Singapore’s Missing Birds – Scarlet Minivet.

Singapore’s Missing Birds – Scarlet Minivet, Pericrocotus speciosus 
By Lim Kim Chuah.
I recalled often hearing the sweet, rapid and piercing whistles “weep-weep-weep-wit-wip” of the Scarlet Minivet, Pericrocotus speciosus during my walk around the forest of Bukit Timah Nature Reserve in the 90’s. However, seeing one usually entailed some neck breaking exercises as this species usually forages high in the canopy amidst the tall dipterocarp trees. But it’s worth the effort as the stunning red colors of the male bird is simply dazzling amidst the green canopy.
scarlet-minivet-panti-2014-08-10-5l5a4740
Male Scarlet Minivet taken at Panti on 10 August 2014 by Lim Kim Chuah.
Besides Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, this species has also been recorded in our Central Catchment Nature reserve forests. Sadly, its sweet sounding call is now silent in Singapore and has not been heard since the early 2000’s. The last one reported was an unconfirmed report of a male at Jelutong Tower in August 2004.
I still recall rather vividly the last one I saw in Singapore. It was a lonely female perched high on a dead branch at MacRitchie Reservoir during the bird race in Dec 2000. It appeared to be looking forlornly in the distance as though sensing that its existence in Singapore was ending.
The Scarlet Minivet belongs to the cuckooshrike (Campephagidae) family. There are five members belonging to this family in Singapore – Black-winged Cuckooshrike, Lesser Cuckooshrike, Pied Triller, Ashy Minivet and Scarlet Minivet. This species has a wide distribution and can be found from the Indian subcontinent to Southern China and many parts of SE Asia. Fortunately, it is a common bird in neighboring Johor and this is where I go to enjoy this delightful bird. Hopefully it will return to Singapore one day.
Reference: 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
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6 thoughts on “Singapore’s Missing Birds – Scarlet Minivet.

  1. howardbanwell

    Do we have any theories as to why this particular species is no longer in Bukit Timah Nature Reserve or the Central Catchment?

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    1. Alan OwYong Post author

      Hi Howard, I think it has to do with the small numbers. There were only 4 birds at Bukit Timah NR and two at CCNR. We had no nesting records although one or two juveniles have been seen. The gene pool is just not big enough to sustain a viable population.

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  2. howardbanwell

    Interesting, thanks. I wonder if pressures arose on nearby habitats (such as Panti), such relatively sedentary species would look for fresh pastures (e.g. Singapore) or just stay put and die out

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  3. Arthur Blakemore

    Whereabouts in Johor is a good place to go birding and see see Scarlet Minivet? I am not familiar with the areas there, any advice would be appreciated.

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    1. Alan OwYong Post author

      The best place is Panti Forest Reserves for lowland species. This track is also known as the bunker trail at milestone 269. This is about 26 km from Kota Tinggi a small town about an hour from Johor Bahru the capital of johor. You will need to hire a car to get there or a bird guide from Singapore to drive you there. try Lim Kim Seng at ibisbill@yahoo.com

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