Monthly Archives: February 2021

White-faced and Kentish Plovers- a side by side comparison.

By Alan OwYong and Yong Ding Li.

Dave Bakewell and Peter Kennerley first alerted us to a distinct looking Charadrius plover in their 2008 paper titled “Malaysia’s Mystery Plover” after studying them at Tuas, Singapore in winter of 1993-1994 and in Penang in 2006-2007. This led to a comprehensive study of the plover in question, in collaboration with Philip Round in 2008. They then coined the name “White-faced Plover” for its predominately white looking face.

Following the publication of the article, birders in China started searching for them along the coast. In 2011, a China-based birder Brian Ivon Jones stumbled a breeding population on China’s southern coast. 270 birds were counted at two sandy beaches at Dahu, Haifeng in Guangdong Province.

Further research found that renown British ornithologist Robert Swinhoe had described the form in 1870 based on a specimen collected from Taiwan and had it named Aegialites dealbatus. This was treated as a subspecies of the Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus.

So it was more of a rediscovery and the bonus was that it was accepted by the IOC as a new species following the name given by Bakewell and Kennerley, White-faced Plover, Charadrius dealbatus after the split. Numerous studies have been conducted by researchers thereafter to better understand is taxonomic relationship with other similar plovers.

The granite seawall by Marina East Drive where all the three Charadrius Plovers can be found.

On the 31 January 2021, all three Charadrius plovers were present at the seawall along Marina East Drive. There were a few pairs of Malaysian Plovers, several Kentish and at least one male White-faced Plover moulting into breeding plumage.

Both the Kentish and White-faced Plovers were seen mixing together and came close to each other for these photos. With these we are able to compare them better side by side.

Male Kentish (back) and White-faced Plovers.

At first glance, both plovers look similiar. But the first thing you will notice are the lores or rather the absence of the black loral patch for the White-faced. The patch behind the eyes are also visibly darker for the Kentish. Another useful feature for birders to take note of is the black breast typical of the Malaysian and Kentish Plovers, this feature is less pronounced in the White-faced. The black band across the crown is further back on the White-faced Plover, giving it the appearance of a much whiter forehead and an overall paler face. Lastly the Kentish Plover has a darker brown upperparts compared to the lighter, ‘milky tea’ color for the White-faced.

Side profile of the female Kentish Plover ( left ) and the male White-faced Plover (back).

This side profile photo shows that the two plover species are of about the same size with a slightly rounder body for the Kentish. The flanks of the Kentish has more white than the White-faced. The legs of the Kentish do look darker but the length is hard to judge. The most contrasting feature is the shape of the head. The White-faced has a steeper forehead compared to the sloping forehead of the Kentish Plover, giving it a more “dome-shaped” look.

This White-faced Plover has been accepted into the International Ornithological Congress’s checklist after the split, and has now been added into the 2021 Nature Society (Singapore)’s Birds of Singapore Checklist.

References:

Bakewell, D.N. & Kennerley, P.R. (2007). Malaysia’s Mystery Plovers. Available at http://www.surfbirds.com/Features/plovers1108/malayplovers.html

Kennerley, P.R., Bakewell, D.N., & Round, P.D. (2008). Rediscovery of a long-lost Charadrius plover from South-East Asia. Forktail24, 63-79.

Swinhoe’s ( White-faced Plovers)-Birdingbeijing.com

Sadanandan, K. R., Küpper, C., Low, G. W., Yao, C. T., Li, Y., Xu, T., … & Wu, S. (2019). Population divergence and gene flow in two East Asian shorebirds on the verge of speciation. Scientific reports, 9(1), 1-9.

Lim, K. S. (2009). The Avifauna of Singapore. Nature Society (Singapore). Singapore.

“Tomial tooth” in the Tiger Shrike

TGC_1270_00001,-Tiger-Shrike,-crop,-960v

Tiger Shrike, Changi Business Park canal, 19 Jan 2021, by Tan Gim Cheong

Fun Facts

The upper edge of the Tiger Shrike’s hooked bill features a pointy protrusion on each side, called “tomial tooth.” The shrike tackles prey with a precise attack to the nape, probably using the “tooth” to sever the spinal cords of their vertebrate prey with a bite and paralyze them.

Birds of Singapore Checklist 2021 Edition.

The 2021 edition of the NSS Bird Group Checklist is attached for your reference.

There are no changes to the order and number of species, 407, as the one attached in the Bird Records Committee Report (Jan 2021), except for the corrected scientific names of 12 species namely Slaty-breasted Rail, Baillon’s, Ruddy-breasted, Band-bellied and White-browed Crakes, Black-and-white, Black-headed and Black-crested Bulbuls, Chestnut-winged, Pin-striped Tit, Short-tailed and White-chested Babblers, following IOC Version 10.2.

