Singapore Bird Report – April 2019

by Geoff Lim, Alan Owyong (compiler), & Tan Gim Cheong (ed.)

April continues to see the exodus of migratory species, while residents breed, nest and raise their young. This month also sees the appearance of the Black-winged Flycatcher-shrike at a previously unrecorded location.

BWFCS, Jan 2018, Jelutong, Thio Hb

Black-winged Flycatcher-shrike from Jelutong Tower taken on 20 January 2018 by Thio Hui Bing.

New Location for Black-winged Flycatcher-shrike

A Black-winged Flycatcher-shrike Hemipus hirundinaceus was spotted during the early morning hours of 22 April 2019 by Fadzrun Adnan at the Dairy Farm Nature Park. Here is Fadzrun’s own narrative of how he stumbled upon the bird:

On the morning of 22nd April, I dropped by Dairy Farm Nature Park hoping to see the scarce Jambu Fruit Dove. When I came to the False Curry Trees, the trees were indeed bearing fruit but the target bird refused to make any appearance at such an early hour. I turned around to have a better look at the clumsy Red-crowned Barbet that was feeding just above the corner of the Wallace Education Centre. As I was admiring the bird and chatting away with a fellow birder, a most inconspicuous but clearly black-and-white bird flew in to perch on some tall snags. A brief view on the binoculars showing the black upperparts and the white underparts readily confirmed its identity as the Black-winged Flycatcher-shrike, a rare visitor to our forests. That sharp black-white delineation on the face is unmistakeable! 

From my experience with this species in Malaysia, this flycatcher-sized bird with a rather slim appearance keeps strictly to the canopy. It may occasionally descend to mid-storey to prey on insects. It is most easily seen when it perches quietly on some sparse snags, just as how I came across one that morning. It was rather unfortunate that the bird soon went out of sight just as some other birders hastily arrived, hoping to have a glimpse of this elusive bird.

Prior to this, this rare visitor was seen only at two other locales – Jelutong Tower, within the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, and at Chek Jawa, Pulau Ubin. The Jelutong sightings occurred on 11 February 2013 (Chan Tsan Tsai and Geoff Lim), on 23 August 2013 (Francis Yap), and 20 January 2018 (Martin Kennewell, Thio Hui Bing and Richard Carden). The Ubin sightings occurred on 28 June 2015, seen by by visiting German birdwatcher, Wolfgang Kraemer, and on 6 May 2018 by Lim Kim Seng during the Comprehensive Ubin Biodiversity Survey (CUBS). The bird was formally accepted into the Singapore list in 2013.

Wells (2009: 107 – 109) noted that the species is generally a loner, though they occur more commonly in pairs and less often in small parties. A lowland species that does not venture beyond 300m above sea level, the Flycatcher-shrike is more often found in the high open canopies of forests and tops of forest edge growth along clearings, logging tracks and other edge habitats. Generally known to be a gleaner that picks off small arthropods from the underside of leaves, the species also flies short sorties to snap at airborne prey before returning to the same perch.

Wells (2009: 109) suggested that evidence from observations of nest building, eggs and nestling suggests that egg laying occurs between February and July. Figure 1 provides a graphic representation of the sightings so far across the months of the year. While the sightings from April onwards could be possibly due to a post-breeding dispersal from Malaysia, the occurrences in January and February weaken this theory. Only time will tell whether these sightings are of non-breeding visitors from the north, or come from a local breeding population.

Figure 1

The following photographs from previous sightings in 2013 and 2018 serve to illustrate  Well’s points about the bird being mostly alone, and is usually perched in the open canopies of forests and vegetation along forest edge environments.

