Monthly Archives: August 2015

Summering Oriental Honey Buzzards in Singapore.

Immature OHB Seng Alvin

Seng Alvin posted this photo of an Oriental Honey Buzzard taken at the Tampines Eco Green in Singapore Raptors Facebook Group on 25th August 2015. He asked if this is was a juvenile OHB. This simple question set off a lively discussion on how to age and sex the younger honey buzzards.

Tou Jing Yi said that it is not a full adult. Tan Kok Hui agreed based on the paler cere and added that this is a young male orientalis OHB.  Tou Jing Yi then pointed out the grey face and dark iris as features for the male birds.

The Oriental Honey Buzzards migrate down to Singapore around mid September from Southern Siberia, NE China, North Korea and Japan. They are mainly adult birds. The juveniles will follow a month later when we get to see them in late October and early November.

So why are we seeing a migratory orientalis honey buzzard in August? I went to ask Yoshio Yamane-san who helped with the tracking and study of two adults and one juvenile Oriental Honey Buzzards in 2005. While both adults made their way back north in the Spring, the juvenile stayed and spend the Summer in Malaysia (Higuchi et al 2005). He said that the juveniles winter in the region together with the adults but do not follow the adults back in Spring. They stay over and spend the Summer in the region as second year birds. Many will then make their first migration back north in the following Spring as third year birds. Seng Alvin’s OHB could be one of these birds.

I cannot find any literature on why the juveniles summer over the region during their second year. Could it be because of their diet? The larvae of bees, wasps and other insects may not provide enough fat for them to undertake two long migrations within a short period of six months? Since they are not ready to mate in their first three years, there is no point in making the risky journey back but instead spend the time to build up their strength and save energy.

2nd year bird OHB Danny Lau

This pale morph Oriental Honey Buzzard (right) was shot by Danny Lau on 7th July 2015 over Hort Park. He identified it as a second year bird, moulting.  An adult will have a dark trailing edge to the wings.  Based on the date, this has to be one of the juveniles that came down during last autumn and have been spending all this time in the region.

Francis Yap photographed another Oriental Honey Buzzard (below) on 5th August 2015 over the Jelutong Tower at the Central Catchment Forest.

OHB Francis Yap

It is also not a full adult, but appears to be a second year bird. He reported that it came up from the forest roost, thermal and then flew off in a South-easterly direction.  This is what the Honey Buzzards do during migration. Three days earlier Low Choon How also reported another OHB flying over the Singapore Botanic Gardens in a South-easterly direction. Based on the direction of the flight both appeared to be on an early autumn migration. But at this time of the year the Oriental Honey Buzzards are just starting their migration with the adult birds undertaking this journey first. The juveniles will stay behind in their breeding grounds to build up their strength for another month or so before making the trip in early October. Could they be flying down to Indonesia to continue their stay? Hopefully with so many keen raptor watchers in the field in the coming days and weeks, we will have more information on these Honey Buzzards and answer some of these intriguing question.

Alan OwYong, Tan Gim Cheong & Francis Yap.

Reference: The Avifauna of Singapore Lim Kim Seng 2009. Field Guide to Raptors of Asia. Vol.1. ARRCN 2012. Many thanks to Yoshio Yamane and Francis Yap for their imputs, Tou Jing Yi and Tan Kok Hui for their comments, Seng Alvin, Danny Lau and Francis Yap for their photographs and Low Choon How et all for their records.

The Grey-rumped Treeswifts of Bishan Park (Part 2)

Contributed by Jensen Seah.

After reading the Burung Singapura’s post on the Grey-rumped Treeswifts at Bishan Park, I went to look for my images of these treeswifts taken there early this year. I think they will add to the nesting behavior of these treeswifts here.

Grey Rumped Treeswift male 21 Mar 15 - Bishan Park nesting 3

I stumbled on this male guarding the newly laid egg on the 20th March 2015. This photo was taken the next day and you can see the egg was almost hanging out the tiny nest. In fact you can hardly see the nest if not for the egg. I really wonder how the parents were able to keep it in the nest when the the branch start swaying on a windy day. Incubating the egg must be a very delicate juggling act. I went back 2 weeks later and the parents were still incubating the egg. At least we know that incubation takes more than 2 weeks. Unfortunately I was not able to check the hatching later on.

