Monthly Archives: May 2016

April nesting of the GRT Drongos


22 April 2016

22 April 2016 Five days before fledgling. Note the chick’s big and flesh colored bill.

On 17th April 2016, I was startled by an Oriental Honey Buzzard, Pernis ptilorhyncus, flying out from a small patch of Albizia woodlands next to a condo at one-north. A Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, Dicrurus paradiseus,  was mobbing it. After chasing the Buzzard away, it settled down on a mid storey perch.

Mobbing the OHB 17 April 2016

17 April 2016. Mobbing led me to the nest.

But I knew that it must be protecting a nesting nearby. Sure enough it then flew up to a cup nest built on a forked twig about 5 stories high. It is not usual that they chose to nest so close to an urban setting instead of a forest edge. The only thing I can think of was that the nearest forest a block away was being developed into a park. All the matured Albizias were cut down “for safety reasons”. I recorded a breeding there in 2009.

In the 1980s they are found within the central core but began spreading out to other woodlands like the Botanic Gardens and Malcolm Park. Their presence in the Southern Ridges and Sentosa was quite recent as there was no mention in “The Avifauna of Singapore” published in 2009.

22 April 2016. Dragonfy

22 April 2016. Bringing back a dragonfly to the chick.

I could just see two heads of the chicks hanging out the side of the nest. They looked not more than a week old. One parent would always be on guard while the other was out looking for food. They were very aggressive at this time of nesting. Every bird or perceived predator that were larger than a bulbul will be chased away if they perched anywhere near the nest.

GRT Drongo at one-north 18 April 2016

18 April 2016. Two chicks, maybe a week old. 


During the 10 days that I was observing them, the parents did not make any loud metallic calls that we normally hear in the forest. Instead they will give a low soft call to communicate with each other.

I seen them bring back beetles, cicadas, dragonflies to feed its chicks but no lizards or other “meaty” food. Two days after I found this nesting, only one chick was in the nest. I can only guess that it had been predated, forced out by the dominant chick or even kicked out by the parents if they think they cannot look after both.

27 April 2016 Fledged

27 April 2016 Fledged.

The chick fledged on 27th April, about two weeks after hatching. It left the nest and walk to the branches nearby flapping its wings. I did not see it fly but I can only see the parents around the next day. It may be hiding in some deep undergrowth for protection.

I noticed that all the GRT Drongo’s nests that I came across in the past decade, at Hindhede Park, Venus Loop and Bukit Brown were very high up. But the first nest that I saw in the mid 90s were just above head level. Have they adapted to more disturbances and human presence and play safe? Let me know what your experience was with our paradiseus birds.

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


Annual Bird Census 2016 Report

Text and photos by Lim Kim Seng.

Javan Mynas

Figure #1: Javan Mynas were the most abundant bird counted in ABC 2016. They made up 13.4% of all birds detected that day.

The 31st Annual Bird Census was conducted by the Bird Group of the Nature Society (Singapore) on 27th   March 2016. The weather was good and the count went well for the most part for the 24 sites counted.  The number of sites showed a drop from 26 in 2015 probably due to the Good Friday long weekend.  Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, Poyan, Serangoon and Pulau Ubin West were not counted due to lack of personnel. In all, 44 people participated as compared with 48 last year.

In terms of birds recorded, we saw a significant drop in both number of species and number of birds counted this year, 6,738 birds from 134 species (7,804 birds from 152 species in 2015). These figures were also lower than the 31-year mean of 149 species and 8570 birds, based on census data between 1986 and 2016

Let’s look at the sites next.  The sites with the best bird diversity were Ubin Central with 55 species followed by khatib Bongsu (51) and Kranji Marshes (49).  The lowest bird diversity came from Lower Seletar (20 species), Telok Blangah Hill Park (24) and Dairy Farm Nature Park (24 species).