BWFCS, 2013, Jelutong, Chan Tsan Tsai

Black-winged Flycatcher-shrike from Jelutong Tower taken on 11 February 2013 by Chan Tsan Tsai

BWFCS, Aug 2013, Jelutong, Fryap

Black-winged Flycatcher-shrike from Jelutong Tower taken on 23 August 2013 by Francis Yap showing how dimunitive the bird is

Central Catchment, BTNR, DFNP & Bukit Brown

Dairy Farm Nature Park (DFNP) remains one of the more accessible and productive parks located at the fringes of the CCNR. During the month of April 2019, several resident and migratory species were spotted within the park. Besides Fadzrun’s Black-winged Flycatcher-shrike, a Jambu Dove Ptilinopus jambu was spotted on 5 April 2019 by Lim Kim Seng, as was a Von Schrenck’s Bittern Ixobrychus eurhythmus on 6 April 2019 by Martin Kennewell. The park also yielded a Dark-sided Flycatcher Muscicapa sibirica on 19 April 2019 by YT Choong, a first for this year’s spring. A Common Iora Aegithinia tiphia was seen nesting on 24 April 2019 by Alan Owyong, while a juvenile male Greater Green Leafbird Chloropsis sonnerati was spotted on 27 April 2019 by Khong Yew.

Further afield, we had a report of a Siberian Blue Robin Larvivora cyane at Lower Pierce Trail on 5 April 2019 by Mei Hwang, while a Black-capped Kingfisher Halcyon pileata was spotted on 8 April 2019 at Upper Seletar by Lian Yee Ming. A Chestnut-winged Cuckoo Clamator coromandus was reported at the Jungle Trail of the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve on 13 April 2019 by Kevin Choo; the bird was apparently present at this location since 30 March 2019. A Black Bittern Dupetor flavicollis was also spotted at the Singapore Quarry pond on 14 April 2019 by Betty Shaw. During the Good Friday holiday on 19 April 2019, a Sakhalin Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus borealoides was heard calling beyond the stream next to Dillenia Hut by Yong Ding Li and Geoff Lim. The duo later joined Francis Yap and other birders to observe three Black-headed Bulbul Pycnonotus atriceps flying around the trees; one of which was a juvenile. A Pacific Swift Apus pacificus was spotted at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve on 25 April 2019 by Richard White, while a Barred Eagle-Owl Bubo sumatranus was seen at Bukit Brown on 27 April 2019 by Alvin Tan, a new location for this species of owl in Singapore.

BH Bulbul, 200419, Jelutong, Raymond Siew Kung Kiet

A Black-headed Bulbul taken on 21 April 2019 from Jelutong Tower by Raymond Siew Kung Kiet.

Singapore Botanic Gardens

A male Yellow-rumped Flycatcher Ficedula xanthopygia was spotted at the Learning Forest on 7 April 2019 by Geoff Lim, who subsequently saw a  White-rumped Munia Lonchura striata at the Bambusetum on 21 April 2019.

YRFC, 070419, SBG, Geoff Lim

A Yellow-rumped Flycatcher seen on 7 April 2019 at the Learning Forest by Geoff Lim.

Central Singapore

Inter-specific interaction between a Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus and an Oriental Honey Buzzard Pernis ptilorhynchus was observed on 4 April 2019 at Haig Road by Dawn Teo. The Falcon attacked the larger bird, which managed to escape.

PF, OHB, 040419, Haig Rd, Dawn Teo

Aerial combat between a Peregrine Falcon and Oriental Honey Buzzard captured by Dawn Teo over Haig Road on 4 April 2019.

A few days later on 7 April 2019, a Japanese Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone atrocaudata was seen at Bidadari, while David Tan reported that a Blue-winged Pitta Pitta moluccensis was found to have expired at the foot of a building on 13 April 2019 at Lorong Lew Lian, the first spring collision for 2019.

BWP, David Tan

The first spring collision casualty for 2019 – a Blue-winged Pitta recovered from Lorong Lew Lian on 13 April 2019 by David Tan.

Eastern Singapore

The eastern islands continue to be a haven for birds due to their relatively pristine condition. Several Pulau Ubin residents were seen. On 4 April 2019, a Crested Serpent Eagle Spilornis cheela was seen by Kelvin Ng and Michael Phua, a Barred Eagle-Owl Bubo sumatranus was seen on 7 April 2019, while a Mangrove Pitta Pitta megarhyncha was spotted on 20 April 2019 by Goh Zai Fa.  

