Monthly Archives: January 2015

When do the Hawk Cuckoos visit Singapore? By Alan OwYong and Yong Ding Li.

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Large Hawk Cuckoo 

Hawk Cuckoos are so named due to their resemblance to Accipiter hawks. We have three species of Hawk Cuckoos visiting our woodlands. Two species, namely the Large and Hodgson’s Hawk Cuckoos are migrants while one, the Malaysian Hawk Cuckoo is a non-breeding visitor after the split by King (2002). There is no evidence for the occurrence of the Northern Hawk Cuckoo, although it may occur here as a rare vagrant.

Malaysian Hawk Cuckoo

Malaysian Hawk Cuckoo

The Malaysian Hawk Cuckoo Hierococcyx fugax is aptly named after the split as it is a resident of Peninsular Malaysia, Sumatra and Borneo. Due to our proximity to Peninsular Malaysia, we have records of this cuckoo in Singapore from June to April, inferred from old records of “Hodgson’s Hawk Cuckoos” during the period which migratory Hodgson’s Hawk Cuckoo are not suppose to occur. It is quite obvious to find them here at mid year due to post breeding dispersal. Last year the first arrivals were on 22nd August at Bishan Park (discovered by Christina See) followed by another on 24th September at Jurong Lake (Lim Kim Keang). Two late stayers were recorded on 9th March at SICC and 13th April at Bidadari. In 2013, the first three records were in August, 24th at Upper Pierce ( Bill Heng), 26th at Venus Loop (Lim Kim Seng) and 28th at Bidadari ( Tan Wee Eng).

Hodgson's Hawk Cuckoo

Hodgson’s Hawk Cuckoo.

The migratory Hodgson’s Hawk Cuckoo Hierococcyx nisiolor from subtropical Asia is a rare winter visitor and passage migrant to Singapore. It also winters in Peninsular Malaysia, Sumatra and Borneo. We normally get to see them by middle of November, with some individuals staying up to March. Interestingly we get more juvenile birds than full adults. Last year, the three earliest records were all in November, the first on 8th at Bidadari (Aldwin Recinto) followed by one on 15th at SBWR (Lim Kim Keang) and lastly on 22nd at Tuas ( Lim Kim Seng & Alan OwYong). However in 2013 we had two very early records both in October. The 14th October sighting at Bidadari by Leslie Fung and Vincent Ng set a new early date by more than a month. This was followed by another sighting on 19th October at Kranji Marshes by Lim Kim Seng. The November sighting was on 14th at Bidadari by Henry Koh and Leslie Fung.

The larger ranged Large Hawk Cuckoo Hierococcyx sparverioides was not recorded in Singapore until 23th February 1984 at Ulu Sembawang by Lim Kim Seng. (MBR 1894-1985 LKS pers obs). Past records suggest first arrivals by the earlier half of November. Last year we registered the first sighting only on the 15th December at Bidadari (Frankie Lim & Alan OwYong). In 2013 the first record was on 10th December at Bidadari (Zacc HD). Both the Large and Hodgson’s Hawk Cuckoos’ status as a rare winter visitor and passage migrant may have to be reviewed due to the increased frequency of sightings in the past years.

All three Hawk Cuckoos spent a considerable part of theirtime feeding at Bidadari as seen from the sighting records, and may be show high site-fidelity. When Bidadari gives way to housing development later this year, we will have to look harder elsewhere to find these Hawk Cuckoos to monitor their status and study them.

(Note: These records were taken from postings in varies birding and personal facebook pages and internet forums. There may be other postings that we missed which may give early arrival dates.)

Reference:

Yong Ding Li 2008 Hodgson’s Hawk Cuckoo, A Birder’s Headache.

The Avifauna of Singapore. Lim Kim Seng 2009

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

A Photo Guide to the ID of Malaysian & Hodgson’s Hawk Cuckoo. Con Foley.

Unusual feeding behavior of the Long-tailed Parakeets by Shirley Ng.

Long-tailed Parakeets by Shirley Ng

I first observed the unusual behavior of long-tailed parakeets feeding on the old roof tiles in my neighborhood last year after a heavy downpour.

On the evening of 8 January 2015, I again observed the same behavior with a a flock of long-tailed parakeets that made a stop over in the evening before they head to their roosting site. They were up in the rain trees as usual but a couple of birds started to descend onto a neighbor’s roof then more started to follow. Soon there were over fifty birds on the roof peeling off material from the roof tiles to eat.

Long-tailed Parakeets 2 by Shirley Ng

I managed to capture this behavior as it was relatively quiet and the birds didn’t mind the couple of people walking around below them. They fed for almost 10 minutes before a neighbor’s car horn scared the flock into flight.

After some speculation, it was assumed that like macaws and parakeets of South America, our long-tailed parakeets were harvesting clay. Upon checking with SK Khew, I found out that old roof tiles in the late 50s were made of concrete.

Upon closer examination of my photos, I could see the birds harvesting pieces of moss that grew on soil deposits accumulated from run offs. My guess is after the rain the moss and underlying soil is damp making it easier for the parakeets to pry the moss and soil off the concrete. It would seem that they are consuming minerals from the soil. (Photos by Shirley Ng)

Singapore Bird Report – December 2014

Oriental Scops Owl at BidaGrey Nightjar Bidadari

Oriental Scops Owl on a one day stop over on 15th while the Grey Nightjar stayed for a week at Bidadari.

