Monthly Archives: April 2021

The Red Breasted Parakeet’s Production Factory at Serangoon Garden Circus.

By Mike Smith.

Red breasted parakeets are not native to Singapore but successfully breed in the wild after being released as pets many years ago. They are found at Changi Village, Serangoon Gardens, Pasir Ris Park, the West Coast and undoubtably many other places.

I decided to observe the birds which live in a colony in Serangoon Gardens between late December 2020 and April 2021

The Alexandri subspecies live in Serangoon Gardens.

Summary

 My conclusion is that RBP’s are successful in Singapore because:

  1. They live in permanent colonies.
  2. They have adapted to rural and urban locations.
  3. They select their trees and environment wisely.
  4. They defend their nest holes.
  5. They use the same nest holes on multiple occasions.
  6. At least two birds monitor the nests and feed chicks.
  7. The male often feeds the female in the nest so there is less incentive to leave the nest unattended.
  8. Breeding is prolific and most babies fledge so a colony can grow by 50% in a breeding season.

 If it is determined that the RBP population is growing too fast, to the detriment of other parakeets in Singapore, its population could be controlled by aggressively trimming tree branches in the colony or closing holes.

 Details.

RBP’s in Singapore live in “permanent communities” and take over a whole tree or group of trees. The colony in Serangoon Gardens has been around for several years for example and continues to do well.

RBP’s have adapted to both rural & urban settings eg PRP, Changi Village and Serangoon Gardens.

 The Angsana is a regular choice of tree for a RBP colony to live in. This makes sense because Angsana trees are tall, healthy, hard wood trees that are common in Singapore. They are often planted alongside roads and thus need branches that grow over the roads cutting off, presenting opportunities for woodpeckers, barbets etc to drill out nests, which when abandoned can be taken over by RBP.

 The holes/nests at Serangoon Gardens are at a safe height, offer good views against potential adversaries and are in a location with few predators.

 I would estimate there were initially 20 – 25 RBP at Serangoon Gardens, primarily living in one tree.

 RBP’s are clever and efficient because they keep using the same holes for breeding rather than looking for a hole and abandoning it after fledging.

 Once established a nest is seldom left unguarded for more than 20 or 30 minutes. Once babies have hatched there are often two or more birds monitoring the nest.

 Male adults feed the female in the nest when required. No large protein eg worms or caterpillars was fed to the babies so I suspect protein was from seeds or possibly small bugs on the tree (adults were seen gnawing at branches). Males & females are involved in looking after the nest and feeding chicks but 1 bird, female, dominates sitting in the nest or at the entrance.

 Between January and April 2021, I witnessed 10 successful fledges. In simple terms the population increased by almost 50% in less than 4 months! If this colony is typical then no wonder the population is growing so quickly.

 In all instances, within twenty – four hours of the chicks fledging the nest was “choped” again by another pair of RBP, thus making sure no other type of bird could take over the hole or tree.

 I am not sure what the ethics of preventing RBP from continuing to grow are but perhaps one way to stem the growth is to target angsana trees with significant populations and fill in some of the holes or severely trim the trees and remove some holes which would probably be more politically correct.

Conclusion.

 RBP are thriving in Singapore and will continue to do so unless efforts are taken to control their numbers.

References: ikcnhm.nus.edu.sg, wiki.nus.edu.sg, desgroup.org

Singapore Bird Report – November 2020

by Geoff Lim & Isabelle Lee,
Tan Gim Cheong (ed.)

A Flurry of Flycatchers

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Narcissus Flycatcher at Dairy Farm Nature Park on 19 Nov 2020. Photo by Tan Gim Cheong.