Grey-rumped Treeswift 13 June 15 - Bishan Park 3

This was another nesting at another part of the park. Taken on 13th June, the chick looked like close to fledging but I was not able to tell how old this chick was. A week later it had moved out of the nest. I like to think it may had just fledged the day or two before and not predated. I could not find it around the following week.

Grey-rumped Treeswift 13 June 15 - Bishan Park 4

The same chick taken on the same day. The wings were still not fully formed. It must have moved along the branch to get a feel of the surrounding. Based on the dates, this may be the sub-adult that Seng Alvin photographed recently at the park. I hope my ad-hoc records will in some ways help to add to its breeding behavior. If you have any other records of these treeswifts to share, you can post it on the Singapore Bird Group’s Facebook page.

Crested Goshawks preying on Palm Roosting Bats.

The Crested Goshawk, Accipiter Trivirgatus, is a rare and only resident accipiter in Singapore. The first breeding attempt was recorded from the Singapore Botanic Gardens in 1987 (SINAV 2-1). Sporadic sightings at Kent Ridge Park in 1993/94 and P.Ubin in 2004/5 followed. The first successful breeding was most probably the one at the Japanese Gardens in 2011. Before that in 2010, we had several records of juveniles at the Singapore Zoo (Feb), Ang Mo Kio and Chinese Gardens (December). These were the first signs of this resident spreading across the island. Since then we have received more breeding records from Sentosa, Singapore Botanic Gardens, Singapore Zoo,  Venus Drive, and Ang Mo Kio. The latest was a pair nesting in a Khaya senegalensis at Bishan Park, the subject of this article.

Adult Goshawk looking for bats in the palm fonds

Adult Goshawk looking for bats among the fonds of the Chinese Fan Palm.

Recently See Toh Yew Wai took Con Foley and I to document the feeding of the juvenile by its parents. What we saw was something most extraordinary. We are not sure if this has been documented before. The parent was seen moving in between the fonds of the Chinese Fan Palm Livistona Chinensis. We thought it was trying to hide from us, but it then flew out with a bat in its talons at around 9.30 am. It was actually looking for the bats roosting under the fonds instead of hunting for the usual prey like Rock Pigeons and Javan Mynas on the fly.

A common Frut Bat is still alive.

The bat looks like the Common Fruit Bat. It was still alive when caught. The Goshawk started pulling out the furs from its neck before tearing out the flesh.

We are not sure how the Goshawk know where to look for the bats. Is it something it learnt from its parent? Or did it noticed the roosting habits of the bats by chance or heard their calls? Whatever the case, this is definitely a more efficient way of hunting. The next day, Con Foley went back and saw the parent again looking for bats among the palms there. But this time round it was not able to find any. Could the bats moved out after being raided yesterday? Thankfully Con persisted with a third visit and saw the juvenile this time catching a bat on his own without the parent around. So the parent must have taught this to its young.

Adult Crested Goshawk tearing away the flesh of the Common Fruit Bat

Adult Crested Goshawk tearing away the flesh of the Common Fruit Bat.

The parent flew to the open branch of the Tembusu tree and began tearing open the bat with its hooked beak. It started feeding oblivious to our presence. The bat was still alive but surprisingly did not struggle or squeal. Nature can be really cruel. .

Start to call to its young to come to feed.

After finishing about half the bat, it started calling for its young to come to feed instead of bringing the bat to the young. This is one way to get the juvenile to do more flying.

The Juvenile flew in and start asking for the food

The Juvenile was hiding at a nearby tree and answered the parent’s call. It then flew to the Tembusu where the parent was waiting. It started flapping its wings and called for the parent to bring over the food.


The parent at one stage came down to the ground. The juvenile followed but later decided to fly back to the branch. From this shot you can see that the eyes of the juvenile is light grey unlike the adult which is yelllow.

