Monthly Archives: May 2021

NSS Bird Group live on 938 radio’s Singapore Today program – discussing the Oriental Honey Buzzard in the heartlands that got netizens excited

OHB flying

An Oriental Honey Buzzard, similar to this one, got the resident of Bedok & netizens excited

The Nature Society (Singapore) Bird Group, represented by Alan OwYong and Dr. Yong Ding Li, was live on 938 radio’s Singapore Today program on 24 May 2021 to discuss the Oriental Honey Buzzard, which appeared in the HDB heartlands at Bedok, exciting residents and netizens.

A Bedok resident looked out of her 5th floor window and saw a large bird perched on top of a tree. She shared a photo of the raptor (bird of prey) on Facebook, and netizens suggested various identifications such as White-bellied Sea Eagle, Changeable Hawk-Eagle, Oriental Honey Buzzard, and even eliciting comments such as Godzilla! Maybe there is some semblance to the mystic creature as the raptor has a long neck and held an upright posture.

These are the abridged responses to the radio hosts numerous queries:

“What is it, and did it just arrive?” – Alan clarified that the raptor was an Oriental Honey Buzzard, a migratory species from the north that arrives during the autumn to spend the winter here, in this part of the world.

“Are they common and where do they come from?” – Dr. Yong shared that the Oriental Honey Buzzard is a common migratory raptor to Singapore and they come from north Asia, breeding in the temperate forests of China, the Korean Peninsula, and Japan. Satellite-tracked birds from Japan show that they migrate through China, Southeast Asia, with many passing through Singapore to Indonesia, but some birds also spend the winter in Singapore.

“It’s a buzzard, but it’s also an eagle right?” – Dr. Yong shared that ‘raptor’ is a broad term that refers to eagles, hawks, buzzards, goshawks, and other birds of prey.

“Would they pose a threat to our birds here?” – Alan commented that the Oriental Honey Buzzards feed on the larvae of bees, wasps, and hornets and that they do not pose a threat to other wildlife. Dr. Yong added that these raptors are part of our ecosystem.

“Does the public have to be careful around them?” – Alan said that the Oriental Honey Buzzards do not pose a threat to people. On the other hand, these raptors are often harassed by crows. Dr. Yong added that should someone be lucky enough to witness the Oriental Honey Buzzard feeding at a bee hive or hornet nest, that they should keep clear, as the insects may attack anything that they perceive to be a threat to their hive/nest.

“Has migration patterns of raptors to Singapore changed?” Dr. Yong responded that there is no clear trend of change for raptors but that for many migratory birds other than raptors, there has been a decline. These declines may be due to the loss of habitat in other places along their migration route. Nevertheless, it would be good to keep an eye out for migratory birds as we would like to know more about what’s going on and how best to help them.

Singapore Raptor Report – March 2021

JB,, 190321, Coney, Kelvin Ng Cheng Kwan

Jerdon’s Baza, living up to its alternate name Lizard Hawk, feeding on a Changeable Lizard, Coney Island, 19 Mar 2021, by Kelvin Ng Cheng Kwan

Summary for migrant species:

In March 2021, 210 raptors of eleven migrant species were recorded. A Black Kite fitted with a transmitter was recorded at Dairy Farm Nature Park on the 1st, and Singapore Quarry on the 2nd. The only Eastern Marsh Harrier was recorded on a northeastern island on the 5th, and a Rufous-bellied Eagle at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve on the 6th.

Amazingly, seven Grey-faced Buzzards were reported, one at Kent Ridge Park on the 14th, three on the 15th, two on the 16th, and another at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve on the 16th, all seemingly on passage. Five Jerdon’s Bazas were recorded, one at Changi Business Park on the 8th and up to four at Coney Island from 17th to 19th.

CSH, 170321, Coney, Ash Foo

Chinese Sparrowhawk, immature male, Coney Island, 18 Mar 2021, by Ash Foo

Five Chinese Sparrowhawks were recorded, singles at Ubin on the 6th, Kent Ridge Park on the 17th, Coney Island on the 17th (female) & 18th (male), and Lorong Halus on the 19th. There were also five Western Ospreys at various locations, including Upper Peirce Reservoir Park, and nine Peregrine Falcons. In addition, there were 31 Black Bazas, 43 Japanese Sparrowhawks,and102 Oriental Honey Buzzards.

