Category Archives: Rare Bird Sighting

Singapore Raptor Report, Early Autumn Migration, July-September 2021

JSH, 200921, PRP, Philip Chua

Japanese Sparrowhawk, Pasir Ris Park, 20 September 2021, by Philip Chua


A total of 8 Japanese Sparrowhawks Accipiter gularis were recorded in September, with the first arrival on 20 September; one individual was not aged, while the other seven were all adults. At Henderson Waves, there were 30 unidentified sparrowhawks on 24 September.

A total of 34 observations were made for the Oriental Honey Buzzard Pernis ptilorhyncus during the July to September period : 10 in July, 7 in August and 17 in September. As with the previous year, where photographs were available, the honey buzzards could be aged as sub-adults (2nd calendar year), right up to end September, these being over-summering birds. Moult of the primaries (feathers) progressed from 4-5 new primaries in July, to 5-6 new primaries in August, to 6-7 new primaries in September, consistent with last year’s observation. Although one individual had 7 new primaries on 14 August, it was probably not exceptional.

An adult torquatus Oriental Honey Buzzard was photographed at Upper Seletar Reservoir Park on 23 July, while a juvenile with uniform plumage was photographed at Thomson Nature Park on 7 September.

Two Peregrine Falcons Falco peregrinus of the ernesti subspecies were recorded – one adult photographed at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve flying towards Johor on 21 July, and another adult photographed at Marina East on 29 July. The ernesti at Fort Canning on 29 July might have been the same individual as the Marina East falcon.

The Western Osprey Pandion haliaetus, a regular during this time of the year, was recorded at Pulau Ubin (29 July), Yishun Dam (21 August) and Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve (5 September).

CHE, 110821, NTHL, SCC

Changeable Hawk-Eagle with a Changeable Lizard held by its beak and another in its right talons, Neo Tiew Harvest Lane, 11 August 2021, by Sim Chip Chye

For the resident raptors, the great rarity was the lone Black-thighed Falconet Microhierax fringillarius, discovered by Art Toh and Tang Choon Siang on 9 July at Jalan Mashhor, and which made brief appearances on the next two days before disappearing. The rare Crested Serpent Eagle Spilornis cheela was only recorded twice – an adult photographed at Pulau Ubin on 7 August, and another adult photographed at Kent Ridge Park on 6 September.

There were nesting-related records for a number of species of diurnal raptors. At Seletar, a pair of Black-winged Kites Elanus caeruleus was nest-building and mated in mid-August; while a pair of Brahminy Kites Haliastur Indus mated on 31 August and were adding sticks to their nest on 24 September.

At Little Guilin, a pair of Grey-headed Fish Eagles Haliaeetus ichthyaetus mated in late August. Their fledgling of a few months is probably about to become independent. At Pasir Ris Park, a pair of Crested Goshawks Accipiter trivirgatus comprising an adult male and a rather young (sub-adult) female mated on 19, 21, 24 and 28 July, as well as 9 August; while a different pair of adults mated on 25 September. For the White-bellied Sea Eagle Haliaeetus leocogaster, a juvenile was still at the vicinity of the nest on a tall tree at Singapore General Hospital on 5 August.   

Throughout these 3 months, a dark morph Changeable Hawk-Eagle Nisaetus cirrhatus had been frequenting Pasir Ris Park, catching a feral Junglefowl hen on 1 August. Another individual at Neo Tiew Harvest Lane caught two Changeable Lizards on 11 August.

BHO, 150821, Mandai Track 7, Vincent Yip

Brown Hawk-Owl, with yellow left iris and orange right iris, Mandai Track 7, 15 August 2021, by Vincent Yip

For nocturnal raptors, a fledgling Sunda Scops Owl Otus lempiji was photographed at Mandai Track 7 on 16 July. At Pasir Ris Park, the two juvenile Spotted Wood Owls Strix seloputo which left the nest in April were still with their parents on 21 August. At Hindhede Nature Park, the family of four Brown Hawk-Owls Ninox scutulata (found in June) were recorded again on 4 July and 2 August.

On 7 August, HP Tan photographed an interesting looking fish owl that appeared to be the Brown x Buffy Fish Owl hybrid offspring of the mixed Brown Fish Owl and Buffy Fish Owl pair recorded in February 2021.