Among the electrifying news this month were a flurry of flycatchers visiting our shores. This year, we had several reports of several Blue-and-White Flycatchers, Cyanoptila cyanomelana, more so than the Zappey’s Flycatcher, Cyanoptila cumatili. The former comes from the southern Kuril islands, Japan, the Russian Far East and NE China, and typically migrates through SE Asia, the Greater Sundas to the Philippines (Clement & Marks, 2020), while the latter originates from Central and East China, dispersing during migration to SE Asia and the Greater Sundas but scarce in N. Borneo (del Hoyo, Collar & Marks, 2020).

While this is purely conjectural, it is possible that the November’s weather patterns that brought several C. cyanomelana to Singapore also brought a female Narcissus Flycatcher, Ficedula narcissina, into Dairy Farm Nature Park on 19 Nov 2020 and reported by Alan OwYong. Birders would be more familiar with the Yellow-rumped Flycatcher, Ficedula xanthopygia, whose males superficially resemble the males of the Narcissus Flycatcher, except that the later has a yellow eyebrow. Females are harder to identify. Prior to this sighting, there were only two previous confirmed records of a female each at in the lush greenery of Bidadari in Dec 2015, and Dairy Farm Nature Park in Nov 2017.

This rarity breeds mostly in Japan; and would overwinter in the Philippines and N. Borneo (Clement et al, 2020), a biogeographical distribution quite similar to the Blue-and-White Flycatchers.  Hence, the La Nina of 2020 may have contributed to the dispersal of these “Japanese” birds, which typically overwinter in the Philippines and N. Borneo, to our part of the Greater Sundas. More research into this phenomenon would be needed.

Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR)

RBE 1

RBE 2

RBE 3

Rufous-bellied Eagles tumbling over DFNP on 25 Nov 2020. Photos by Isabelle Lee.

The heart of the Central Catchment Nature Reserve continued to attract species such as a Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher, Cyornis brunneatus, which was reported on 3 Nov 2020 from the Lower Peirce Reservoir Park by Oliver Tan.  A juvenile Besra, Accipiter virgatus, was photographed on 10 Nov 2020 along Mandai Track 15 by Roger Boey, while an Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher, Ceyx erithaca, was seen at Venus Loop on 11 Nov 2020 by Oliver Tan and on 12 Nov 2020 by Lee Yue Teng. The fringe park also yielded a Ferruginous Flycatcher, Muscicapa ferruginea, on 13 Nov 2020 which was reported by Terence Tan. Over at Jelutong Tower, a Pied Harrier, Circus melanoleucos, and a Brown-backed Needletail, Hirundapus giganteus, were spotted by Martin Kennewell on 20 Nov 2020.

Few brave souls would venture to climb to the summit of our tallest hill, but those who did, like T. Ramesh, would be rewarded with a sighting of rarities like eight Silver-backed Needletail, Hirundapus cochinchinensis, which he saw circling above the hill on 18 Nov 2020. Hindhede Nature Park, which forms part of the Bukit Timah foothills, yielded a Blue Rock Thrush, Monticola soltarius, which lurked amongst the rocky crags of the disused quarry on 24 Nov 2020 and discovered by Martin Kennewell.

EB Thrush, Geoff

Eyebrowed Thrush feeding in a mulberry tree in DFNP on 22 Nov 2020. Photo by Geoff Lim.

Dairy Farm Nature Park continued to show its strength in hosting sensitive migratory species. Other than the Narcissus Flycatcher spotted on 19 Nov 2020, a host of other flycatchers were spotted, including a Mugimaki Flycatcher, Ficedula mugimaki, on 19 and 29 Nov 2020 by Ho Siew Mun and Leong Kai Kee, respectively a Dark-sided Flycatcher, Muscicapa sibirica, on 20 Nov 2020 by Khoo Mei Lin, a Ferruginous Flycatcher, Muscicapa ferruginea, on 22 Nov 2020 by Lim Kim Chuah, a Zappey’s Flycatcher, Cyanoptila cumatilis, on 27 Nov 2020 by Dennis Lim, and a Green-backed Flycatcher, Ficedula elisae, on 30 Nov 2020, towards Singapore Quarry by Norhafiani A Majid.  Two species of thrush were also reported, an Eyebrowed Thrush, Turdus obscurus, on 20 Nov 2020 by Low Chong Yang, and a Siberian Thrush, Geokichla sibirica, on 21 Nov 2020 by Swee Peng.