In terms of abundance, the sites with the biggest numbers were the waterbird haven of Sungei Mandai with 1,133 birds, followed by Pasir Ris Park (487) and Ubin Central (393). The poorest sites were Telok Blangah Hill Park with 87 birds, followed by Nee Soon (115) and Sime Track (132).

So what is Singapore’s most abundant bird? Well, it is the ubiquitous Javan Myna, with 900 birds counted, down from 911 last year. Second is the same as 2015, Asian Glossy Starling, with 797 birds and third is Pink-necked Green Pigeon which kept its position with 581 birds. Fourth is the migrant Pacific Golden Plover which scored 581 birds, an increase of 117 birds from last year. Fifth is the Yellow-vented Bulbul with 284 birds. Next is the Little Egret with 214 birds, followed by Black-naped Oriole (213) and Spotted Dove(190). Making up the rest of the top ten are two migrant waders, Whimbrel (172), and Common Redshank (155).

The top twenty birds of 2016 are listed below, with comparative totals and rankings from last year:

1 Javan Myna 900 911 1
2 Asian Glossy Starling 797 567 2
3 Pink-necked Green Pigeon 581 464 3
4 Pacific Golden Plover 522 274 6
5 Yellow-vented Bulbul 284 361 4
6 Little Egret 214 230 10
7 Black-naped Oriole 213 240 9
8 Spotted Dove 190 159 13
9 Whimbrel 172 345 5
10 Common Redshank 155 246 7
11 House Crow 138 103 19
12 Common Iora 129 137 14
13 Pacific Swallow 109 137 15
14 Collared Kingfisher 103 118 17
15 Olive-backed Sunbird 102 128 16
16 Grey Heron* 101 187 12
17 Rock Dove 98 240 6
18 Long-tailed Parakeet 94 98 21
19 Pin-striped Tit-Babbler 81 104 18
20 Eurasian Tree Sparrow 62 73 25

Table 2: Top Twenty Birds of Annual Bird Census 2016

(Migrants are denoted in bold. The only nationally threatened species is the Grey Heron*)

Of the 134 species counted, 103 (76.9%) were resident, 28 (20.9%) were migrant and two, non-breeding visitors (1.5%). Of 57 nationally threatened species, 21 species (36.8%) were recorded in this census. The most abundant nationally threatened species is the Grey Heron, which dropped to 16th place from 12th position with 101 birds counted nationwide.

The only globally threatened species recorded during the census is the Straw-headed Bulbul, with 34 birds counted, down drastically from 60 individuals last year.  It is in 38th position overall.

Raptors were also visible by their presence with nine species accounted for. The most abundant species are Brahminy Kite (27), White-bellied Sea Eagle (24) and Japanese Sparrowhawk (9). Looking at the parrot tribe, we see Long-tailed Parakeet retaining its superiority in numbers over the introduced Red-breasted by a 94-47 margin. It remains to be seen whether this situation will remain over the next decade.

Noteworthy sightings included Little Grebe (Halus), Javan Pond Heron (Khatib Orto), Watercock (Kranji), Greater Paintedsnipe (Halus), Wood Sandpiper (Kranji), Pied Imperial Pigeon (Buloh 2), Black-capped Kingfisher (Kranji), Blue-rumped Parrot (Nee Soon, Sime) and Siberian Blue Robin (Nee Soon).

Last but not least, thanks to the following observers who made the 31st edition of the Annual Bird Census possible:  Joseph Beh, MY Chan, Andrew Chow, Lena Chow, Margie Hall, Gerard Francis, Jane Heppell, Terry Heppell, Ho Hua Chew, Kenneth Kee, Nessie Khoo, Susan Knight, Angus Lamont, Lee Ee Ling, Jimmy Lee, Lim Kim Keang, Lim Kim Seng, Yvonne Loh, Joan Low, Ng Chay Tuan, Angela Oh, Alan Owyong, Freda Rickword, Ian Rickword, Kerry Pereira, Mick Price, Rehan Yusof, See Swee Leng, Alvin Seng, Betty Shaw, Steven Shields, Jacky Soh, John Spencer, Sutari Supari, KP Teh, Tan Li Li, Rajesh Varma, Wee Sau Cheng, Wing Chong, Wong Chung Cheong, Woo Lai Choo, Yan Jiejun, Yang Pah Liang, Yong Yik Shih.