BFO hybrid, posted 070821, Hindhede, HP Tan FBBS, pic, crop

This appears to be the hybrid Brown Fish Owl x Buffy Fish Owl offspring, Hindhede Nature Park, 7 August 2021, by HP Tan

At Yishun, a pair of Buffy Fish Owls Ketupa ketupu mated on 1 September. Unfortunately, on 16 September, one of the owls was found in the monsoon drain, appeared to be weak and would probably have floated away with the shallow water had it not been rescued.

At Mandai Track 7, an interesting Brown Hawk-Owl had yellow iris on the left eye and orange iris on the right eye. At Jalan Asas, an adult Barred Eagle Owl Bubo sumatranus was recorded on 19 July and 23 July.

Many thanks to everyone for their records, and to Philip Chua, Sim Chip Chye, Vincent Yip and HP Tan for the use of their photos.

For a pdf version with more details, please click Singapore Raptor Report, Early Autumn Migration, Jul-Sep 2021

The Black-Thighed Falconet in Singapore.


Lim Kim Seng


The Black-thighed Falconet Microhierax fringillarius was previously classified as a resident breeder as there had been specimens collected from Singapore as well as records since the 1920s and up to the 1990s (Lim 2009) but is likely to have become extirpated thereafter. It was re-categorized by the Nature Society (Singapore) Bird Group Records Committee, or NSSBGRC, as a non-breeding visitor as there have been no confirmed breeding record and no confirmed sightings for thirty years (Lim 2021). The Black-thighed Falconet was put into Category B, a category for wild birds, resident, visitor or vagrant, that have not been recorded for thirty years. In 2021 alone, however, there were three separate records of Black-thighed Falconet and as a result, it was re-instated in Category A by NSSBGRC.

Black-thighed Falconet was re-instated by the NSSBGRC in 2021. Photo taken at Panti Forest by Jimmy Chew.

Global Range, Habitat Requirements, Altitudinal Range, Breeding Habits and Conservation Status of Black-thighed Falconet

The Black-thighed Falconet is a monotypic species first described by Drapiez in 1824. It is one of five falconets in the world, all of which occur in southern China, South and Southeast Asia. Its natural range spans the Thai-Malay Peninsula, Sumatra, Borneo and Java. Its habitat is primary and secondary forests (including on limestone), edges of forests, rubber plantations, fruit orchards, cultivated land, parkland and wooded gardens up to 1,700 m (Ferguson-Lees & Christie 2000, Lim et al 2020, Wells 1999). The Black-thighed Falconet occurs as a common resident in most parts of its range and it is not known to undertake any movements (Robson 2000). In north Borneo, this species is replaced by the endemic White-fronted Falconet M. latifrons (Myers 2009).

In the Thai-Malay Peninsula, it breeds from November to July (Khoo 2021, Wells 1999). Nests are usually in tree cavities abandoned by woodpeckers and larger barbets, mostly in dead trees. In a site monitored in Perak, Malaysia, birds used a cavity in a limestone outcrop and nested successfully (Khoo 2021). Clutch size is three to six. The young remain with their parents for at least two months after fledging (Khoo 2021, Wells 1999).  It breeds from December to June in Borneo (Myers 2009). There is also evidence of communal feeding by birds other than parents, possibly by older siblings, and birds have also been seen to use old nest cavities as communal roost sites (Khoo 2021).

In Perak, Malaysia, they used cavities in Limestone outcrops to nest. Photo: Khoo Siew Yoong.

The Black-thighed Falconet is treated as “least concern” by IUCN (BirdLife International 2016).

Identification and Ecology of Black-thighed Falconet

The Black-thighed Falconet is one of the smallest raptors in the world at 15-17 cm in length from bill tip to tail tip. It is the same size as the White-fronted Falconet but smaller than Collared and Pied Falconets and has the distinction of being the smallest bird of prey of the world! In comparison, the Coppersmith Barbet Megalaima haemacephala measures 15-17 cm, Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker Yungipicus moluccensis, 13 cm and Yellow-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus goiavier measures 19-21 cm. Females are slightly larger than males and an adult weighs about 43 g (Wells 1999). In terms of its jizz, the Black-thighed Falconet has a big-headed, stout-bodied appearance with a medium-sized tail.

