Monthly Archives: August 2020

Grey Heron preying on a Blue-eared Kingfisher.

Contributed by Connie Khoo.

The Grey Heron, Ardea cinerea, is a common waterbird around the disused mining ponds and wetlands in Perak. Large breeding colonies of up to fifty pairs can be found on trees at these wetlands all over the state.

An online search shows that they feed mainly on fish and live aquatic animals like reptiles, amphibians, molluscs, crustaceans and insects. As a carnivore, they are one of the top predator among waterbirds. They are often see stalking or standing still at freshwater ponds, lakes, rivers, marshlands and sea coast foraging for food.

There were records of them taking juvenile ducks, rails, small birds and mammals.

The Wetlands at Kinta Nature Park.

But it still came as a surprise to us when my friend Wan Tian Seng, a new birder photographed a Grey Heron with a dead Blue-eared Kingfisher, Alcedo meninting, in its beak at a fresh water pond at the KINTA NATURE PARK at Batu Gajah, Perak, on 11 August 2020. The Blue-eared Kingfisher is a resident forest kingfisher commonly seen around the wetlands here.

He first saw the Grey Heron probing and digging under the water and later coming out with the kingfisher. How the kingfisher got in the water was a mystery. If it is a juvenile it may have fallen in during its first flight as they have been known to be breeding here. But this looks like an adult bird. Could it be that the Grey Heron was nearby watching the kingfisher diving for fish or leaving its nest and waited for this successful strike? He did not get to see the Grey Heron swallowing the kingfisher.

Grey Heron with the dead Blue-eared Kingfisher in its beak at the KNP fresh water pond.

The Grey Heron was seen flicking the Blue-eared Kingfisher by its neck. From the photo, the kingfisher appeared limped and dead. It neck must have been broken or it had suffocated.

Nature can be cruel from our perspective. The sight of a small colourful kingfisher being killed looks gruesome. But in the animal world it is always the survival of the fittest and strongest. Records like these just help us to understand our ecosystem and bird ecology better.

The Common Buzzard conundrum for Singapore gone full circle?

Field Guides compare

In the earlier days, popular bird publications such as field guidebooks treat the Buteo buzzards occurring in Singapore simply as Common Buzzard Buteo buteo.

Three publications do not list any subspecies:

  1. Birds of Singapore (Lim & Gardner, 1997)
  2. Birds of West Malaysia & Singapore (Jeyarajasingam, 1999)
  3. Annotated Checklist of the Birds of Singapore (Wang & Hails, 2007)

Birds of Thai-Malay Peninsula vol 1 (Wells, 1999) and Birds of Southeast Asia (Robson, 2000) also treated these buzzards as Common Buzzard Buteo buteo, listing vulpinus and japonicus as the subspecies. The Avifauna of Singapore (Lim, 2009) treated these buzzards as Common Buzzard Buteo buteo, listing japonicus as the subspecies for Singapore.

Now, for the splits.

Birds of Southeast Asia, 2nd edition (Robson, 2008) split the buzzards into two species:

  1. The Common Buzzard Buteo buteo, with vulpinus as the subspecies occurring in Southeast Asia.
  2. The east Asian population as Himalayan Buzzard Buteo burmanicus, as the other species occurring in Southeast Asia.

Birds of Singapore (Yong, et al, 2013) also split the buzzards into two species, but in a different manner:

  1. The Common Buzzard Buteo buteo, with vulpinus as the subspecies occurring in Singapore.
  2. The east Asian population is given a different treatment, as Eastern Buzzard Buteo japonicus, as the other species occurring in Singapore.


No worries, Birds of the Indonesian Archipelago (Eaton, et al, 2016) lumped the buzzards back into Buteo buteo, using the name Eurasian Buzzard. They listed vulpinus, refectus & burmanicus as the subspecies occurring in Southeast Asia, commenting that “Species taxonomy confused, but substantial overlap in morphological characters and extremely limited mtDNA divergence advocate subspecific status of these allopatric breeding forms.”


A Common Buzzard perched on a lamp post at Changi.

A Failed Nesting of Malayan Pied Fantail.

A Failed Nesting of Malaysian Pied Fantail at Chua Chu Kang Park.

By Joesph Lim.

The Malaysian Pied FantailRhipidura javanica, a commom resident is the only fantail family in Singapore. They can be found mostly in the mangroves in Singapore as well as in places near the waters. The parent birds gathered plant materials like fibers and shaped them into a small cup with spider webs . Most nests are built at eye level and on the fork of some thin branches. Below is a brief recent account of a failed nesting at Chua Chu Kang Park.