See you again in 2017!

Grey Heron

Singapore Raptor Report – March 2016

Peregrine, 280316, SBWR, Francis Yap

Peregrine Falcon, Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, 28 Mar 16, by Francis Yap.

Summary for migrant species:

In March, 41 raptors of 8 migrant species were recorded. The Oriental Honey Buzzard, with 15 birds, reclaimed the top spot from the Black Baza which was represented by 10 birds. Six Japanese Sparrowhawks were recorded but there were no records of the Chinese Sparrowhawk. Four Ospreys were recorded; apart from the usual locations along the northern shores and the Central Catchment, one individual was recorded at Marina Bay.

Three Peregrine Falcons were recorded; none of the resident race. The male Common Kestrel wintering at Punggol Barat was still around on the 10th. A rare Rufous-bellied Hawk-Eagle, a juvenile, was photographed at Springleaf on the 31st.

Once again, a Northern Boobook, seemingly on its way back north, was photographed at Tuas South on the 8th, resting in a small stand of low trees surrounded by grassland and factories, not the kind of habitat for the resident Brown Hawk Owl!

Addendum to February 2016 Singapore Raptor Report:

The Northern Boobook previously reported (seen and photographed) at Pasir Ris Park on 31 Jan, 1 Feb and 2 Feb was also seen and heard on 7 Feb and 9 Feb in the pre-dawn hours by Adrian Silas Tay, Daniel Ong and Jasman. They managed to record the call which was distinct from the “who-up” of the resident Brown Hawk Owl.

CHE, posted 090316, Howard Yap

Changeable Hawk Eagle pale morph by Howard Yap.

Highlights for sedentary species:

First, notes on four uncommon resident raptors. The Crested Goshawk at Kent Ridge Park was recorded on the 18th & 25th, and was probably the same individual. Apart from the nesting area at Little Guilin, the Grey-headed Fish Eagle seemed to be more regular at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve and the Botanic Gardens recently. The nesting of the Changeable Hawk-Eagle at Mount Faber progressed well and the eaglet appeared fully grown by end March. There were only two records of the Black-winged Kite, hanging on in the remaining open areas. The common White-bellied Sea Eagle and Brahminy Kite completed the roundup for the month.

S/N Species No.   S/N Species No.
1 Osprey 4     Residents / Sedentary Species
2 Black Baza 10   9 Black-winged Kite 2
3 Oriental Honey Buzzard 15   10 Brahminy Kite 12
4 Japanese Sparrowhawk 6   11 White-bellied Sea Eagle 12
5 Rufous-bellied Hawk-Eagle 1   12 Grey-headed Fish Eagle 6
6 Common Kestrel 1   13 Crested Goshawk 1
7 Peregrine Falcon 3   14 Changeable Hawk-Eagle 6
8 Northern Boobook 1        
        15 Unidentified Raptors 1
        16 Unidentified Accipiters 1
  Total for Migrants 41     Grand Total 82

For a pdf copy with more details, please click Singapore Raptor Report Mar16

Many thanks to everyone who had reported their sightings in one way or another, and especially to Francis Yap and Howard Yap for the use of their photos.

Singapore Bird Report-April 2016

April is the tail end of the Spring migration for most of our winter visitors. Many still make a stop over at Bidadari, on their way back. Just shows how important the place is for these migrants. Unfortunately parts of Bidadari have been boarded up for tree cutting and road works. Will we see them again next year? The other location where most migrants made their pit stops is at Tuas South, a site we have not previously checked.

Frigatebird James Tann


One of the rare photos of a Frigatebird taken within Singapore. Photo: James Tann.