The small size of the falconet makes it hard to confuse with other birds although distance may make identification challenging as this species usually hawks from tall trees. It is mostly black on the head, eyestripe, ear patch, upperparts, bill, leg and tail, with mostly white on forehead, eyebrow and underparts, and orange-rufous on throat and lower breast to vent. Juveniles show pinkish horn bill and cere, rusty eyebrow and ear stripe, pale fine edges to upperparts and less rufous on lower underparts.

Its flight is rapid and direct, with fast wingbeats and sharp pointed wings, often accompanied by short periods of gliding.

Its voice is a shrill squeal kweer-week (Wells 1999).

Black-thighed Falconets hunt socially or alone, making sorties from a dead tree. Its diet is mainly arthropods, typically termites, butterflies and moths, dragonflies, carpenter bees, beetles, mantids, grasshoppers and cicadas, birds such as House Swift Apus nipalensis, sunbirds and munias, mammals such as bats and rats, and geckos (Khoo 2021, Wells 1999). Prey is usually snatched on the wing, occasionally from the ground, to be consumed from a perch, and there is evidence that falconets choose flowering trees with an abundance of nectar feeders to hunt (Wells 1999).

Birds indulge in head bobbing and tail wagging in close proximity and allo-preening has been observed (Wells 1999).

Historical Status of the Black-thighed Falconet in Singapore

The earliest reference to the occurrence of the Black-thighed Falconet in Singapore can be found in Bucknill & Chasen (1927) who stated that it “sometimes visit Singapore”. Gibson-Hill (1950) mentioned that it was “resident in small numbers” while RAFOS (1966-1969) and Tweedy (1970) mentioned the existence of several records in the 1960s.

There were no records until almost two decades when I found the first of four sight records within a period of seven years, all from a dead durian tree in my wooded garden in Jalan Ulu Sembawang in the north of Singapore. All records were of singles and included a juvenile seen on the following dates – 11 October 1979, 2 October 1983, 1 December 1983 and 12 April 1986 (Lim 1992). These records indicate the presence of a small and possibly breeding resident population in the area or that of non-breeding visitors from nearby Johor state, Malaysia. There were no further records from this site which was resettled and developed as part of the new Sembawang Estate in the early 1990s. Our most recent record was an adult seen on a dead tree, near the current Ranger’s Station, in the Central Catchment Nature Reserve on 7 October 1990 (Lim 2009).

In addition to these records, there were also four unconfirmed records between 1992 and 2005 from Sime Road, Loyang and Bukit Batok Nature Park. There are also nine specimens collected from MacRitchie Reservoir, Jurong and Singapore in the Lee Kong Chian Nature History Museum collection.  

Due to the fact that there have been no records for thirty years and also no confirmation of breeding, the Black-thighed Falconet’s status was reviewed by NSSBGRC in early 2020 as no longer fitting that of a wild bird for Category A, which is the category for all wild birds recorded within the last thirty years. It was re-categorised as belong to Category B, which is the category for all wild birds recorded within Singapore but not within the last thirty years (Lim 2021).

As fate would have it, soon after the release of the new checklist, news came of our first sighting of Black-thighed Falconet since 1990. This came from a juvenile that was seen and photographed by Lee Lay Na at a HDB block in Yishun Street 71 on 12 February 2021 (Tan, G.C. & Lim, G. 2021). The report of a juvenile is interesting as it indicates local or regional breeding.

A typical perch of the Black-thighed Faconet on top of tree at Goldhill Avenue by Art Toh.

There were two additional records, both also backed by photographs. One was a bird photographed using the top of a tree at Goldhill Avenue on 20 May 2021 by Art Toh (Tan, G.C. 2021) while the second was another adult from Jalan Mashhor on 9 July 2021, reported by Art Toh and Tan Choon Siang, and still present on 12 July 2021, reported by Vincent Lao (Lim, G. et al 2021).

A far away photo of the second adult falconet taken at Jalan Mansor two months later again by Art Toh.

These three sightings from 2021 have the effect of reinstating the Black-thighed Falconet into the Singapore List once again. At the moment, it is probably best considered a rare non-breeding visitor due to the short-term nature of their occurrences in 2021. Hopefully, one day, we will find them nesting in Singapore again.