Pasir Ris and its environs also attracted several species of good birds, such as a male Mugimaki Flycatcher Ficedula mugimaki at Pasir Ris Park on 4 April 2019, up to 33 Lesser Whistling Duck Dendrocynus javanica at Pasir Ris Industrial Park area on 5 April 2019 by Alfred Chia, an oddly displaced Greater Racquet-tailed Drongo Dicrurus paradiseus on 7 April 2019 at Pasir Ris Farmway 3 by Adrian Silas Tay, and three Black-naped Terns Sterna sumatrana off Pasir Ris Park on 28 April 2019 by Norhafiani A Majid.

Further afield, we received a report of an Eastern Crowned Warbler Phylloscopus coronatus at Tampines Eco Green, which was spotted by Willam Mahoney on 28 April 2019, while David Tan brought the tragic news of Singapore’s third record of a Band-bellied Crake Porzana paykulli found dead on 29 April 2019, possibly 2-3 days after colliding with a window at Temasek Polytechnic. Also, a Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus was seen at Hougang Avenue 1 by Francis Chia on 30 April 2019.

BBC, 290419, Temasek Poly, found by Sunny Tan, pic by David Tan (3rd record)

The third record of the Band-bellied Crake in Singapore, found expired at Temasek Polytechnic on 29 April 2019 and collected by David Tan.

Southern Singapore

An Abbott’s Babbler Malacocincla abbotti was heard on 9 April 2019 at the Mount Imbiah Trail on Sentosa by John Marriott, while a Crested Serpent Eagle Spilornis cheela was spotted on 15 April 2019 by Isabelle Lee. Three Common Hill Myna Gracula religiosa, along with a Large-billed Crow Corvus macrorhynchus on 17 April 2019 at Gilman Barracks by Alan Owyong. An adult male Tiger Shrike Lanius tigrinus was seen on 24 April 2019 by Tay Kian Guan.

Western Singapore

A number of species were encountered at West Coast Park during the first week of April 2019. A male Amur Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone incei with an elongated tail was spotted on 4 April 2019 by Vincent Ng, while another bird without long tail streamers was seen on the same day by Veronica Foo, who also spotted a Black-capped Kingfisher Halcyon pileata and a dark morph Pacific Reef Heron Egretta sacra. On the next day, 5 April 2019, a solitary Abbott’s Babbler Malacocincla abbotti was spotted within the Marsh Garden by Alan Owyong, while a Drongo Cuckoo Surniculus lugubris was spotted by Siew Mun within the park grounds.

Veteran birder, Alan Owyong, braved the wet fields around Bulim Drive on 3 April and spotted one male and three female Greater Painted Snipe Rostratula benghalensis. He also heard five cryptic Lanceolated Warbler Locustella lanceolata, a species which is extremely difficult to see in the wild.

Few birders ventured to the vicinity around Kranji Marsh. Those who did on 7 and 10 April 2019 reported spotting the Asian Openbill Anastomus oscitans; one bird was seen on the 7th at Harvest Lane by Jayden Kwek, while two were spotted on the 10th by Tan Eng Boo along Turut Track.

Asian Openbill, 150419, Turut Track, Tan Eng Boo

Two Asian Openbills at Turut Track on 15 April 2019 and photographed by Tan Eng Boo.

A stone’s throw away at SBWR yielded a white morph Asian-type Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone sp. with a long tail on 13 April 2019, which was spotted by Leong Peng Chor, while a Banded Woodpecker Chrysophlegma miniaceum was seen on 19 April 2019 by Kenneth Kee.

Some birders venturing into the western end of Singapore were amply rewarded. A Barred Button Quail Turnix suscitator and a Ruddy Kingfisher Halcyon coromanda were spotted on 7 April 2019 at Tuas South by Fadzrun Adnan and Martin Kennewell; while a Hooded Pitta Pitta sordida was seen on 16 April 2019 inside a construction site at Gul Circle by John Marshall.

Towards the end of the month, an Indian Pond Heron Ardeola grayii delighted bird photographer Tuck Loong when he stumbled upon the bird in the lotus pond at Japanese Garden on 28 April 2019.