The surprised find for the month was a juvenile Frigatebird photographed flying over the Johor Straits by Birder Dawn, James Tann, Roger Boey and CP Lee on 26th during a boat trip to look for the Brown Booby (last seen on 16th). The juvenile Christmas and Lesser Frigatebirds are hard to separate but the votes so far are for the Christmas, Fregata andrewsi.

Indian Pond Heron LTK

The Indian Pond Heron returning to Bidadari this year for the many of us. Photo: Lee Tiah Khee.

There is a high probability that the Indian Pond Heron, Ardeola grayii, found by Keita Sin at Bidadari on 6th could be the same bird that visited Bidadari last year. This time it stayed until 19th giving those who missed it last year an easy tick. Migrants reported from Bidadari this month included a Chestnut-winged Cuckoo, Clamator coromandus, on 1st (Lim Kim Keang), a breeding male Yellow-rumped FlycatcherFecedula zanthopygia, on 2nd (Lawrence Cher), Crow-billed Drongo, Dicrurus annectans, on 15th (Chuin Ming Lee) and a Large Hawk Cuckoo, Hierococcyx spaverioides, on 16th (Christopher Lee). Other notable sightings were a non-breeding visitor Crested Serpent Eagle, Spilornis cheela, on 8th (Lim Khee Ming) and two wandering Red-wattled Lapwings, Vanellus indicus,  on 11th (Zacc HD).

Northern Boobook Koh Liang Heng

A probable migrating Northern Boobook found by Koh Lian Heng at Tuas South on 21st April. 

Over at Tuas South, it was flycatchers galore. Koh Lian Heng had the rare Japanese Paradise Flycatcher, Terpsiphone atrocauda, on 1st, our second record for the year and a Mugimaki Flycatcher, Ficedula mugimaki, on 7th. Lim Kim Keang recorded three Yellow-rumped Flycatchers, two globally threatened Brown-chested Jungle Flycatchers, Cyornis brunneata on the 2nd. On the same day, he also found a Chestnut-winged Cuckoo, an Indian Cuckoo, Cuculus micropterus and a Hooded Pitta, Pitta Sordida there on the 9th. An adult Tiger Shrike, Lanius tigrinus, was reported on 3rd by Robin Tan and another at Bidadari by Keita Sin on 21st. Interestingly the adult Tigers do not stop over during the Autumn migration. Koh Lian Heng was rewarded for the time he spent at Tuas with a Forest Wagtail, Dendronanthus indicus, on 18th, Eye-browed Thrush, Turdus obscurus, on 19th and a Hawk Owl with non heart-shaped belly markings on 21st, a possible candidate for the Northern Boobook, Ninox japonica.

Barn Swallow Lena Chow

Barn Swallow sub species mandschurica new for Singapore. Photo: Lena Chow.

On the 3rd Lena Chow photographed a Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica, with a light rufous underparts at Punggol Barat. It was identified by Lim Kim Seng as a mandschurica sub species, new for Singapore but recorded in NW Thailand. A day earlier a Hooded Pitta was spotted at Central Catchment Forest by Manawa Ranasinghe and photographed by Khong Yew (Photo below).


You can just make out one of the pin feather of this snipe at Chinese Gardens. Photo: Koh Lian Heng.

Koh Lian Heng managed to photograph the pin feather of the Chinese Gardens snipe on 7th, giving us a confirmed Pintail Snipe, Gallinago stenura, while Dean Tan flushed a Large Hawk Cuckoo at SBWR on 10th. A single Oriental Pratincole, Glareola maldivarum, was reported at Punggol Barat by Tan Julin on 10th, a returning Ashy Drongo, Dicrurus leucophaeus, to Mount Faber by Joyce Chia on the evening of the 11th, another Indian Cuckoo at DFNP on 26th by Art Toh and a vocal Blue-winged Pitta, Pitta moluccensis, at Kranji Marshes photographed by Adrian Silas Tay and James Tann on 30th. Another Blue-winged Pitta have been wintering at the Singapore Botanic Gardens for a large part of April and is still there on 3rd May ( Richard White).

