Monthly Archives: April 2019

Singapore Bird Report – March 2019

by Geoff Lim & Alan OwYong, edited by Tan Gim Cheong

March 2019 continues to witness the return migration of birds back to their northern breeding grounds. We were also treated to the arrival of a solitary Asian Openbill, a small species of stork that last visited us in January 2013.

Asian Openbill, Francis Yap

The Asian Openbill photographed at Sungei Buloh on 23 March 2019 by Francis Yap.

Openbill Visitation

On 14 March 2019, an Asian Openbill Anastomus ocsitans was spotted at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve (SBWR) by visiting Australian birders, Grant and Clare Morton, who sent an email to Nature Society (Singapore) to report the sighting. The bird was subsequently spotted again at SBWR,  sparking off an intense hunt for the bird in the days that ensued.

The first record of the species occurred three years ago, on 23 January 2013, when six birds were found feeding in a waterlogged grass patch close to Seletar Airport. These were thought to be part of larger groups of birds that flew southwards down Peninsula Malaysia. The appearance in 2013, along with the current record, represent the southernmost record of the species to date. Further information about the sighting can be found here.

Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR)

Migrants continued to be observed within the CCNR in the month of March. A Grey Nightjar Caprimulgus jotaka was seen on 5 March 2019 from Jelutong Tower by Kelvin Ng while Eastern Crowned Warblers Phylloscopus coronatus were spotted at Venus Drive and Windsor Nature Park on 10 March 2019 by Benson Brighton and Russell Boyman, respectively. On 15 March 2019, a juvenile Malayan Night Heron Gorsachius melanolophus was seen at Hindhede Nature Park as it stalked along the forest floor and was stumbled upon by Fadzrun Adnan and Richard White. The last time we had a publicly recorded sighting of the heron was at the Singapore Botanic Gardens in April 2018.

MNH, Goh Yew Lin

A Malayan Night Heron photographed at Hindhede Park on 15 March 2019 by Goh Yew Lin and discovered by Richard White.

The following week yielded reports of flycatchers in Singapore’s central green core. A Yellow-rumped Flycatcher Ficedula zanthopygia was spotted at Dairy Farm Nature Park on 17 March 2019 by Zhang Licong, as was an Asian Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone species, which was fleetingly seen at Lower Pierce by Vincent Lao, who did not have sufficient time to identify it further. A Ruddy Kingfisher Halcyon coromanda was seen at Venus Link on 22 March 2019 by Richard White, while a Black Bittern Dupetor flavicollis was spotted at the Singapore Quarry on 24 March 2019 by Veronica Foo.


Yellow-rumped Flycatcher photographed at Dairy Farm Nature Park on 17 March 2019 by Zhang Licong.

Residents species observed include an Oriental Darter Anhinga melanogaster on 11 March 2019 at the Hindhede Quarry by Richard White, quite possibly the same bird as the one seen at the Singapore Quarry; three male Violet Cuckoo Chrysococcyx xanthorhynchus chasing and calling to a female for more than 30 minutes in the high boughs of a stand of Albizia trees in Hindhede Nature Park on 16 March 2019 by Alan Owyong; and a male Jambu Fruit Dove Ptilinopus jambu on 24 March 2019 at Dairy Farm Nature Park by Vincent Lao.

Jambu, Vincent Lao

Jambu Fruit Dove at Dairy Farm Nature Park on 24 March 2019 and photographed by Vincent Lao

Northern Singapore

A Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea was seen around the vicinity of Seletar Camp on 13 March 2019 by Timothy Chua, who also spotted a Dark-sided Flycatcher Muscicapa sibirica on 17 March 2019 at Woodlands Town Park.

Eastern Singapore

Birders at Pasir Ris Park noted the movement of cuckoos during the month of March. A Hodgson’s Hawk Cuckoo Hierococcyx nisicolor was seen on 8 March 2019 by Wong Sangmen, as was another spotted on 26 March 2019 by Alvin Seng. Three sightings of a Plaintive Cuckoo Cacomantis merulinus were made on 17 March 2019 by Feroz, while a Large Hawk Cuckoo Hierococcyx sparveroides was seen on 19 March 2019 by Fabius Tan. The last week of March yielded a male Yellow-rumped Flycatcher Ficedula zanthopygia on 26 March 2019 by Wong Sangmen, a Mugimaki Flycatcher Ficedula mugimaki on 28 March 2019 by Khoo Mei Lin and a Von Schrenck’s Bittern Ixobrychus eurhythymus on 31 March 2019 by Wong Keng.

LHC, Fabius Tan

The Large Hawk Cuckoo photographed on 19 March 2019 by Fabius Tan.