IPH, Tuck Loong

An Indian Pond Heron at Japanese Garden on 28 April 2019 and photographed by Tuck Loong.



Two Short-tailed Shearwater Puffinus tenuiroistris were spotted on 28 April 2019 along the Straits of Singapore by Martin Kennewell and friends. Note that pelagic sightings might not be in Singapore waters.

STSW, 280419, Sg straits, Feroz

One of two Short-tailed Shearwater seen on 28 April 2019 along the Singapore Straits and photographed by Feroz.

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 Chan Tsan Tsai, Francis Yap, Thio Hui Bing, Raymond Siew Kung Kiet, Geoff Lim, Dawn Teo, David Tan, Tan Eng Boo, Tuck Loong and Feroz  for the use of their photos. 

Wells, D. R. (2009). The Birds of Thai-Malay Peninsula. Vol. 2. Passerines. London: Academic Press. 

List of Species seen:

Family Species Date
Anatidae Lesser Whistling Duck 5 Apr 2019
Procellariidae Short-tailed Shearwater 28 Apr 2019
Ciconiidae Asian Openbill 7 Apr 2019
Asian Openbill 10 Apr 2019
Ardeidae Von Schrenck’s Bittern 6 Apr 2019
Black Bittern 14 Apr 2019
Indian Pond Heron 28 Apr 2019
Pacific Reef Heron 4 Apr 2019
Accipitridae Crested Serpent Eagle 4 Apr 2019
Crested Serpent Eagle 15 Apr 2019
Rallidae Band-bellied Crake 29 Apr 2019
Turnicidae Barred Button Quail 7 Apr 2019
Rostratulidae Greater Painted Snipe 3 Apr 2019
Laridae Black-naped Tern 28 Apr 2019
Columbidae Jambu Fruit Dove 5 Apr 2019
Cuculidae Chestnut-winged Cuckoo 13 Apr 2019
Drongo Cuckoo 5 Apr 2019
Strigidae Barred Eagle-Owl 7 Apr 2019
Barred Eagle-Owl 7 Apr 2019
Barred Eagle-Owl 27 Apr 2019
Apodidae Pacific Swift 25 Apr 2019
Alcedinidae Ruddy Kingfisher 7 Apr 2019
Black-capped Kingfisher 4 Apr 2019
Black-capped Kingfisher 8 Apr 2019
Picidae Banded Woodpecker 19 Apr 2019
Falconidae Peregrine Falcon 5 Apr 2019
Peregrine Falcon 30 Apr 2019
Pittidae Hooded Pitta 16 Apr 2019
  Blue-winged Pitta 14 Apr 2019
  Mangrove Pitta 20 Apr 2019
Tephrodornithidae Black-winged Flycatcher-shrike 22 Apr 2019
Aegithinidae Common Iora 24 Apr 2019
Laniidae Tiger Shrike 24 Apr 2019
Dicruridae Greater Racquet-tailed Drongo 7 Apr 2019
Monarchidae Amur Paradise Flycatcher 4 Apr 2019
Amur Paradise Flycatcher 4 Apr 2019
Japanese Paradise Flycatcher 7 Apr 2019
Asian-type Paradise Flycatcher sp 13 Apr 2019
Corvidae Large-billed Crow 17 Apr 2019
Pycnonotidae Black-headed Bulbul 19 Apr 2019
Phylloscopidae Sakhalin Leaf Warbler 19 Apr 2019
Eastern Crowned Warbler 28 Apr 2019
Locustellidae Lanceolated Warbler 3 Apr 2019
Pellorneidae Abbott’s Babbler 5 Apr 2019
Abbott’s Babbler 9 Apr 2019
Sturnidae Common Hill Myna 17 Apr 2019
Muscicapidae Dark-sided Flycatcher 21 Apr 2019
Siberian Blue Robin 5 Apr 2019
Yellow-rumped Flycatcher 7 Apr 2019
Mugimaki Flycatcher 4 Apr 2019
Chloropseidae Greater Green Leafbird 27 Apr 2019
Estrildidae White-rumped Munia 21 Apr 2019

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