CSE mating crop, posted 070321, Goldhill, Julian Wong

A pair of Crested Serpent Eagles mating, the 1st mating record for Singapore, Goldhill Avenue, 7 Mar 2021, Julian Wong

Highlights for sedentary species:

At Goldhill Avenue on the 7th, Julian Wong recorded a video of a pair of Crested Serpent Eagles mating – probably the first record of this species mating in Singapore! Breeding-related activities were also noted for four other diurnal resident raptors. At Seletar, where a pair of Black-winged Kites nested, one adult was seen passing a rat to another adult on the 6th, on the 10th two chicks fledged, and on the 25th and 26th, a fledgling was observed taking prey from the adult in mid-air.

BWK, 260321, Seletar, Kelvin Leong, food transfer in flight

A fledgling Black-winged Kite (left) in the process of taking prey from its parent, in mid-air, Seletar, 26 Mar 2021, by Kelvin Leong

At Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve on the 26th, an adult White-bellied Sea Eagle was sitting on its nest together with two chicks. At Turut Track on the 14th, two Brahminy Kite fledglings were observed. For the Crested Goshawk, the pair at West Coast Park was rebuilding their nest on the 1st and 3rd, and mated on the 4th. At Sin Ming, an adult was sitting on its nest on the 15th, and on the 31st, a chick covered in white down was seen, together with the adult female, in the nest.

WBSE, 130321, SBWR, Lawrence Koh, catch monitor lizard

White-bellied Sea Eagle, caught a young water monitor lizard, SBWR Eagle Point, 13 Mar 2021, by Lawrence Koh

For nocturnal raptors, a Brown Fish Owl was seen feeding its hybrid chick at Hindhede Nature Park on the 3rd, and a Buffy Fish Owl chick at Hampstead Wetlands fledged on the 14th. There were also two Barred Eagle Owls at Rifle Range Link.

In terms of prey items, a Crested Serpent Eagle at Goldhill Avenue caught two Paradise Tree Snakes at one go, on the 4th; and a juvenile water monitor lizard on the 17th. A White-bellied Sea Eagle at SBWR caught a juvenile water monitor lizard on the 13th.

CSE, 040321, Goldhill, SB Lim, same 4

A Crested Serpent Eagle, catching 2 Paradise Tree Snakes (which may have been mating) at a go, Goldhill Avenue, 4 Mar 2021, by SB Lim

All in, there were eight records of the Crested Serpent Eagle at Goldhill Avenue, Ubin, Jalan Gemala 2, Kent Ridge Park and Old Holland Road; ten Grey-headed Fish Eagles; 11 Black-winged Kites; 14 Crested Goshawks; ten Changeable Hawk-Eagles; and two torquatus Oriental Honey Buzzards.

GHFE, 070321, Ulu Pandan, Teo Chee Yong

Grey-headed Fish Eagle, swooping down on a fish, Ulu Pandan, 7 Mar 2021, by Teo Chee Yong

Table 1

Many thanks to everyone who had reported their sightings in one way or another, and especially to Kelvin Ng Cheng Kwan, Julian Wong, Ash Foo, Kelvin Leong, Lawrence Koh, Teo Chee Yong and SB Lim for the use of their photos.

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

“Two Pairs of Young Kings”

Observation Records of Juvenile Stork-Billed Kingfishers and White-Throated Kingfishers

Text and photos by Veronica Foo

The months of April and May provide many opportunities to see young birds.

On 15th April 2021 during a walk at Kranji Marshes with Kwek Swee Meng, I chanced upon a pair of juvenile White-throated Kingfishers (Halcyon smyrnensis) perched on a rail by a drain with an adult. The White-throated Kingfisher is a common resident in Singapore. It is polytypic and the subspecies in Singapore is the perpulchra. Both juveniles had darkish bills and some vermiculation on their throat and breast areas.

The adult was seen diving down to the drain once and returning to the rail without any catch. Subsequently, one of the juveniles dived and returned to the rail seemingly without a catch. These birds feed on fish, small amphibians and insects.  It was suggested that the juveniles were probably attempting to learn to feed.  The adult bird subsequently flew off, followed by the 2 juveniles one after another.