The names of Red Collared Dove and Barred Eagle-owl have also been updated while the status of Himalayan Vulture is now a Non-breeding Visitor.

White-browed Crake Poliolimnas cinereus, uncommon breeding resident.

Birds Records Committee Report ( Jan 2021)

By Lim Kim Seng.

Chairman, Nature Society (Singapore) Bird Group Records Committee.

The Records Committee continues to receive records of new bird species to the Singapore List and rarities. This report updates the findings of the period, November 2019 – December 2020.

New Species

Nine new bird species were added to the Singapore List, bringing the total number of species to 407. These included three firsts – Common Swift, White-bellied Erpornis and Hair-crested Drongo – that had been recorded in the period under review. In addition, six species that had been previously categorized under Categories B or D had been re-reviewed by the committee and found to fit Category A. 

Common Swift Apus apus

An individual seen and photographed flying over Jelutong Tower on 9 Oct 2019 by Richard White, Francis Yap and Martin Kennewell was the first record for Singapore. Amazingly, this was followed by a second record from Henderson Waves on 27 Oct 2020 seen by Keita Sin, Tan Gim Cheong and Deborah Friets. The subspecies recorded is pekinensis which breeds in Northeast China and Transbaikalia, winters in Africa and have recently been seen in Thailand.

Common Swift Apus apus at Jelutong Tower, 9 Oct 2020. Photo by Francis Yap.

Orange-breasted Green Pigeon Treron bicincta

A male photographed at Chinese Garden on 22 Dec 2007 by Jonathan Cheah and Jimmy Chew is the only record for Singapore (Lim 2009). Previously assigned to Category D.

White-faced Plover Charadrius dealbatus

This is a taxonomic split accepted by IOC. The first Singapore records were up to four birds at Tuas from late Oct 1994 to Mar 1994 by Peter Kennerley (Lim 2009). Subsequent records were received from Changi and Marina East. Previously treated as a distinct subspecies of Kentish Plover C. alexandrinus.

White-faced Plover, Charadrius dealbatus, a taxonomic split accepted by IOC,
Photo taken at Marina East Drive by Alan OwYong.

Pied Kingfisher Ceryle rudis

A bird seen at Punggol on 18 Sep 1994 by Alfred Chia, Kenneth Kee, Lim Kim Chuah, Lim Kim Keang, Lim Kim Seng and Alan Owyong was the first record for Singapore (Lim 2009). This species was recently seen in southern Johor, Malaysia during the northern winter. It was previously assigned to Category D.

Crimson-winged Woodpecker Picus puniceus

Up to two birds seen at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve between 5 Nov 2001 and 16 Feb 2008 by Todd Birzer, Reuben Braddock, Andrew Chow, Lim Kim Seng and Yong Ding Li were our first records since 1970 (Lim 2009). Another record from Singapore Botanic Gardens on 16 Oct 2004 could not be confirmed. This species was previously assigned to Category B.

Green Broadbill Calyptomena viridis

1 photographed at East Coast Park by Seetoh Yew Wai on 27 Nov 2014 and another at Pulau Ubin by Keita Sin on 25 Dec 2014 were our first records since 1970 (Lim 2009). Previously assigned to Category B.

Green Broadbill Calyptomena viridis, at East Coast Park on 27 Nov 2014. Photo by See Toh Yew Wai.

White-bellied Erpornis Erponis zantholeuca

One seen and heard at the summit of Bukit Timah on 16 Jun 2020 by Richard White was the first record for Singapore. Martin Kennewell who arrived later was able to capture some excellent photos of the individual.

White-bellied Erpornis, Erpornis zantholeuca at Bukit Tiamh NR on 16 Jun 2020. Photo by Martin Kennewell.

Hair-crested Drongo Dicrurus hottentottus

An individual videoed at Changi Business Park on 26 Nov 2019 by T Ramesh and Steven Cheong was misidentified as a Crow-billed Drongo. Excellent detective work by Frank Rheindt proved that it was actually the subspecies brevirostris of Hair-crested Drongo, which is the migratory subspecies that breeds in China and northern Vietnam and winters in subtropical Southeast Asia and – this once – also in Sundaic Southeast Asia.

Hair-crested Drongo, Dicrurus hottentottus, at Changi Business Park on 26 Nov 2020. Video grab by T. Ramesh

Velvet-fronted Nuthatch Sitta frontalis

An individual seen at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve on 14 Jul 1996 by Lim Kim Chuah was our first record of this lowland Sundaic forest species. It was subsequently seen by other observers and last seen on 6 Jul 1999 (Lim 2009). Previously assigned to Category D.

Updates to the Checklist

In addition to the new species, the Records Committee have also been reviewing the checklist with a view to producing a checklist that is up-to-date, accurate and user-friendly.