Hooded Pitta Khong Yew

Hooded Pitta making a stop over at the Central Catchment Forest. Photo: Khong Yew.

Two non-breeding visitors that were seen this month were a Crested Serpent Eagle at Kent Ridge Park on 1st (Keita Sin) and a Jambu Fruit Dove, Ptilinopus jambu,  over at Jelutong Tower on 23rd (Nicholas Tan).

As for our uncommon residents, the sightings were quite diverse. A Pacific Reef Egret, Egretta sacra, was photographed at SBWR by Andrew Chow on 1st, Red-crowned Barbet, Megalaima rafflesii, at DFNP on 10th and 11th (Lim Kim Keang and Alan OwYong), another Lesser AdjutantLeptoptilos javanicus, a former resident was photographed by Francis Yap over at Poyan on 16th, Green Imperial Pigeon, Ducula aenea, at Loyang on 16th (Lim Kim Keang), a Blue-eared Kingfisher Alcedo meninting, was reported by Phay SC at Lower Peirce Boardwalk on 18th, two Great-billed Herons, Ardea sumatrana, at the fish farms at Johor Straits photographed by James Tann on 26th and a Cinnamon Bittern, Ixobrychus cinnamomeus, two Lesser Whistling Ducks, Dendrocygna javanica,at the Seletar Pond by Zacc HD and a male Violet Cuckoo, Chrysococcyx xanthorhynchus, feeding on a fig tree at Kent Ridge Park by Keita Sin on 30th.

7 April 2016 Halus

Lawrence Cher’s classic photo of a Common Iora feeding a newly fledged Banded Bay Cuckoo.7 April 2016 Lorong Halus

Lesser Coucal Terence Tan

Lesser Coucals nest in thick grasses close to the ground. A great open shot of parent and chick by Terence Tan from Bidadari on 20th April  2016

Several successful fledglings were reported this month. A male Common Iora, Aegithina tiphia,  was photographed feeding a Banded Bay Cuckoo, Cocomantis sonnerati, at Lorong Halus on 7th (Lawrence Cher), Malayan Pied Fantail, Rhipidura javanica at PRP on 30th (Seng Alvin), Lesser Coucal, Centropus bengalensis, at Bidadari on 20th (Terence Tan),  Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, Dicrurus paradiseus, at One-North on 17th and Buffy Fish Owl, Ketupu ketupu, at SBWR on 25th (both by Alan OwYong).

Red-necked Stinit Laurence Eu

Red-necked Stint a first for Marina Barrage. Photo: Laurence Eu.

Laurence Eu photographed a Red-necked Stint, Calidris ruficollis, at the Marina Barrage breakwaters on the 14th, a first for the site. He was back again on 25th and got this photo of a Common Sandpiper, Actitis hypoieucos, with a single black band on its leg. David Li checked with his Flyway Group and found that it was banded in Jogjakarta way back in 2008, our first evidence of a shorebird from the south making a stop over on way back north. A great find!

Common Sandpiper Laurence Eu

Common Sandpiper banded in Jogjakarta in 2008. Photo: Laurence Eu.


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

Yong Ding Li, Lim Kim Chuah and Lee Tiah Khee. A Naturalist’s Guide to the Birds of Singapore. 2013. John Beaufoy Publishing Limited. 

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

This report is compiled by Alan OwYong and edited by Tan Gim Cheong from selected postings in various facebook birding pages, bird forums and individual reports. Some were not verified. We wish to thank all the  contributors for their records. Many thanks to James Tann, Lee Tiah Khee, Koh Lian Heng, Lena Chow, Khong Yew, Lawrence Cher, Terence Tan and Laurence Eu for the use of their photos.

SBWR – Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, PRP – Pasir Ris Park, DFNP– Dairy Farm Nature Park.