falconet (Microhierax Fringillarins – smallest eagle in the world). 2013.

“Strange Castaways” in the Wonders of the Monsoon Series. British Broadcasting Corporation. Broadcast in 2014.  

Scientific presentation on the Black- thighed Falconet (smallest eagle in the world) at the Kasetsart University – Raptor rehabilitation Unit, Chatuchak, Bangkok. 2017

Fledging Fledgling in Bird Ecology Study Group (28 Jan. 2013). Raptors: Black-thighed Falconette in Bird Ecology Study Group (5 Sept. 2009). Black-thighed Falconet: Mating and nesting rituals in Suara Enggang (29 June 07). Co- authored with K C Tsang.