One minor change was to use the term “Vagrant” instead of “Accidental” to describe the status of birds that do not breed in the Thai-Malay Peninsula region but occasionally stray into Singapore. An example would be Booted Warbler. Vagrants are denoted by “V” in the checklist.  

Perhaps the most important change was to Categories A and C. The committee decided to apply a 30-year timeframe instead of the traditional 50 years. The rationale for this is to better reflect the presence of extant breeders and to exclude extinct species in Singapore. Therefore, the cut-off for Categories A and C would be January 1st 1991. Any record that pre-dates 1991 would be transferred to Category B.

These are the species that have been removed from categories A and C due to the absence of records for the last thirty years:

English NameScientific NameRemarks
Eurasian TealAnas creccaReassigned to Category B
Christmas FrigatebirdFregata andrewsiReassigned to Category B
Hen HarrierCircus cyaneusReassigned to Category B
Eurasian WoodcockScolopax rusticolaReassigned to Category B
DunlinCalidris alpinaReassigned to Category B
Roseate TernSterna dougalliiReassigned to Category B
Black-thighed FalconetMicrohierax fringillariusReassigned to Category B
Plain SunbirdAnthreptes simplexReassigned to Category B
White-capped MuniaLonchura ferruginosaRemoved from Category C
Java SparrowLonchura oryzivoraRemoved from Category C
Yellow-breasted BuntingEmberiza aureolaReassigned to Category B

The committee has also taken the opportunity to review a number of records that were deemed to lack conclusive evidence of occurrence. As a result, the following species have been removed from the checklist proper:

English NameScientific NameRemarks
Blyth’s Hawk-EagleNisaetus albonigerRemoved from Category A
Western Marsh HarrierCircus aeruginosusRemoved from Category A
Oriental HobbyFalco severusRemoved from Category A
Richard’s PipitAnthus richardiRemoved from Category A

Another action was with regards to the occurrence of seabirds within Singapore territorial waters. As both the Straits of Johor and Singapore Straits are shared with Malaysia and Indonesia respectively, there is a need to ascertain that birds seen are inside Singapore territory. Therefore, seabird records were scrutinized to confirm that they were all seen in and not outside Singapore by referring to the GPS coordinates for these records. Records outside Singapore territorial waters or without verifiable GPS data are therefore categorized under Annex 1.    

The following species have been assigned to Annex 1:

English NameScientific NameRemarks
Lesser Black-backed GullLarus fuscusAssigned to Annex 1
Pomarine SkuaStercorarius pomarinusAssigned to Annex 1
Bulwer’s PetrelBulweria bulwerii Assigned to Annex 1

Acknowledgements

We would like to thanks the following observers for submitting their records for review and for the use of their photographs in this report:  Steven Cheong, Deborah Friets, Martin Kennewell, T. Ramesh, Tan Gim Cheong, Richard White, Francis Yap, See Toh Yew Wai and Alan OwYong. Finally, thanks are also due to my fellow committee members for their expertise in the deliberation process:  Alfred Chia, Kenneth Kee, Benjamin Lee, Lim Kim Chuah, Lim Kim Keang, Movin Nyanasengeran, Dillen Ng, Alan Owyong, Frank Rheindt, Keita Sin, Tan Gim Cheong and Yong Ding Li.

Reference

Lim, K.S. (2009). The avifauna of Singapore. Nature Society (Singapore), Singapore.

Singapore Raptor Report – December 2020

PF, Esther Ong

Peregrine Falcon, juvenile, feeding on a Rock Dove, Woodlands, 8 Dec 2020, by Esther Ong

Summary for migrant species:

Quite a few scarce migrants were recorded in December. A juvenile Eastern Marsh Harrier was flying at Neo Tiew Harvest Link on the 1st, and an adult male flying over the Botanic Gardens on the 7th. On the 10th, a Black Kite was photographed over Pulau Ubin. A Greater Spotted Eagle in flight at Changi Business Park on the 8th, and another at Lazarus Island on the 25th, flying towards Sentosa, harassed by the resident Brahminy Kites. On the 30th, a Common Buzzard was photographed at the field opposite Ghim Moh market. As for the nocturnal Oriental Scops Owl, one was at Botanic Gardens on the 6th, and another at Mandai Track 15 on the 30th.

GSE, 081220, CBP, KW Seah

Greater Spotted Eagle, Changi Business Park, 8 Dec 2020, by KW Seah

OSO, 301220, Mandai T15 trail, Julie Edgley

Oriental Scops Owl, Mandai Track 15, 30 Dec 2020, by Julie Edgley

The wintering juvenile Rufous-bellied Hawk-Eagle was spotted at the Botanic Gardens on the 6th, and at Dairy Farm Nature Park on the 30th. Only 3 Chinese Sparrowhawks were recorded, an adult female wintering at Ang Mo Kio Town Garden West, plus a male and a juvenile at Coney Island.