Further afield, two Jerdons Baza Aviceda jerdoni was spotted at the Pasir Ris Farmway 3 on 10 March 2019 by Vincent Lao, while a Chinese Egret Egretta eulophotes was seen on 23 March 2019 on Pulau Tekong by Frankie Cheong. Rare non-breeding visitors reported from this regions included a pair of Buff-rumped Woodpecker Meiglyptes tristis species on Pulau Ubin on 7 March 2019 by Chris Sanderson.

Central Singapore

A Hodgsons Hawk Cuckoo Hierococcyx nisicolor was spotted lurking in the remnants of Bidadari on 10 March 2019 by Mike Hooper.

Southern Singapore

The southern green lung that is collectively formed by Gardens-by-the-Bay and Satay-by-the-Bay attracted several species of migratory and resident birds during the month of March 2019. On 2 March 2019, a Yellow-browed Warbler Phylloscopus inornatus was spotted in the Gardens by Martine Ruane. A juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax was seen at the pond next to Satay-by-the-Bay on 14 March 2019 by Veronica Foo, while a Blue-eared Kingfisher Alcedo meninting made its appearance in the canals near the Meadow on 25 March 2019.

BEKF, Siew Mun

The Blue-eared Kingfisher at Gardens by the Bay. This photograph was taken on 27 March 2019 by Siew Mun.

A Brown Hawk Owl Ninox scutulata appeared in a tree near the pond next to Satay-by-the-Bay on 26 March 2019 as reported by Andy Chew. This is an unusual location for the species which is usually seen/heard around the central forests only. It continued to be seen over the next few days until the last report on 31 March 2019 made in social media.

BHO, Herman

Brown Hawk Owl by the Bay and photographed in March 2019 by Herman Phua.

Farther afield, we received a report of a Pacific Swift Apus pacificus over Henderson Wave on 5 March 2019 by Keita Sin, who also reported movement across the hills of Kent Ridge Park on 8 March 2019 of one Common Buzzard Buteo buteo and three Grey-faced Buzzard Butastur indus.

Western Singapore

The Kranji Marsh-Neo Tiew area continued to yield reports during this month as well. Social media continued to report the presence of wintering Black Drongo Dicrurus macrocercus at Harvest Lane, while five Oriental Pratincole Glareola maldivarum were spotted on 22 March 2019 at the same location by Deborah Friets. Twelve Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola were also spotted at Harvest Lane on 24 March 2019 by Alan Chou, as was a “Swintail” Snipe Gallinago sp. on 26 March 2019 by Gabriel Koh, and a Stejnegers Stonechat Saxicola stejnegeri on 29 March 2019 by Alan Owyong, which is later than the previous extreme date of 28 March for this species (note: the individual was still around well into April). Within Kranji Marsh, a Javan Pond Heron Ardeola speciosa was spotted on 23 March 2019 by Lim Kim Seng.

STJ Stonechat, AOY

Alan Owyong captured this Stejneger’s Stonechat on 29 March 2019 at Harvest Link

Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve (SBWR) continued to support shorebirds and waterbirds. Apart from the spectacular report of a solitary Asian Openbill mentioned above, the Reserve continued to attract species such as Terek Sandpiper Xenus cinerus on 23 March 2019 by Gabriel Koh, Khoo Mei Lin and friends, the regular congregation of Great Egrets Ardea alba reported on 30 March 2019 by Lee Van Hien, one male Japanese Paradise Flycatcher  Terpsiphone artrocaudata on 31 March 2019 by Marvin Heng, and five thermaling Lesser Adjutant Leptoptilos javanicus, also on 31 March 2019 by Adrian Silas Tay.

Birders and photographers drawn by the Grey-headed Fish Eagle along Pandan Canal reported other species. A Chinese Pond Heron Ardeola bacchus was seen on 3 March 2019 by Steven Wong, as was an Abbotts Babbler Malacocincla abbotti and Little Bronze Cuckoo Chrysococcyx minutillus on 20 March 2019 by Alan Owyong. A Black-capped Kingfisher Halcyon pileata was reported on 29 March 2019 by Ash Foo, a new record for the location.

Other species reported from this region include a pair of Oriental Magpie Robin Copsychus sauluris on 6 March 2019 at Tuas Naval Base by Kerry Pereira,  a first for this part of Singapore. Within the compounds of the Jurong Bird Park on 31 March 2019, two Greater Coucal Centropus sinensis were seen together before one of them surreptitiously flew to an embankment and waited for about a minute and a half or so before walking into the undergrowth and disappearing into the thick scrub, leaving Geoff Lim to wonder if they were nesting.