On 23 July 2020, I was doing some birding when I first noticed a few of fantails actively flying up and down on the branches of some short 2 m trees Upon closer inspection, I found a cup shaped nest above my eye level and realized that it was a bird nest. The conical shaped nest was about 15 cm wide, built on the fork of several thin branches. It looked quite solidly constructed with twigs, leaves, fibers weaved and bound together by spider webs.  (See plate 1)

( Plate 1 showing a well-built nest built on forks of branches at slightly above eye level )

I tiptoed around to have a closer look at the nest but without success. I then took out my handphone and held it over my head to take some pictures of the nest. I was pleasantly surprised to see two eggs in it. They were slightly bigger than an M&M’s chocolate egg. (See plate 2)

( Plate 2 showing a close up shot of the nest with 2 eggs)

 About a week later I went back to check on the nest again and found that it was still there with the two eggs inside. This time I hid behind the trees with a bridge camera and waited motionlessly to photograph the parents. They were reluctant to come down at first, but after some patient waiting they did return to nest. I was able to capture some shots of the parents sitting and incubating the eggs. (See plate 3)

( Plate 3 showing a shot of a parent warming the eggs)

About three days later on 5 August, I got an alert from my friend that the nest had been destroyed. I went back on 7 August and to my disappointment I found that the branches holding the nest were bent, the nest was detached and turned upside down. The nest seemed to have been pulled down by some force. There were no signs of the parent birds or the eggs.

( Plate 4 showing destroyed nest turned upside down)

There could be several reasons for this failure. Firstly, animals such as rats could have climbed the branches and ravaged the nest like many cases reported in New Zealand. There is also the likelihood of domesticated cats and dogs disturbing the nests, but this possibility is quite low as I have not seen such incidents here at this park before. The bad weather might be a possible cause but there haven’t been much heavy rains or strong winds except for some showers.

The most probable cause of such a failed nest can be due to interference by park goers since this is a busy park with high human traffic. With the nest so accessible, some curious people might have pulled down the nest wanting to see the eggs or the chicks but unwittingly destroyed the nest instead.


1.’Successful nesting of the Malaysian Pied Fantails at Pasir Ris Park’ , Singapore Bird Group, by Seng Alvin, 25 May 2015.

A Casual Bird Count on Lazarus Island

– A Casual Bird Count on Lazarus island-

 By Lim K H Joseph and Avadi L Parimalam

An Aerial photograph of Lazarus Island as well as the other two nearby islands-St. John’s island and Kusu Island. ( Taken from

On 30 July 2020.

For a change of scenery, I decided to made a trip to Lazarus Island to check out the birds and wildlife there. I met up with fellow bird photographer Avadi Parimalam at the Marina South Pier for the scheduled 10 am ferry to St. Johns Island. After a breezy 40 minutes ride across the port waters, we stepped ashore via the jetty and walked over to Lazarus Island via a breakwater “link-bridge” to explore the island.

A White-bellied Sea Eagle with a catch of a small fish. Two were spotted close to the breakwaters.

A well paved concrete walk path circled the island making it easy for us to move around the island. The coastal forest in the middle of the island consist mainly of low lying small trees most of which are less than 5 metres tall. This made it easy for us to find and see the birds.

A Brahminy Kite circling the skies at the beach.

We did a casual bird count to find out what birds we can see on this small island. We recorded a total of 17 species, two of which were migrants, including a wader, the Common Sandpiper. The most numerous numbering 20 each were the Pacific and Barn Swallows, which is one of the earliest migrants. The two expected resident raptors, Brahminy Kite and White-bellied Sea Eagles were gliding in the skies with the help of the thermals. We were glad to find two Oriental Magpie Robins enjoying the island life here. The rest were the usual common garden species we see on the mainland. These are some of the birds taken here during the trip.

A juvenile Magpie Robin foraging for food suggesting recent nesting on the island.

One interesting thought comes to mind. How did some of the birds get here in the first place as the main land is more than 6 km away? The presence of raptors and migrants do not come as a surprise as they are known to fly long distances. But for smaller birds like sunbirds and common Ioras, they are a bit of a puzzle.

A Paddyfield Pipit is quite a common sight on the island.

List of birds sighted below:

1. Common Myna : > 5

2. Javan Myna : > 5

3. Pacific Swallow : > 20

4. Barn Swallow (migrant) : > 20

5. Sunbird (likely brown throated) : > 5

6. Common Iora : > 5

7. Black naped Oriole: > 5

8. Collared Kingfisher: > 2

9. White-bellied Sea Eagle: > 2

10. Brahminy Kite : 1

11. Yellow vented Bulbul: > 10

12. Common Sandpiper ( migrant) : 1

13. Paddyfield Pipit : > 10

14. Little Tern : > 20

15. Savannah Nightjar : > 2

16. Spotted Dove : > 5

17. Oriental Magpie Robin : > 2