JSH, posted 021220, Jasman Ashar, catch BTBE

Japanese Sparrowhawk, juvenile, caught a Blue-tailed Bee-eater, by Jasman Ashar

Of the 6 Western Ospreys, 3 were flying over Mandai Track 15 on the 3rd. Ten migrant Peregrine Falcons were recorded, two adults and eight juveniles, often on the rooftop or ledges of upper stories of tall buildings.

Osprey, LEster Tan

Western Osprey, at Seletar Island, 14 Dec 2020, by Lester Tan

There were 11 Jerdon’s Bazas, three at Pulau Ubin on the 10th, six at Coney Island on the 11th, one at Pasir Ris, and one at Changi Business Park. Finally, there were 25 Japanese Sparrowhawks, one of which caught a Blue-tailed Bee-eater, 54 Black Bazas and 79 migrant Oriental Honey Buzzards.

OHB, posted 271220, NTHL, Wai Munn

OHB, Neo Tiew Harvest Lane, Dec 2020, by Lo Wai Munn

Highlights for sedentary species:

Breeding-related activities were noted for several species. A Changeable Hawk-Eagle was standing on a nest in the vicinity of Dairy Farm Nature Park on the 6th. The Black-winged Kite pair at Seletar was building their nest on the 12th, 20th and 27th, and were harassed by crows. The pair of Brahminy Kites at West Coast Park was perched near their nest on the 25th. A White-bellied Sea Eagle at Jalan Asas was flying about with nesting materials on the 2nd.

CGH chasing OPH away from CGH nest, Dec 2020, PRP, Soumen, posted 010121

Crested Goshawk, chasing away an Oriental Pied Hornbill near its nest, Pasir Ris Park, Dec 2020, by Soumen Mondal

The Crested Goshawk pair at Pasir Ris was nestbuilding on the 27th, and mated on the 30th, and had to chase away the neighbourhood Oriental Pied Hornbills when these came close to their nest. And for the Buffy Fish Owl, a pair mated on the 2nd and another pair at SBWR had a chick on nest on the 20th.

GHFE, 131220, Ulu Pandan, Roland Chan, attack Purple Heron

Grey-headed Fish Eagle, adult, harassing a Purple Heron in its territory, Ulu Pandan Park Connector, 13 Dec 2020, by Roland Chan

At Ulu Pandan park connector on the 13th, the resident Grey-headed Fish Eagle was seen attacking a Purple Heron that was fishing in the eagle’s territory. At SBWR Eagle Point on the 15th, two White-bellied Sea Eagles were tussling in the air over a fish, with one eagle upside down mid-air.

WBSE, 151220, SBWR eagle pt, CK Theng

White-bellied Sea Eagles tussling over a fish (in left foot of bottom eagle), SBWR Eagle Point, 15 Dec 2020, by CK Theng.

The Crested Serpent Eagle was recorded at Goldhill Avenue, Pasir Ris and Ubin. The Changeable Hawk-Eagles reminded us of their presence by putting up a good show, allowing for good photos of the dark morph, pale morph and juvenile pale morph.

CHE, 261220, PRP, Chen Boon Chong

Changeable Hawk-Eagle, dark morph, Pasir Ris Park, 26 Dec 2020, by Chen Boon Chong

CHE, 261220, PRP, Chen Boon Chong, 2

Changeable Hawk-Eagle, juv. pale morph, Pasir Ris Park, 26/12/2020, by Chen Boon Chong

CHE, 311220, DFNP, Angie Cheong, crop

Changeable Hawk-Eagle, adult pale morph, Dairy Farm NP, 31 Dec 2020, by Angie Cheong

An adult ernesti Peregrine Falcon was present at Jurong West on the 2nd and 4th. Five torquatus Oriental Honey Buzzards were recorded – at the Botanic Gardens, a male on the 6th, and a female on the 7th; another male flew by Jelutong Tower on the 7th and Neo Tiew Harvest Lane on the 13th; yet a different male at Pasir Ris on the 22nd; and an immature at Springleaf on the 26th.

OHB torquatus, 071220, SBG, Tan Eng Boo

Oriental Honey Buzzard, adult female torquatus subspecies, Botanic Gardens, 7 Dec 2020, by Tan Eng Boo

Table 1

Many thanks to everyone who had reported their sightings in one way or another, and especially to Esther Ong, CK Theng, Lester Tan, Tan Eng Boo, Lo Wai Munn, Jasman Ashar, KW Seah, Julie Edgley, Roland Chan, Soumen Mondal, Chen Boon Chong, and Angie Cheong for the use of their photos.

For a pdf version with more details, please click Singapore Raptor Report – Dec 2020 v2