Siberian Thrush, Geoff

Siberian Thrush feeding in a mulberry tree in DFNP on 22 Nov 2020. Photo by Geoff Lim.

Just off the Park at the vicinity of Jalan Asas, an adult and juvenile Rufous-bellied Eagle, Lophotriorchis kienerii, were seen resting in some tall Albizia trees. The two birds were subsequently seen tumbling over Upper Bukit Timah Road on 25 Nov 2020 by Isabelle Lee.

RBE big, Isabelle

Juvenile Rufous-bellied Eagle over DFNP on 25 Nov 2020. Photo by Isabelle Lee.

Singapore Botanic Gardens (SBG)

BnW, Geoff

Blue-and-White Flycatcher at SBG on 14 Nov 2020. Photo by Geoff Lim.

There were notable sightings of various species of paradise and regular flycatchers at SBG. A Japanese Paradise Flycatcher, Terpsiphone atrocaudata, was seen on 10 Nov 2020, by Oliver Tan, which was followed by the sighting of one Blue-and-White Flycatcher, Cyanoptila cyanomelana, on 14 Nov 2020 by Kwok Tuck Loong, and two males on 16 Nov 2020 by Isabelle Lee. Subsequently, a Green-backed Flycatcher, Ficedula elisae, was spotted on 20 Nov 2020 by Jade Neo along the Red Brick Path, SBG, and on 26 Nov 2020, within the grounds of the Healing Garden, also by Jade Neo. Apart from the flurry of flycatchers, a Crow-billed Drongo, Dicrurus annectans, was seen on 14 Nov 2020, by Khoo Mei Lin.

Northern Singapore

A Blue-winged Pitta, Pitta moluccensis, was reported on 19 Nov 2020, from Woodlands, by Khoo Mei Lin.

Eastern Singapore

Visitors to Pulau Ubin reported the sighting of a Crested Serpent Eagle, Spilornis cheela, on 11 Nov 2020, by Yap Bao Shen; a Gull-billed Tern, Gelochelidon nilotica, on 6 Nov 2020, at the Chek Jawa Wetlands by Martin Kennewell; a mixed flock of male, female and juvenile Cinnamon-headed Green Pigeon, Treron fulvicollis, on 25 Nov 2020 at the Living Lab by T. Ramesh and others, as well as a White-rumped Shama, Copsychus malabaricus, on 30 Nov 2020 by Peter Wong.

Over at Changi Business Park, a Chestnut-winged Cuckoo, Clamator coromandus, was seen on 28 Nov 2020 by Andy Lee.

Southern Singapore

Raptor watchers who lingered along the southern ridges spotted species such as a Besra, Accipiter virgatus, on 9 Nov 2020 along Henderson Waves by Wong Wai Loon, a Booted Eagle, Hieraaetus pennatus, at the same venue on 10 Nov 2020 by Tay Kian Guan, a Jerdon’s Baza, Aviceda jerdoni, on 11 Nov 2020, at Telok Blangah Hill Park by Tan Gim Cheong, and a Common Buzzard, Buteo buteo, 15 Nov 2020, along Henderson Waves by Tan Kok Hui.

Sanderling, 151120, MED, Lim Joseph

Sanderling at Marina East Drive on 15 Nov 2020. Photo by Joseph Lim.

