Monthly Archives: July 2020

Singapore Raptor Report – Late Spring Migration, April-June 2020

Japanese Sparrowhawk, adult female, Baker Street, 4 April 2020, by Kelvin Leong


Only five migrant raptor species were recorded in the April to June period as most of them had already left for their breeding grounds. There were ten records of the Oriental Honey Buzzard, nine in April and one in June; nine records of the Japanese Sparrowhawk in the first week of April; one Chinese Sparrowhawk in April; two Western Ospreys, one each in April and June, and one Peregrine Falcon in April. Fourteen unidentified Accipiters were on migration over Henderson Waves in early April.

Sedentary Raptors

For the resident raptors, the records of note were the two nestings of the White-bellied Sea Eagle, one at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve and the other at Fort Canning, where the eaglets, two on each nest, were already almost as big as their parents.

Two Crested Serpent Eagles were recorded at King Albert Park on 1st April, and one at Malcolm Road on 5th April. There was also a resident ernesti Peregrine Falcon at The Esplanade on 22nd June. The other resident raptors recorded were the Black-winged Kite, Brahminy Kite, Grey-headed Fish Eagle, Crested Goshawk, and Changeable Hawk-Eagle.

A family of Buffy Fish Owls, with the fledgling on left, Yishun, 22 Jun 2020, by Jackie Yeo

Nocturnal Raptors

There were breeding-related records for two species of owls. A family of Spotted Wood Owls comprising two adults and two chicks were spotted at Dover Road in the later part of June, with the chicks fledging on 25th June. Over the eastern side, at Pasir Ris Park, another family of Spotted Wood Owls with 1 fledgling was spotted on 25th June. And on 22nd June, a recently fledged Buffy Fish Owl and its parents were recorded at Yishun, next to a big drain.

For a pdf version with more details, please click the link below:

Many thanks to everyone for posting / sharing their records, and to Kelvin Leong and Jackie Yeo for the use of their photos.

Further notes on nesting and post-nesting observations of Olive-backed Sunbird ( Cinnyris jugularis).

File photo of a pair of Olive-backed Sunbirds nest building at Labrador NR,
By Alfred Chia
I wrote previously on my FB and Singapore Bird Group FB on the nesting of the Olive-backed Sunbird along the corridor of my house, see: & and
After the mysterious disappearance of the entire nest, I requested for information and feedback from readers of any similar experiences, since many will have experiences with nesting of the Olive-backed Sunbirds, it being a species that is very adaptable and will nest freely in close proximity to humans and its environs. Several readers responded and I am thankful to them.

Out of eleven readers who responded, one (众生云云) had the same post-breeding experience as me in having a whole nest disappear without any trace (no debris was found) while another (MeiLin Khoo) had a pre-breeding disappearance, also without trace.

Another (VirgoSG) had two nests disappearing with debris being left behind but it is unknown if these were pre or post-breeding disappearances.
Clara Tan responded that hers was most probably a case of predation by a Yellow-vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus goiavier), which had been observed eyeing the nest even during the nest-building phase. It subsequently tried to prey on the chick but was unsuccessful in the first instance. However, the entire nest, together with a week-old chick, went missing soon enough. There was also not a trace of debris. Alan Owyong also contributed by sharing that he had also seen a Yellow-vented Bulbul harassing a sunbird while it was nest-building while Weijie Liao witnessed a nest being destroyed by a House Crow (Corvus splendens).Puran Kaur also had a pair of Olive-backed Sunbirds nesting in her balcony. After the chicks fledged, the nest was however left intact with no action whatsoever from the sunbirds for more than two weeks.

Predation by a cat was shared by Ong PL (through Tracy Heng). Such predation is possible if the nest is low and within reach of the cat, even if it is on a tree. But predation by a cat would almost always result in a nest being destroyed entirely, with remnants of it being strewn around it.

Basanthi Seetoh, who have had the honour of having more than 30 nests in her balcony over 15 years shared her experiences that used nests maybe re-use after some repairs and touch-up by the sunbird (documented) or they may strip off some parts of the old nest to build another new nest nearby.

Yet another observation was made by Lim Khoon Hin of an uncompleted nest being strip apart by the sunbirds after it was hung back by the observer’s helper when it dropped due to strong winds. Every bit of debris that fell on the ground was cleared by both the male & female sunbird!
Finally, Chen Eddie shares an intriguing encounter of a sunbird stealing nesting material from another sunbird’s nest.

In summary, it remains a mystery how an entire sunbird’s nest can disappear without any trace. The distinct probability that it could have been predated and taken away whole by a predator such as a Yellow-vented Bulbul cannot be ruled out. It is also noted that several different actions may happen to the nest after the chicks are fledged: re-used, dismantling of bits of nest for possible use elsewhere or left as it is.

The various contributions by readers of their personal experiences are valuable and serves to add to our knowledge of a species of bird that may appear common to most of us but for which there are still gaps to be learned. So keep a lookout for future nesting of Olive-backed Sunbirds. You may well observe something new & intriguing!

Thanks are due to Alan Owyong, Basanthi Seetoh, Chen Eddie, Clara Tan, Lim Khoon Hin, MeiLin Khoo, Ong PL, Puran Kaur, Tracy Heng, VirgoSG, Weijie Liao & 众生云云.

Woodpecker and Gecko Predation.

A short summary of the Woodpecker and Gecko predation.

By Evan Landy.

Friday 3rd July.

I encountered a pair of feeding Common Flamebacks, Dinopium javanense, early in the morning at Changi Beach Park. One of the flamebacks shuffled up and down a tree looking for insects but the other was relentlessly drilling away at a small hole in the bark of a sea almond tree. Curious about this behaviour I watched closely and, after several minutes of hard drumming, the woodpecker prised out a small gecko. It took about a minute to subdue the reptile, bashing it against a tree branch in the same way a kingfisher does with a fish, and then swallowing it tail-end first. The literature suggests that flamebacks are primarily insectivorous so I was surprised to see it with a larger prey item as the gecko was approximately twice the length of its beak. Given their habit of drilling into trees it seems they are capable of taking larger prey items too when these opportunities arise. And for the bird watcher it was a useful reminder to always remain curious even whilst watching commonly seen species. 

The male Common Flameback swallowing the gecko tail first. Photo: Evan Landy.

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