The Adult White-Throated Kingfisher with two juveniles.

The remaining juvenile White-throated Kingfisher that eventually flew off

On 4th May 2021, during a walk at MacRitchie Reservoir with Lim Kim Keang, two birds swooped to a tree in front of us followed by another larger bird a few seconds later. The two obscured birds were making calls to each other. They subsequently flew to different trees on the opposite side of the reservoir boardwalk where we had a better view of them. They were the uncommon resident Stork-Billed Kingfishers (Pelargopsis capensis), our largest Kingfisher species in Singapore. Rarely do we see a juvenile Stork-Billed Kingfisher lest a pair of them? This species is polytypic and the ones resident in Singapore is the subspecies malaccensis.

Both juveniles had brown crowns, head-sides and napes, brown vermiculation on their breasts, darkish bills unlike the bright red in adults.  These kingfishers feed on fish and crabs but the juvenile birds did not attempt to dive to fish nor were they fed by the adult.  The juveniles continued making calls while the adult remained perched on a different tree. The birds eventually flew off into the forest.

Pictures of the two juvenile Stork-billed Kingfishers

The adult Stork-Billed Kingfisher perched and overlooking the reservoir water.

Based on this observation, the Stork-Billed Kingfishers were probably looking for better hunting grounds.

Documentation of nesting and breeding records of Kingfishers especially that of Stork-Billed Kingfisher are very scant. These two confirmed breeding records add to the knowledge of our resident kingfishers. Based on a previous record by Lim Kim Chuah and Marcel Finlay on the nesting and breeding record of Stork-Billed Kingfisher can be read on this link.  https://singaporebirdgroup.wordpress.com/2017/10/21/nesting-and-breeding-record-of-stork-billed-kingfisher-in-singapore/ . The juvenile Stork-Billed Kingfisher photographed by Marcel Finlay on 4 July 2017 has a darker bill base with some red towards the tip. This juvenile may be of a younger age than the two that were observed recently.

Stork-billed Kingfisher calling

Kingfishers generally dig and build nests in river-banks, decaying trees or termite nests in trees in obscurity.  From the above observations and sightings, we can deduce that these two kingfisher species are building nests here. Their successful nestings that resulted in these four juveniles is a positive occurrence and we hope for their continuous survival with records of their sightings.

REFERENCES

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

2.Wells, D.R. (1997). The Birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsula, Volume 1: Non-Passerines. Academic Press.  

3. Yong, D.L., Lim, K.C. and Lee T.K. (2017). A Naturalist’s Guide to the Birds of Singapore. John Beaufoy.

4. Craig Robson (2016). Birds of South-East Asia (Concise Edition).

5. Nesting and Breeding Record of Stork-Billed Kingfisher by Lim Kim Chuah and Marcel Finlay  https://singaporebirdgroup.wordpress.com/2017/10/21/nesting-and-breeding-record-of-stork-billed-kingfisher-in-singapore/

Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot cutting and ‘stuffing’ leaves onto its feathers

Text & photos by Sim Chip Chye

BCHP SCC 1

A female Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot with strips of cut leaves ‘stuffed’ onto its back feathers (note how a slit in the leaves catch onto the feathers)

On 28 April 2021, looking from my balcony, I witnessed an interesting phenomenon: an adult female Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot was seen perforating 1.0 – 1.5 cm on the side margin of the Jambu plant’s leaves and would tear it off strips measuring around 4 cm to 6 cm with the final piece looking like a serrated blade.

BCHP SCC 2

A female Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot holding a strip of cut leaf (note that four of the leaves in the photo show signs of cuttings)

It would then place this “blade of leaf” between its back feathers and repeat this act for quite a few times, carefully arranging them neatly, seemingly wanting to “wear the leaves on its back by sticking them on” and when it is satisfied with the placements, fly off as fast as it had come in! I didn’t see any fragments falling off in its flight!!! Looking closer at the photos, it appears the parrot actually made a slit on the serrated leaf and cleverly let the slit catch on to its feathers.

BCHP SCC 3

A female Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot securing a strip of cut leaf onto its back feathers which already have many strips of cut leaves

I was guessing if it’s preparing a nest with those tediously collected pieces of leaf fragments and curiosity got the better of me! I googled and saw a couple of locally reported encounters much like mine!