Breeding-related activities

Nesting by Collared Kingfisher Todirhampus chloris was reported on 10 March 2019 at Queens Drive by Cheng Li Ai; another pair was followed by many bird photographers in Clementi during the same period, reported by Khoo Mei Lin, and the chicks fledged on 19 and 20 March 2019. Other breeding behaviour reported include the sighting of the critically endangered Straw-headed Bulbul Pycnonotus zeylanicus on 9 March 2019 at Bukit Batok Nature Park by Lim Kim Chuah, who saw a pair with a juvenile, suggesting that breeding had taken place within the Park.

BTNR: Bukit Timah Nature Reserve
CCNR: Central Catchment Nature Reserve
DFNP: Dairy Farm Nature Park
JEG: Jurong Eco-Garden
SBG: Singapore Botanic Gardens
SBWR: Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve
TEG: Tampines Eco-Green

This report is written by Geoff Lim based on listings compiled by Alan OwYong, and edited by Tan Gim Cheong. We are grateful for the birders and photographers whose postings in various Facebook birding pages, bird forums, individual reports and extracts from eBird make up this report. This compilation is not a complete list of birds recorded for the month and not all the records were verified. 

Many thanks to Francis Yap, Goh Yew Lin, Zhang Licong, Vincent Lao, Fabius Tan, Siew Mun and Alan Owyong for the the use of their photos. 

List of Species seen:

Family Species Date
Ciconiidae Asian Openbill 14-Mar-19
Asian Openbill 17-Mar-19
Lesser Adjutant** 31-Mar-19
Ardeidae Von Schrenck’s Bittern 31-Mar-19
Black Bittern 24-Mar-19
Malayan Night Heron 15-Mar-19
Black-crowned Night Heron## 14-Mar-19
Chinese Pond Heron 3-Mar-19
Javan Pond Heron 23-Mar-19
Great Egret 30-Mar-19
Chinese Egret 23-Mar-19
Anhingidae Oriental  Darter* 11-Mar-19
Accipitridae Jerdon’s Baza 10-Mar-19
Grey-faced Buzzard 8-Mar-19
Grey-faced Buzzard 13-Mar-19
Common Buzzard 8-Mar-19
Scolopacidae Swinhoe’s Snipe 26-Mar-19
Wood Sandpiper 24-Mar-19
Terek Sandpiper 23-Mar-19
Glareolidae Oriental Pratincole 22-Mar-19
Columbidae Jambu Fruit Dove* 24-Mar-19
Cuculidae Greater Coucal 31-Mar-19
Chestnut-winged Cuckoo 30-Mar-19
Violet Cuckoo## 16-Mar-19
Little Bronze Cuckoo 20-Mar-19
Plaintive Cuckoo 17-Mar-19
Large Hawk-Cuckoo 19-Mar-19
Hodgson’s Hawk-Cuckoo 8-Mar-19
Hodgson’s Hawk-Cuckoo 10-Mar-19
Hodgson’s Hawk-Cuckoo 26-Mar-19
Strigidae Brown Hawk-Owl 26-Mar-19
Caprimulgidae Grey Nightjar 5-Mar-19
Apodidae Pacific Swift 5-Mar-19
Alcedinidae Ruddy Kingfisher## 22-Mar-19
Black-capped Kingfisher 29-Mar-19
Collared Kingfisher 10-Mar-19
Collared Kingfisher 20-Mar-19
Blue-eared Kingfisher## 25-Mar-19
Picidae Buff-rumped Woodpecker 7-Mar-19
Dicruridae Black Drongo 17-Mar-19
Monarchidae Asian Paradise Flycatcher 17-Mar-19
Japanese Paradise Flycatcher* 31-Mar-19
Pycnonotidae Straw-headed Bulbul##** 9-Mar-19
Phylloscopidae Yellow-browed Warbler 2-Mar-19
Eastern Crowned Warbler 10-Mar-19
Eastern Crowned Warbler 10-Mar-19
Pellorneidae Abbott’s Babbler 20-Mar-19
Muscicapidae Oriental Magpie-Robin## 6-Mar-19
Dark-sided Flycatcher 17-Mar-19
Yellow-rumped Flycatcher 17-Mar-19
Yellow-rumped Flycatcher 26-Mar-19
Green-backed Flycatcher 22-Mar-19
Mugimaki Flycatcher 28-Mar-19
Stejneger’s Stonechat 29-Mar-19
Motacillidae Grey Wagtail 13-Mar-19

Awesome Underwater Dive Catch of the Grey-headed Fish Eagle.

By Alan OwYong and Steven Wong.

This pair of Grey-headed Fish Eagles, Ichthyophaga ichthyaetus, are raising a family somewhere at the Toh Tuck area and have been fishing along the Pandan Canal for some time now. Both or one of them will perch in the mid canopy of the Albizia trees by the side of the canal either in the early morning hours or late afternoons looking out for any signs of life in the canal.


Perched up in the mid canopy, looking down at the canal waiting for any movements in the water.