Two Whiskered Tern, Chlidonias hybrida, were spotted on 8 Nov 2020 along Marina Barrage by Kwok Tuck Loong, and a Greater Crested Tern, Thalasseus bergii, on 29 Nov 2020 along East Coast Park by Leslie Loh. Visitors to the breakwater along Marina East Drive reported seeing a Sanderling, Calidris alba, on 11 Nov 2020 by Art Toh; and a White-faced Plover, Charadrius dealbatus, on 15 Nov 2020 by Leong Kai Kee. Wang HM photographed a Grey-headed Lapwing Vanellus cinereus flying together with a Red-wattled Lapwing Vanellus indicus at Marina East on 30 Nov 2020.

A Black Bittern, Dupetor flavicollis, was spotted on 30 Nov 2020, skulking within the grounds of the Gardens-by-the-Bay East, by Kwok Tuck Loong; while a dark morph Pacific Reef Heron, Egretta sacra, was spotted on 28 Nov 2020, on the island of Pulau Hantu, by Derek Wong KM.

Western Singapore

Observers at the Jurong Lake Gardens reported the presence of a Ferruginous Flycatcher, Muscicapa ferruginea, on 11 Nov 2020 (Cheong Khan Hoong) and a Common Moorhen, Gallinula chloropus, on 27 Nov 2020 (Terence Tan).

Further afield, an Eastern Marsh Harrier, Circus spilonotus, was reported on 8 Nov 2020 from Jurong Eco-Garden by A. Fadzrun, a Black-capped Kingfisher, Halcyon pileata, was spotted on 7 Nov 2020 at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve (SBWR) by Chew Ser Teck, to the delight of everyone who wanted to see this colourful but rare kingfisher. Two days later, a resident Buffy Fish Owl, Ketupa ketupu, was seen within the Reserve’s grounds on 9 Nov 2020 by Terence Tan; a Caspian Tern, Hydroprogne caspia, was seen on 17 Nov 2020 on the mudflats of Mandai by Yeo Suay Hwee; while a Sand Martin, Riparia riparia, was seen on 21 Nov 2020, hawking over the fields at Neo Tiew Harvest Lane by Pary Sivaraman.

Sand Martin, 211120, NTHL, LJS

Sand Martin at Neo Tiew Harvest Link on 21 Nov 2020. Photo by Lau JiaSheng.

Visitors to the farthest west reaches of Tuas spotted a Common Kestrel, Falco tinnunculus, on 14 Nov 2020 (Martti Siponen) and a juvenile Hodgson’s Hawk-Cuckoo, Hierococcyx nisicolor, on 30 Nov 2020 (Francis Yap).

Sand Martin, Zacc HD

Sand Martin at Neo Tiew Harvest Link on 22 Nov 2020. Photo by Zahidi Hamid.

This report is compiled/written by Geoff Lim and Isabelle Lee, 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 Zahidi Hamid, Joseph Lim, Lau Jia Sheng, Tan Gim Cheong, Isabelle Lee, and Geoff Lim for allowing us to use their photographs.

References

Clement, P. and J. S. Marks (2020). Blue-and-White Flycatcher (Cyanoptila cyanomelana) version 1.0. In Birds of the World (J. del Hoyo, A. Elliott, J. Sargatal, D. A. Christie, and E. de Juana, (eds). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.bawfly2.01.

Clement, P., del Hoyo, J., D. A. Christie,  N. Collar and G. M. Kirwan (2020). Narcissus Flycatcher (Ficedula narcissina) version 1.0. In Birds of the World (S.M. Billerman, B.K. Keeney, P. G. Rodewald, and T. S. Schulenberg (eds). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.narfly.01.

del Hoyo, J., N. Collar, and J. S. Marks (2020). Zappey’s Flycatcher (Cyanoptila cumatilis) version 1.0. In Birds of the World (J. del Hoyo, A. Elliott, J. Sargatal, D. A. Christie, and E. de Juana, (eds). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.zapfly1.01.

Singapore Raptor Report – February 2021

Brown FO crop, Jackie Yeo

Brown Fish Owl, at Hindhede Nature Park, 17 Feb 2021, by Jackie Yeo

The highlight for February 2021 must have been the incredible sighting of the first Brown Fish Owl in Singapore, and the Black-thighed Falconet which had not been seen for decades, more on these later.

