A Short History of the Jerdon’s Baza in Singapore.
By Alan OwYong and Tan Gim Cheong.
We are indeed fortunate when a juvenile Jerdon’s Baza Aviceda jerdoni moved from the northern part of Singapore to the heart of the island at Bishan Park in late February 2018. This raptor has eluded birders and photographers for many years as they make sporadic appearances at Lorong Halus and Tampines Eco Green. Last weekend, it was hunting at Bishan Park from early morning to late afternoon giving many of us our lifers and hundreds of perched, feeding and flight shots.
An exceptional shot of the Jerdon’s Baza making a low fly pass at Bishan Park captured by Lim Ser Chai.
But surprisingly this raptor was not recorded in the 1920s to 1990s. One of the reasons may be that it is largely sedentary. We should consider the winter population in Singapore to be true but short distance migrants. They are very rare in Peninsular Malaysia, so the birds we see could have come from north of Chumphon, possibly Northern Thailand, Myanmar or India. Their range includes South India and Southern China down to parts of South East Asia and across to Borneo, Sumatra (breeding recorded) and the Philippines.
A well taken and nicely framed habitat shot of Jerdon’s Baza by Mettalady Yeo.
It was listed as a rare accidental here, based on only seven records from 1996 to 2008. Our first record was an injured juvenile from Maju Camp at Clementi on 6 December 2002. I remembered someone pointed out the serrated upper mandible as one of the identity features. It was revised when a miss-identified juvenile Blyth’s Hawk Eagle photographed at Bidadari in January 1996 by the late Ong Kiem Sian was re-identified as an adult Jerdon’s Baza.
Martii Siponen’s photo of a Jerdon’s Baza (left) with an Oriental Whip Snake at Hindhede Quarry.
Between 2006 and 2008, a bunch of records came in from the Lim Chu Kang, Poyan and Choa Chu Kang areas. Con Foley photographed one in flight over the Chinese Gardens in 2007. In 2010, we had several records from the reclaimed land at Changi Cove (Lau JiaSheng et al). These records do point to a case of this species being overlooked in the past. In fact, Martti Siponen, a keen raptor watcher shot one in flight over Hindhede Quarry in 2010 and kept it filed as a Changeable Hawk Eagle.
The Jerdon’s Baza is also called a Lizard Hawk, well illustrated by Terence Tan’s dramatic shot of a Changeable Lizard being torn up.
Most of the recent sightings were at Lorong Halus where up to eight birds were roosting there during the migratory months. Their foraging ground then extended to Tampines Eco Green and the open fields of Pasir Ris Park. My first sighting was at Biopolis at one-north in 2012 where two birds were seen perched by Horst Flotow from his office window. This is also the first for one-north. Last November two were seen flying over Henderson Wave. Lets hope they will be returning year after year and enjoy our warm weather during the winter months.
(PS. The Jerdon’s Baza was last seen at Bishan Park on 12 March 2018).
Reference: Lim Kim Seng. The Avifauna of Singapore. 2009. Nature Society (Singapore). Toru Yamazaki. Field Guide to the Raptors of Asia. 2012 Asian Raptor Research and Conservation Network.
Many thanks to Lim Ser Chai, Mettalady Yeo,Martti Siponen and Terence Tan for the use of their photographs.