Concluding Remarks

Birders and bird photographers are much more active than two decades ago. There are people at various locations in Singapore every day and most of them carry some sort of photographic equipment with them. This number of people watching birds daily is bound to yield rewards in the form of documenting the occurrence of rarities as well as species that are either new to Singapore or those thought to have been extirpated. Recent records of Javan Plover and Green Broadbill attest to this increased opportunity of detecting something really sensational!

Would-be falconet seekers are encouraged to focus on sites in the central and north of Singapore, where all confirmed sightings have been made since 1979. Bukit Brown would be another place to pay attention to given the recent record (and nearby, in Goldhill). Searches on Pulau Ubin may also yield results due to the island’s proximity to Malaysia as well as the island’s reputation for attracting Malaysian visitors. Prime habitats to look for this elusive raptor are the edges of forests and woodland as well as areas where there are tall trees or snags.

It is hoped that birders and bird photographers will continue to help us make new discoveries or re-discoveries in the case of the Black-thighed Falconet, the smallest bird of prey in the world.


I would like to thank Yong Ding Li for helpful suggestions with the drafting of this article, Jimmy Chew, Khoo Siew Yoong and Art Toh for the use of their photographs.


BirdLife International. (2016). Microhierax fringillarius. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016. Downloaded on 10 September 2021.

Bucknill, J.A.S & Chasen, F.N. (1927).  The birds of Singapore Island. Government Printing Office, Singapore.

Ferguson-Lees & Christie, D.A. (2001). Raptors of the World. Christopher Helm, London.

Gibson-Hill, C.A. (1950). A checklist of the birds of Singapore Island. Bull. Raffles Mus. No. 21: 132-183.

Khoo, S.Y. (2021). Breeding ecology of Black-thighed Falconets in Perak, Malaysia. Nature Society (Singapore) Bird Group.

Lim, G., Lee, I. & Tan, G.C. (2021). Singapore Bird Report – July 2021. Nature Society (Singapore) Bird Group.

Lim, K.S. (1992). Vanishing birds of Singapore. Nature Society (Singapore), Singapore.

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

Lim, K.S. (2021). Bird Records Committee Report (January 2021). Nature Society (Singapore) Bird Group.

Lim, K.S., Yong, D.L. & Lim, K.C. (2020). A field guide to the birds of Malaysia and Singapore. John Beaufoy Publishing, Oxford.

Myers, S. (2009). A field guide to the birds of Borneo. Talisman Publishing, Singapore.

Royal Air Force Ornithological Society (1966-1969). Bulletins of the Singapore Branch & unpublished correspondence with members.

Tan, G.C. (2021). Singapore Raptor Report, Late Spring Migration, April-June 2021. Nature Society (Singapore) Bird Group.

Tan, G.C. & Lim, G. (2021). Singapore Bird Report – February 2021. Nature Society (Singapore) Bird Group.

Tweedy, L. (1970). The birds of Singapore. Army Birdwatching Club (Far East).

Wells, D.R. (1999). The birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsula, Volume One: Non-passerines. Academic Press, London.

First Records of the Javan Plover in Singapore

First Records of the Javan Plover in Singapore

By Frankie Cheong & Lim Kim Seng

Figure #1: Javan Plover photographed at Pulau Tekong on 16th July 2021. Photo © Frankie Cheong. Note the flesh-coloured long legs, buff breast patch and eyestripe, and white supercilium extending beyond eye.

     I (FC) was going for my usual round exploring the reclaimed land on Pulau Tekong on the morning of 16th July 2021. My main reason for going to this area was to follow up on a Pied Stilt Himantopus leucocephalus to get a better look since it is a rare breeding visitor in Singapore only recorded at this location to date.

Upon reaching the area, I heard the call of a Pied Stilt, so I stopped my car and scanned the area. I was not able to find it. However, I did see three waders busy foraging about 20 to 30 m away.  I pointed my camera and looked through the view finder to try and see what they were. They are appeared to me to be Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus, a species known to be an uncommon winter visitor and passage migrant in Singapore (Lim 2009; Lim et al. 2020) so I just clicked a few shots for record purposes and continued to search for the stilt.

