Authors: Albert Low and Alan OwYong
The World Parrot Count was initiated six years ago by Michael Braun and Roelant Jonker from the parrot researchers’ group of the International Ornithological Union (IOU). A key objective of the study was to document the status and abundance of feral and non-native parrots in urban environments globally where populations are established. Being part of this study provides an excellent opportunity for us to also monitor native parrot abundance and diversity in Singapore beyond our nature reserves. Given that some species such as the non-native Red-breasted Parakeet (Psittacula alexandri) have increased in abundance across Singapore, it is also timely to identify areas where these species are concentrated and their roost sites.
Results and Conclusions
Coordinated annually by the Bird Group since 2011, this year’s Parrot Count took place on 27 February 2016. 16 sites across mainland Singapore were covered by 33 surveyors. This year’s total of 2,483 parrots of 8 identifiable species is slightly lower than the 2,725 parrots of 7 species recorded last year.
As was the case over the past 2 years, the well-wooded Mount Rosie was the most species-rich site, with seven species of parrot recorded. Bottle Tree Park, a site first surveyed in 2015, was once again the top site in terms of total abundance, with 892 individuals from two parrot species recorded. The Long-tailed Parakeet (Psittacula longicauda) was the most numerous parrot recorded during the count, with a total of 1,837 individuals seen, a decrease from the 2,059 individuals observed last year. This constituted 73.6% of all parrots recorded during the count. 526 Red-breasted Parakeets were also recorded, making up the bulk (21.1%) of the remaining parrots recorded. Other species recorded include small numbers of Tanimbar Corellas, (Cacatua goffini), Coconut Lorikeets (Trichoglossus haematodus), Rose-ringed Parakeets (Psittacula krameri), Blue-crowned Hanging Parrots (Loriculus galgulus) and 4 Yellow-crested Cockatoo (Cacatua sulphurea).
During the census, parrot numbers peaked between 7 pm and 7.30 pm where 1,683 parrots were counted. As shown in recent counts, the largest parakeet flocks were mainly observed at last light, with counters at many sites managing to observe the noisy spectacle of flocks of parakeets returning to their roosting trees just before complete darkness.
With a second year of data collected from pre-roost staging areas throughout central and northern Singapore, the annual parrot count is now proving to be useful in monitoring the large flocks of Long-tailed Parakeets which travel along the eastern boundary of the Central Nature Reserve to roost sites in the vicinity of Yishun via staging sites in Springleaf. While numbers are slightly down from 2015, the continued presence of these large flocks for a second year suggests that Singapore’s only native parakeet species is able to co-exist with the introduced Red-breasted Parakeet. While the latter is widespread throughout Singapore, it is noteworthy that they are conspicuously absent at staging sites used by the Long-tailed Parakeet. These findings have important conservation implications for the globally near-threatened Long-tailed Parakeet, and go some way towards alleviating fears that the recent expansion of the introduced Red-breasted Parakeet in Singapore would lead to the potential extirpation of the native Long-tailed Parakeet.
New sites in central Singapore at Bishan Park and Bukit Brown were counted this year and have been revealed as roosting areas for the introduced Coconut (formerly Rainbow) Lorikeet, a species that is slowly expanding across Singapore. It is hoped that annual surveys like the Parrot Count will also provide a platform for monitoring trends relating to other introduced parrots like these in addition to the more numerous parakeets.
Last but not least, the organisers would also like to reach out to volunteers who are aware of Red-breasted Parakeet roosts in their neighbourhood and are willing to survey them. Anecdotal observations show that while Red-breasted Parakeets are widespread and common in urban Singapore, many of their roost sites have either not been located as yet or are otherwise not being counted. It is hoped that with an increased pool of surveyors counting at more roost sites throughout Singapore, a more complete picture of the local Red-breasted Parakeet population can be obtained.
On behalf of the Bird Group, we would like to thank the following for their willingness to carry out parrot monitoring on a weekend evening – Site Leaders: Albert Low, Lim Kim Chuah, Doreen Ang, Alan Owyong, Lim Kim Keang, Cheryl Lao, Debra Yeo, Lee Ee Ling, Nessie Khoo, Marcel Finlay, Shirley Ng, Wing Chong, Ng Bee Choo, Morten Strange, Angus Lamont. Assisting Counters: Peng Ah Huay, Jervis Goh, Martin Barry, Woo Lai Choo, See Swee Leng, Jitendra Putcha, Pranab Das, Mac Ng, Lee Phua, Jeyabalaji, Akanksha Bhagat, Yong Jun Zer, Cheong Shu Min, Lee Wen Qi, Shanmugam Kumaraguru, Florence Ipert, Elliot Ong and Ming Wei. Finally we also thank Roelant and Michael for inviting us to be part of this study.