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


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.)


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.

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

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