Once I had downloaded and processed my photographs, one of these plovers were identified as a “Kentish Plover” and subsequently shared online on a Facebook group. I was pleasantly surprised to received messages from Dave Bakewell and James Eaton were both saying that this could be something rarer than Kentish Plover. There was a mad rush to google and messages were flying. Later that day. James Eaton messaged me to confirm that this is a Javan Plover Charadrius javanicus, a species never before seen outside Indonesia and Timor Leste!

He wrote, the plumage is spot on for Javan (gingery breast sides and ear coverts) but it has a long, sleek appearance with quite long thin bill and very leggy typical of Javan”. I also sent a short report, with my photographs, to the Records Committee of the Nature Society (Singapore) Bird Group as this species was not on the official bird checklist for Singapore.

Subsequently, I went back to my archives because I remember seeing the same plovers some time ago at Pulau Tekong. Indeed, I have some badly taken photos on 20th June 2021! There were also three birds, one of which looked like a juvenile. I sent these photos to James Eaton and he concurred that this was a juvenile, which meant that breeding could be taken place for the first time here in Singapore and outside Indonesia and Timor Leste! So, not only was this a new species for Singapore, it was also a new breeding record for Singapore! In addition, this was also a new record for continental Southeast Asia! What a mega tick! The three birds were still there on 2nd August.

If accepted by the Records Committee, these will be the first records, and the first breeding record of the Javan Plover in Singapore, something unprecedented since a similar event when Savanna Nightjar Caprimulgus affinis turned up in 1988 (Lim 2009, Lim et al 2020).

Status and Range of Javan Plover

The Javan Plover is a monotypic resident shorebird found across Java, the Lesser Sundas, southern Sumatra (Lampung) Bangka and Belitung (Iqbal et al. 2013; Iqbal 2015, Eaton et al 2016). The species is locally common at a number of sites it is known from in Indonesia (e.g. Jakarta Bay). The species is essentially endemic to Indonesia and Timor-Leste until the Singapore records. The records from the south-east coast of Sumatra and Belitung are fairly recent (within the last decade) and suggests a northward trajectory of range expansion of the species. The species occurs in a variety of habitats ranging from beaches and shrimp ponds to coastal mudflats and wetlands, occasionally straying into semi-open scrubland. The Singapore records suggest a northward expansion of its range towards continental Southeast Asia, and the species may already be occurring undetected in the Riau Archipelago, e.g. on Bintan (Yong, D.L., Adha Putra, C. in litt.). The Javan Plover is rated as globally Near-Threatened in view of its small and declining range (BirdLife International 2021).

Identification of the Javan Plover

The Javan Plover is a small plover with sandy brown upperparts, white lores, white supercilium extending behind eye and white collar, buff-coloured eyestripe and breast patches. Its bill is long and black and its legs are long and flesh-coloured. Compared to Kentish Plover, it has a bigger head with a less sloping forehead, a slenderer body and distinctly longer legs. The Malaysian Plover Charadrius peroni is similar but is shorter-billed with distinctly mottled upperparts. The Swinhoe’s Plover Charadrius dealbatus can be differentiated from the other two plovers by its head shape (steep forehead), the broad, white supercilium extending almost to the collar, the absence of the dark patch on its lores (giving it a ‘white-faced’ appearance), its shorter bill and legs.

Recommendations for future fieldwork

More fieldwork needs to be conducted in coastal (wetland) habitats around Singapore and its offshore islets as well as southern Peninsular Malaysia and the Riau Archipelago to determine if the Javan Plover has established a presence further northward as the Singapore records would suggest. There are known areas of coastal wetlands used by shorebirds in the northern and western coastline of Bintan (Yong, D.L. in litt.) and these sites should be further surveyed for their shorebird communities.


I would like to thank Dave Bakewell and James Eaton for helpful comments on my photographs on Facebook. Thanks also go to Alan OwYong and Yong Ding Li for the use of his photograph of Kentish Plover and White-faced Plover, as well as input on the species from the region from Yong Ding Li and Chairunas Adha Putra.

Figure #2. Javan Plover photographed at Pulau Tekong on 16th July 2021. Photo © Frankie Cheong.

Figure #3. Javan Plover photographed at Pulau Tekong on 16th July 2021. Photo © Frankie Cheong.

Figure # 4 & 5. Javan Plovers photographed at Pulau Tekong on 20th June 2021. Photos © Frankie Cheong.

Figure # 6 & 7. Javan Plover photographed at Pulau Tekong on 20th June 2021. Photos © Frankie Cheong.