Summary for migrant species:

In February 2021, 139 raptors of eight migrant species were recorded. The only Rufous-bellied Eagle wintering in Singapore was recorded at Dairy Farm Nature Park on the 1st, Woodlands on the 6th, and Hillview MRT vicinity on the 21st. Only two Chinese Sparrowhawks were recorded, the wintering female at Ang Mo Kio Town Garden West on the 12th and 13th, and a male at Lorong Halus Wetlands on the 20th.

Five Jerdon’s Bazas were recorded, singles at Pulau Ubin, Changi Business Park, Pasir Ris Park, Tampines Eco Green, and Lorong Halus-Punggol Waterway area. There were also five Western Ospreys and they were recorded at Changi Business Park, Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, Upper Seletar Reservoir, Jelutong Tower, and Hindhede Nature Park. Fourteen Peregrine Falcons were recorded, often perched on buildings. There were also 22 Japanese Sparrowhawks, 39 Black Bazas,and51 Oriental Honey Buzzards.

Highlights for sedentary species:

Jackie Yeo was at Hindhede Nature Park on 17 Feb 2021 when he photographed an unusual-looking large brown owl that proved to be a Brown Fish Owl, the first sighting of the species in Singapore. The nearest known population is at northern Peninsular Malaysia, some 500-600 kilometres away. More incredibly, the next day, Vincent Yip photographed the Brown Fish Owl perching next to an almost fully grown hybrid owlet that looked mostly like a young Buffy Fish Owl. Subsequently, the Brown Fish Owl was seen perched next to an adult Buffy Fish Owl, presumably its mate. The mystery deepens when Jan Tan checked her photos of an unusual-looking owl taken at nearby Singapore Quarry on 3 Aug 2019, one and a half years ago, and discovered that it was a Brown Fish Owl!   

Brown FO crop, Jan Tan

Brown Fish Owl, at Singapore Quarry, 3 Aug 2019, by Jan Tan

The other amazing occurrence was that of a juvenile Black-thighed Falconet that was found by Lee Lay Na, perched on the parapet of an HDB flat in Yishun Street 71, on 12 Feb 2021, as if to welcome the first day of the Lunar New Year. The last confirmed record for the falconet was more than 30 years ago.

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Black-thighed Falconet, perched on HDB parapet at Yishun Street 71, 12 Feb 2021, by Lee Lay Na

Breeding-related activities were noted for three other species. At least one chick was observed in the nest of a pair of Black-winged Kites at Seletar on the 28th. Separate pairs of White-bellied Sea Eagles were observed on their respective nests at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve on the 6th, and Fort Canning on the 20th. For the Buffy Fish Owl, a fledgling was observed with its parents at Yishun on the 4th & 9th, another owlet at Jurong Lake Gardens had fledged from its nest (a Bird’s Nest Fern) by the 6th, and yet another owlet was observed in its nest (another Bird’s Nest Fern) along Hampstead Gardens on the 6th and 8th.

One adult ernesti Peregrine Falcon was recorded in the vicinity of the Botanic Gardens on the 25th. There were four records of the Crested Serpent Eagle at SBWR, Chek Jawa, Goldhill Avenue, and Kent Ridge Park. Ten Grey-headed Fish Eagles, 12 Black-winged Kites, 17 Crested Goshawks, and eight Changeable Hawk-Eagles were also recorded. Finally, one Barred Eagle Owl was recorded at Rifle Range Link, while one Spotted Wood Owl was recorded at Goldhill Avenue, Satay by the Bay, and Pasir Ris Park.

Table 1

Many thanks to everyone who had reported their sightings in one way or another, and especially to Jackie Yeo, Jan Tan, and Lee Lay Na for the use of their photos.

For a pdf version with more details, please click Singapore Raptor Report – February 2021