December 2014 had to be the month of the Thrushes. Four species, two Zootheras/Geokichla, one Turdus and a Monticola were seen at various parts of the island. The uncommon winter visitor Orange-headed Thrush stayed for a day (14th) at Bidadari (FL), while the rare PM Siberian Thrush made a brief appearance at Dairy Farm NP on 30th (CF), much to the disappointment to many of the photographers. This was made up by up to four Eyebrowed Thrushes seen feeding on the False Curry Leaf and Ficus trees at Dairy Farm NP for the rest of the month (AOY). They were first seen on 5th at Tuas South (LKK). There were two sightings of the Blue Rock Thrush (CT), a very rare passage migrant, both on top of high rise Condominiums (Pinnacle at Duxton on 15th and Ascentia Sky on 30th). Both were females, recorded by Chloe Tan researching on high rise gardens. Since Bukit Timah Hill was closed, we were not able to check for the White-throated Rock Thrush for a full house.

Eye-browed Thrush at Dairy Farm

The Eyebrowed Thrush was the main attraction at Dairy Farm NP 

The biggest surprise for December was the sighting of a Scaly-breasted Bulbul at Dairy Farm NP on the last day (LKK). This bulbul has not been recorded in Singapore before. It is a locally common resident in central Peninsula Malaysia, The Records Committee will have to decide on its status and where it come from.

Large Hawk Cuckoo at Bida by Francis Yap

The Large Hawk Cuckoo is now more frequently seen than before during migration. Photo by Francis Yap taken at Bidadari.

The early excitement was provided by a one day wonder in the form of a rare migrating Oriental Scops Owl at Bidadari on the 15th (LC). Only those who turned up that afternoon were rewarded. On the same day, a juvenile Large Hawk Cuckoo arrived at Bidadari (FL) followed by a non-breeding visiting Malayan Hawk Cuckoo on 21st (LC). Also at Bidadari, a returning Grey Nightjar was seen roosting there on the 7th (HF). It stayed for a week. Another Grey Nighthjar was reported at Pasir Ris Park on the 10th (JC)

Due to the exceptionally wet weather, some parts of Punggol Barat were flooded. As expected the fresh water waders were quick to take advantage. Four Long-toed Stints and Little Ringed Plovers (DL,LJS,TKH) were seen on the 15th. By the 25th, the Little Ringed Plovers numbers had increased to 15 with more than 150 Yellow Wagtails feeding on the side (LKK, AOY).  We had reports of a few hundred of these wagtails roosting there. The uncommon winter visitor Red-throated Pipits and scarce resident Red-turtle Doves were also present (LKK). On the 27th a lone Common Kestrel (AOY) and a Chinese Sparrowhawk (JL) were seen hunting across the open areas. The Common Kestrel is the first for Punggol.

Malayan Night Heron

Malayan Night Heron. Tuas South has four sighting of this rare migrant this season. Photo by Francis Yap.

Other water birds include a Von Shrenck’s Bittern at Pasir Ris Park on the 5th (LE), a Black Bittern at Bidadari on the 10th (CTL), a dead female Watercock picked up at Jervios Hill on the 12th (DT) and a uncommon Malayan Night Heron at Tuas South on the 31st (LKS).

Both the Streaked and Cinereous Bulbuls were still showing up mostly at Dairy Farm with one Streaked Bulbul reported at Ubin on 8th (GZH). Up to four Jambu Fruit Doves were seen feeding on the False Curry Leaf Tree at Dairy Farm first seen on the 10th (DA). They were all immature or juveniles.

Barn Owl at Tuas by Lawrence Cher

Not often you will get to see an owl at its day time roost. Barn Owl at Tuas South by Lawrence Cher.

On the home front, a Barn Owl was using the roadside trees at Tuas South as its day roost. It was first observed on the 6th. A Tweeddale Oriental Honey Buzzard (SA) which mimics a Blyth’s Hawk Eagle was photographed at Pasir Ris Park on 18th followed by a Crest Goshawk on 24th (JWW)). This is a first for the Pasir Ris.

Voilet Cuckoo at JEG by Francis Yap

We are very fortunate that this Violet Cuckoo returned to Jurong Eco Gardens to feed again. Photo by Francis Yap.

Other notables include a calling Green-backed Flycatcher at Bukit Kalang Ranger’s Station on 10th (AL). Greater Green Leafbird at Dairy Farm on 28th (TJL) and Square-tailed Drongo Cuckoo at Bidadari on 7th (AOY). The much sought-after Violet and Chestnut-winged Cuckoos returned to feed on the caterpillars at Jurong Eco Gardens on the 24th. Those who missed out on these uncommon cuckoos earlier got their second chance.

Reference: The Avifauna of Singapore Lim Kim Seng 2009.  Edited by Francis Yap. Bird crashed records are from David Tan. All other records were taken from postings in the various facebook, bird forums and individual facebook pages belonging to Francis Yap (FY), Seng Alvin (SA),, See Toh Yew Wai (STYW), Lim Kim Seng (LKS), Lim Kim Keang (LKK), Lau Jiasheng (LJS), Lawrence Cher (LC), Low Choon How (LCH), Chung Yi Fei (CYF), Danny Lau (DL), Tan Kok Hui (TKH),  Jimmy Lee (JL), Laurence Eu, Horst Flotow (HF),Goh Zhao Han (GZH), Doreen Ang (DA), Jon Chan (JC), Albert Low, CT Lim (CTL) Frankie Lim (FL), Chloe Tan (CT), Jim Wei Woo(TWW), Tan Ju Lin (TJL) Con Foley (CF) and Alan OwYong (AOY). Many thanks for your records..