The moment when the parent pass over the Fruit Bat to its young

But in the end it had to fly back up to the same branch as the parent where the bat was passed over to it. The juvenile is below.

Claining its prizeThe juvenile white underside is speckled with brown spots. We estimate that this juvenile to be about two months old.

It did not eat the bat straight away but held on to it. It could be checking if there are any other predators around to steal its meal. After a good five minutes, it decided to fly to a higher perch at a Khaya Tree that has a thicker foliage. We did not follow it so as not to disturb it’s feeding. But later on it was seen perched high up calling again without the bat.

A video of the feeding at

Reference: The Avifauna of Singapore. 2009. Lim Kim Seng. Thanks to See Toh Yew Wai for bringing us there and Con Foley for sharing his observations with me. Many thanks to Ender Tey for sharing this nesting record with us.

Singapore Bird Report July 2015

Even though most of the sightings for July were non-breeding visitors and residents, some of the rare and hard to find residents decided to show up. Topping the list was a family of the most sought after King Quails, Colurnix chinensis, at Punggol Barat grasslands. Alsten Ng first saw them early in the month. Er Bong Siong photographed a male a few days later on the 9th. A total of seven were counted and they gave many of us with first time photo records of this species in Singapore. Mick Price was driving along the Tampines Expressway near the Halus exit at 6pm on 31st when he saw a small dark raptor with a white throat. He reckoned that it was a Bat Hawk, Macheiramphus alcinus,  a very rare forest resident.  On the same day Robert Teo reported the sighting of the Barred Eagle Owl, Bubo sumatranus, at Pulau Ubin. This owl don’t seem to stay put at one place for long. Staying at Ubin, Francis Yap returned with a photo of a flying Black Hornbill, Anthracoceros malayanus, on 25th. This individual had been seen in Ubin for some months by the NParks staff. The previous three records from the mainland were listed in Category E and treated as escapees.  The Oriental Darter Anhinga melanogaster, seemed to have made Pekan Quarry home. Over on the Changi Sailing Club, David Li posted a photo of the rare Green Imperial Pigeons, Ducula aenea, on 9th. Previous sightings were at Loyang but mostly in Pulau Ubin and Tekong.

Black Hornbill at Pulau Ubin. Photo by See Toh Yew Wai

Black Hornbill at Pulau Ubin. Photo by See Toh Yew Wai

Other notable residents reported were a pair of Chestnut-winged Babblers, Stachyris erythroptera,  at Rifle Range Link by Lim Kim Keang, the Blue-eared Kingfishers, Alcedo meninting, at JEG on 18th by Lee Van Hien and another at Pekan Quarry on 31st by Francis Yap.

Sunda Scops Owl by John ArifinOur resident owls put on a great showing this month. It started off with sightings of the Sunda Scops Owls, Otus lempiji,  at CCNR by Dean Tan on the first day. Then Richard White spotted a pair at the Palm Valley at the Singapore Botanic Gardens on 17th. This pair soon became the darling of our local photographers. The pair of Buffy Fish Owls, Ketupa ketupu,  was feeling very at home at the rain forest patch there. A pair of Brown Hawk Owls, Ninox scutulata, was reported by Anthony Nik at Venus Loop on 3rd. This had been their roost for quite a while. (Sunda Scops Owl left at Botanic Gardens by John Arifin )


Juvenile Streaked Bulbul at Pulau Ubin

Juvenile Streaked Bulbul at Pulau Ubin.Francis Yap.

A pair of Blue-winged Pittas, Pitta moluccensis, was heard dueting at P. Ubin on 3rd by Francis Yap. This is outside the extreme dates for this species which is still classified as a winter visitor to Singapore.  With more observations we may yet find them breeding here. The widespread Ospreys Pandion haliaetus, were the first non breeding species for the month. One was seen over Venus Drive on 4th by Aldwin Recinto and another over Punggol Barat on 14th by Alan OwYong. The ernesti resident race Peregrine Falcon, Falco peregrinus, returned to Church Street CBD to say hello to Lee Ee Ling.  The rare non breeding Streaked Bulbuls, Ixos malaccensis, were spotted by Francis Yap on 18th at Bukit Timah Nature Reserves. The surprise was that it was a juvenile. He followed this up with an adult and juvenile pair at P. Ubin on 25th. Could they be breeding here? There were two reports of another non breeder, the colourful Jambu Fruit Doves, Ptilinopus jambu, one on 21st at Kallang Riverside by Kanchan Guggari and another on 24th at Central Forest by Francis Yap.

Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker nesting at JEG seen in this stacked photo by Lee Van Hien

Breeding of our resident species are in full swing. “Mr JEG” Lee Van Hien found four different species at the Jurong Eco Gardens on the 18th. Chestnut-bellied Malkohas,  Phaenicophaeus  sumatranus, Ashy Tailorbirds, Orthotomus ruficeps, Sunda Pygmy Woodpeckers, Dendrocopus moluccensis, and the Malaysian Pied Fantails Rhipidura javanica.  Over at Punggol Barat, Lawrence Eu photographed a juvenile Little Tern, Sterna albifrons.

The first winter visitor arrived on 21st. Like all previous seasons it was the Barn Swallow, Hirundo rustica, to herald the start of the migrant season. This sighting was reported by Richard White from the Singapore Botanic Gardens. No shorebirds were reported compared to the sightings of Lesser Sand Plovers and Common Redshanks on the last days of July.

Reference: Avifauna of Singapore. Lim Kim Seng. 2009. A field Guide to the Birds of Thailand and South-east Asia. Craig Robson Asia Books Ltd.2000. Edited by Francis Yap. The above records are taken from the various bird FB groups. pages, reports and forums.  Many thanks for your postings. Many thanks to Francis Yap, See Toh Yew Wai, Lee Van Hien and John Arifin for the use of the photographs.

They are on the way!

Dateline 6th August 2015


Part of a group seven Asian Dowitchers at SBWR on 10.9.2013

On the first day of this month, Zacc HD reported sightings of 8 Lesser Sand Plovers and 2 Common Sandpipers at Seletar Dam. On the same day over at Sungei Buloh, Adrian Gopal counted 11 Common Redshanks and 2 Common Greenshanks, The Common Redshanks went up to 137 and Common Greenshanks to 15 two days later according to a post by Lim Kim Seng.  The Autumn migration has began. The shorebirds are on the way. Time to bring out the guide books, polish up on your shorebird ID and get ready with your long lenses for some mud flat birding.

Black-tailed Godwit

Black-tailed Godwit. A total of 8 were wintering at SBWR. 14.9.2014

So what can we expect to see in the next few weeks? The best guide is to go a year back and see which uncommon species turned up and where.

Common Redshank

File Photo: Common Redshank, the first shorebird to arrive.

On 8th a Greater Sand Plover was picked up at Seletar Dam (Henry Koh). We then have to wait until the end of August before a flurry of sightings were reported at Sungei Buloh. An Asian Dowitcher made a quick one-day stop over (Ben Lee), followed by Terek Sandpiper ( See Toh Wai Yew). Then 6 Black-tailed Godwits, a Grey-tailed Tattler and a Curlew Sandpiper on the last day got every one excited.

Luckily the passerine migrants keep us busy during in the middle of the month. A Grey Wagtail was reported at the Japanese Gardens on 15th (KC Chan); an Asian Paradise Flycatcher at P. Ubin on 18th ( Akaikimgyo); an Asian Brown Flycatcher at Sime Forest on 18th (Lim Kim Seng); a Common Kingfisher at the Gardens by the Bay (Shirley Ng) ending with a Yellow-rumped Flycatcher at Bidadari (Lawrence Cher).

And for good measures, a non-breeding visitor Malaysian Hawk Cuckoo was photographed at Bishan Park on 22nd by Christina See. Time to stake out the migrant haven Bidadari soon. Please report your important sightings in any of the facebook groups and pages. Your sightings are a great help for us to monitor their migration pattern and behavoir. Thank you.