32nd Annual Bird Census.
Compiled by Lim Kim Chuah.
This year only 73 Pacific Golden Plovers were counted ( 65 at Mandai and 8 at SBWR) compared to 522 last year. It is the lowest since 1990. See chart below. Is this a blip or signs of habitat deterioration? We hope that these bird censuses and counts will provide the answers.
The 32nd Annual Bird Census was held on on 5 March 2017. The weather was generally good and the count went well for the 23 sites surveyed. This is one site less than the 24 sites that were counted in 2016. Sites not counted this year included Lower Pierce Reservoir Park, Upper Seletar Reservoir Park, Ubin Central, Botanic Garden, Khatib Bongsu, Pasir Ris Park and Kranji Dam.
Bird-wise, we continue to see a disturbing trend in the reduction of number of birds counted. A total of 5682 birds was counted this year. This is a drop of 1056 birds (16%) compared to 2016 and 2888 birds (34%) below the past 28-year average count of 8471 birds. In terms of species counted, this year total of 138 is 4 species higher than 2016 but 11 species lower than the past 28-year average of 149 species. What could the reasons for this declining trend in both the number of birds and number of species counted? Possibilities included loss of habitats, declining population in migratory birds, etc. More work and data mining need to be done to ascertain the cause(s) of this decline.
And how did the counts go at the 23 sites that were surveyed?
Kranji Marsh turned out to be the site with the most number of species of birds counted (72 species) followed by Poyan (55 species) and Malcolm Park (48 species). Kranji Marsh again proved to be a very important site as it registered the highest number of birds counted (582 birds). This is closely followed behind by Sungei Mandai (560 birds) and Malcolm Park (361 birds). It’s interesting that Malcolm Park, an urban park located close to the city recorded such high density and diversity of birds.
And which are among the most numerous birds in Singapore? Well it’s hardly surprising that the title went to the ubiquitous Javan Myna, a bird that is ironically listed as Vulnerable in the IUCN Red list of threatened species. This is based on a rapidly declining population in its native wild range i.e. Java and Bali due to the cage bird trade.
The Javan Myna has consistently been counted among the top 4 birds (see chart). But the same cannot be said of its close cousin – the Common Myna whose fortune has continue to dip since the 90’s (see chart). Is it something to do with the rapid urbanization of Singapore? Or strong competition from the Javan Myna? Unfortunately, we do not have the answer.
Comparing the Top 10 birds in 2016 and 2017, the species are similar except for the conspicuous absence of the Pacific Golden Plover in this year’s Top 10. This species is usually recorded in good numbers during the ABC especially from Sungei Mandai. This year, only 73 birds were counted – the lowest since 1990. Sungei Mandai recorded only 65 birds and another 8 at Sungei Buloh. Hopefully this blip is only temporary and not a sign of habitat deterioration at Sungei Mandai. But the annual declining trend seems to suggest that habitat deterioration may be one of the reasons.
Top 10 Birds in 2017 & 2016
Counts of Pacific Golden Plover from 1990-2017:
Finally, a BIG THANK You to all participants some of whom has repeatedly helped with the census through the years. This year’s participants included Con Foley, Danny Lau, Andrew Chow, Wing Chong, Lee Ee Ling, Veronica Foo, LKS, Mick Price, Willie Foo, Alan OwYong, Keita Sin, Terry Heppell, Jane Roger, Kenneth Kee, Margie Hall, Wee Sau Cheng, Low Choon How, Tan Kok Hui, Rob & Kim Arnold, Koh Ai Kiak, Mithilesh Mishra, Jane Heppell, Ian Rickword, Nessie Khoo, Pang Hui En, Martin Kennewell + 9 NUS students, Liana Knight Spencer and George Kinman, Yeo Seng Beng, James Tan, John Ogiev, Richard Wong, Carmen Hui, Lim Li Fang, Eunice Kong, Yong Junzer, Milton Tan and Koh Ai Kiak.
The ABC was started in the 1980’s by the late Clive Briffett. What started as a fun activity to get more people interested in birds has generated a treasure trove of data through the years. We acknowledge that there are inaccuracies in the data collected e.g. skill level of counters, changes to sites, number of sites, routes changes etc. But if we are to look for trends in the data and focus on the big picture, then the data could prove interesting and useful as an indicator of the state of the health of the avifauna in Singapore. Hence it is pertinent that the Bird Group of the Nature Society (Singapore) continue to organize such counts and continue to monitor the trend. We look forward to the continued support of all members and participants.
Table: Summary of results from each site.