Bird Species Detectability in a HDB Heartland
By Lim Kim Seng (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Javan Myna, a joint Top Most Detectable Species With Rock Dove and Asian Glossy Starling. Photo © Lim Kim Seng
This is a continuation of my studies of birds outside my balcony window in a HDB heartland called Woodlands. In the previous study, I found out that my one-hectare HDB neighbourhood actually has a decent diversity of birds – 36 species seen or heard over 40 days. What I wanted to do in this particular study is to find out what species are the most regularly seen or heard. In other words, what bird species are present virtually every day? What are our most common birds in HDB heartland? What are the rarest?
To find out the most common birds in my neighbourhood, I resorted to a simple method or recording “presence”“ or “absence”, based on my observations by sight or sound of birds outside my balcony and study windows. I also added species that I saw on my regular trips to the wet market and supermarket to buy groceries. I kept a list of species in a notebook from April 4th to May 16th, a total of 40 days. I tried to keep watch of a total duration of an hour a day, aided by my 8×30 binoculars and my 65x zoom bridge camera.
Detectability and “Common-ness”
Over 40 days, 36 bird species were recorded. The results for the Ten Most Common or “Detectable” Species included three that were ever present – Asian Glossy Starling, Javan Myna and Common Pigeon. These species were most often seen utilizing man-made structures such as rooftops, TV aerials as well as on trees and different ground surfaces. It should come as no surprise that two of these were introduced to Singapore.
Joint fourth was the Brown-throated Sunbird. This was a surprise as I had expected the ubiquitous Olive-backed Sunbird to be the winner. The former came to a tree outside my balcony almost every day to perform its chiffchaff-like song, especially at dawn. I think it is just one or two pairs that exist in my neighbourhood but they are very noticeable when they call. The other species was Swinhoe’s White-eye, another dawn singer in my tree and also present almost daily with a variety of chirps that made them instantly recognizable. I missed both only on one day each.
The rest of the Top Ten included Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot, one of four parrots recorded, Black-naped Oriole, Pacific Swallow, Spotted Dove, Red-breasted Parakeet and either Germain’s or Black-nest Swiftlet.
The Eleventh to Twentieth positions also include some very familiar “garden birds” such as Asian Koel, House crow, Yellow-vented Bulbul and Olive-backed Sunbird as well as newly colonizing species such as Little Bronze Cuckoo. The complete list is in Appendix 1.
Perhaps, as our HDB heartlands and urban spaces are landscaped with plants that attract wildlife and as urban green spaces become more heterogeneous, these and other species will invade more urban areas in Singapore in the future. In addition, balconies in more favorable surroundings like parklands, wetlands, coasts or forests should show a richer and more diverse birdlife than my neighbourhood.
Recommendations and Conclusion
Even though this was a one-off study at just one site, I hope that it gives us an idea of what our most common birds of urban Singapore is, and how such studies can be done very easily with a minimum of fuss. More detailed studies could perhaps be made on why these species are so highly successful at colonizing man-made habitats compared to others.
Full List of Birds Detected at Woodlands Study Site, April 4th to May 16th, 2020 (Numbers in brackets next to the species indicates the number of days they were detected.)
1 Asian Glossy Starling Aplonis panayensis (40)
2 Rock Dove Columba livia (40)
3 Javan Myna Acridotheres javanicus (40)
4 Brown-throated Sunbird Anthreptes malacensis (39)
5 Swinhoe’s White-eye Zosterops simplex (39)
6 Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot Loriculus galgulus (33)
7 Black-naped Oriole Oriolus chinensis (32)
8 Pacific Swallow Hirundo tahitica (31)
9 Spotted Dove Spilopelia chinensis (31)
10 Red-breasted Parakeet Psittacula alexandri (25)
11 Swiftlet sp. Aerodramus sp. (25)
12 Olive-backed Sunbird Cinnyris jugularis (24)
13 Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker Dicaeum cruentatum (23)
14 Pied Triller Lalage nigra (20)
15 Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker Yungipicus moluccensis (17)
16 Asian Koel Eudynamys scolopacea (16)
17 Yellow-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus goiavier (15)
18 House Crow Corvus splendens (14)
19 Little Bronze Cuckoo Chrysococcyx minutillus (14)
20 Rose-ringed Parakeet Psittacula krameri (14)
21 Pink-necked Green Pigeon Treron vernans (13)
22 Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus (11)
23 Zebra Dove Geopelia striata (7)
24 Common Hill Myna Gracula religiosa (4)
25 Savanna Nightjar Caprimulgus affinis (4)
26 Blue-throated Bee-eater Merops viridis (3)
27 Scaly-breasted Munia Lonchura punctulata (3)
28 Arctic Warbler Phylloscopus borealis (2)
29 Common Myna Acridotheres tristis (2)
30 Golden-bellied Gerygone Gerygone sulphurea (2)
31 Long-tailed Parakeet Psittacula longicauda (2)
32 Brahminy Kite Haliastur indus (1)
33 Collared Kingfisher Todiramphus chloris (1)
34 Crested Goshawk Accipiter trivirgatus (1)
35 Pied Imperial Pigeon Ducula bicolor (1)
36 White-bellied Sea Eagle Haliaeetus leucogaster (1)
Spotted Dove and Asian Glossy Starlings seen from my balcony. Photo © Lim Kim Seng