Many of the dives and catches have been well documented in a number of great action photos posted in various Facebook groups recently. All of them show them diving down from the perch and snatching a fish from the surface of the water before taking it back to the trees.

1-Steven Wong

Steven Wong’s photo of the Sea-eagle entering the water with both wings up. I had a photo of the eagle completely underwater with only the ripples to show on the surface. But deleted it off hand as it had nothing to show.

But on the morning of 21 March 2019, Steven Wong and I witnessed a dive catch we have not seen before. The eagle dived into the water and caught a catfish that was swimming beneath the water surface. At one stage the whole eagle was submerged under the water only to reappear out of the water like from out of nowhere.


Struggling to get up after being fully submerged in the water.

To do this, the eagle must have an extremely sharp eyesight to see the catfish that was swimming well below the surface. Maybe the clearer water that day helped. Then it must continuously keep track the movement of fish as it was diving down from the perch.


Relieved to have both wings clear of the water.

The hardest part must be when and where to plunge in as the fish was below the surface. It will first have to allow for the parallax as the fish was not where it is looking from above. It will also have to allow for the evasive action of the fish in the split second after it hit the water surface.

Steven Wong 2

It takes a lot of down force to lift off judging from the turbulence on the water surface, captured in this photo by Steven Wong.

After hitting the water the eagle will not be able to see the fish as its nictitating membrane will cover its eyes. It will depend on its speed, trajectory and self belief that it talons will somehow fall on to its target and grab it. It was interesting to see that it managed to grab hold of the catfish head instead of mid body. It must be aiming for its head right from the start so that it will still get the other parts of the body if it miscalculate the strike. This hunting technic must have been learnt from the many failures in the past.



Determination written all over its face as it tried to drag it catch off the water.

Reversing its flight after the catch had to be another feat of power, using its wings to stop it going deeper and then pushing it back up to the surface. From the shots it took the eagle quite a few second to get airborne partly due to the size and weight of the catfish. We were happy to witness this hunting behaviour and add to the knowledge of these fish eagles in our midst.


Success and food for the chicks today. It will eat the top half of the fish on the Albizia tree before taking the tail end back to the nest.


Aiming for the head gave the fish eagle some margin of error.

Many thanks to Steven Wong for spotting the eagle that morning and generously sharing his local knowledge of the hunting behaviour of this pair of Grey-headed Fish Eagles.

Singapore Raptor Report – February 2019


Common Buzzard, 050219, Holland Dr, Zacc HD

Common Buzzard, adult pale morph, at Holland Drive, on 5 Feb 2019, by Zacc HD

Summary for migrant species:

In February, 90 raptors of 8 migrant species were recorded. After going ‘missing’ for two months, the Common Buzzard Buteo buteo ‘re-appeared’ at Holland Drive from 4th to 12th February. Three Jerdon’s Bazas Aviceda jerdoni continued to winter at Changi Business Park, one wintering at Coney Island, and another two were spotted at Pulau Ubin.

Only one Chinese Sparrowhawk Accipiter soloensis was recorded, at MacRitchie Reservoir Park on the 3rd. There were a total of six Japanese Sparrowhawks Accipiter gularis, including an adult male and a juvenile at the Lim Chu Kang area. Three migrant Peregrine Falcons Falco peregrinus were recorded, one at Boon Lay Way on the 1st, one at Holland Drive on the 5th mobbing the Common Buzzard and one at Kranji Marshes on the 17th. Three Western Ospreys Pandion haliaetus were recorded, including one at the Botanic Gardens, away from the usual northern coastal areas.

Twenty one Black Bazas Aviceda leuphotes were recorded in the month, including a group of seven at Lorong Halus on the 6th. Forty seven Oriental Honey Buzzards Pernis ptilorhyncus, which included a group of eight at Coney Island on the 9th, rounded up the migrant raptors for the month.

BWK, 090219, LCK, Zhang Licong

Black-winged Kite, showing its striking red eye, at Lim Chu Kang, on 9 Feb 2019, by Zhang Licong.

Highlights for sedentary species:

There were two breeding-related records in February: a pair of White-bellied Sea Eagles mating at West Coast Park on the 21st and a Changeable Hawk-Eagle calling on its nest at Kranji Marshes on the  16th. The only record of the Crested Serpent Eagle was at Pulau Ubin on the 23rd. Two ernesti Peregrine Falcons were recorded in the CBD area on the 2nd.

The other sedentary raptors recorded included four Grey-headed Fish Eagles, eight Crested Goshawks, five Black-winged Kites, and the common Brahminy Kites.

Table 1

For more details, please see the pdf Singapore Raptor Report – February 2019

Compiled by Tan Gim Cheong

Many thanks to everyone who had reported their sightings in one way or another, and also thanks  to Zacc HD and Zhang Licong for the use of their photos.