BirdLife International (2021) Species factsheet: Charadrius javanicus. Downloaded from on 31/07/2021.  

Eaton, J.A., van Balen, B., Brickle, N.W. & Rheindt, F.E. (2016). Birds of the Indonesian Archipelago. Greater Sundas and Wallacea. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.

Iqbal, M. 2015. Javan Plover Charadrius javanicus on Belitung Island, a new site for Sumatra (Indonesia). Wader Study 122(2): 160–161.

Iqbal, M., Taufiqurrahman, I., Gilfedder, M. & Baskoro, K. 2013. Field identification of Javan Plover Charadrius javanicus. Wader Study Group Bull. 120(2): 96–101.

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

Lim, K.S., Yong, D.L. & Lim, K.C. (2020). A field guide to the birds of Malaysia and Singapore. John Beaufoy, Oxford.

Figure # 8. Kentish Plover at Marina East on 31st January 2021. Photo © Alan OwYong.

Figure #10. White-faced Plover at Marina Barrage by Yong Ding Li.

Singapore Bird Report – December 2020

Gadwall, 041220, SBWR H1D, TGC 2

Gadwall, our 2nd record, one of five birds at SBWR Hide 1D pond, 4 Dec 2020, by Tan Gim Cheong

December 2020 heralded two amazing records of migrants. The first was the appearance of five Gadwalls Mareca strepera after 31 years! This being the second time that the Gadwall was recorded in Singapore, the ducks were seen at SBWR Hide 1D on 4 Dec 2020 afternoon by Daniel Loh, who graciously shared his sighting with Pary Sivaraman, who kindly spread the news. The other amazing record was that of a Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula also only the second record of the species in Singapore, after a break of 21 years, photographed at the pond at Marsiling Park on 12 Dec 2020 by Derrick Wong.

Tufted Duck, 121220, Marsiling Park, Derrick Wong, same 3

Tufted Duck, our 2nd record, Marsiling Park, 12 Dec 2020, by Derrick Wong

Next up was the 4th record of the Narcissus Flycatcher Ficedula narcissina at the Healing Garden section of the Botanic Gardens on 2 Dec 2020 by Vincent Lee. Notably, this was the first male of the species to be recorded in Singapore and it was present at the Healing Garden from 2 to 6 Dec 2020, seen and photographed by many birders. The Healing Garden also hosted a juvenile Ferruginous Flycatcher Muscicapa ferruginea on 2 Dec 2020, recorded by many birders including Albert Low.

Narcissus FC male, 031220, Healing Gdn, TGC, crop

Narcissus Flycatcher, male, Healing Garden, SBG, 3 Dec 2020, by Tan Gim Cheong

The rare Grey-headed Lapwing Vallenus cinereus at Marina East Drive, recorded on the last day of November 2020, was present on various days through December, seen and photographed by many birders, such as Tay Kian Guan on 1 Dec 2020 and John Marriott on 31 Dec 2020.

GHLW, 031220, MED, TGC, crop

Grey-headed Lapwing, Marina East Drive, 3 Dec 2020, by Tan Gim Cheong

Another rarity, the Pheasant-tailed Jacana Hydrophasianus chirurgus was found hiding in the flooded vegetation at the grassland along Marina East Drive on the evening of 4 Dec 2020 by Khoo Meilin, Esther Ong and Kwok Tuck Loong. The Jacana was present for the next two days from 5-6 Dec 2020.

PT Jacana, 051220, MED, Norhafiani A Majid

Pheasant-tailed Jacana, Marina East Drive, 5 Dec 2020, by Norhafiani A. Majid

At the partly flooded grassland along Marina East Drive, an Intermediate Egret Ardea intermedia caught a mouse/rat on 5 Dec 2020, photographed by Zacc HD; a Greater Painted Snipe Rostratula benghalensis with 3 chicks were seen on 6 Dec 2020 by Soumen M; a Lesser Whistling Duck Dendrocygna javanica family with 9 ducklings were recorded on 26 Dec 2020 by Herman Phua; a Watercock Gallicrex cinerea on 31 Dec 2020 by Gabriel Koh; a Baillon’s Crake Zapornia pusilla on 20 Dec 2020 by Kwok Tuck Loong, Esther Ong & Khoo MeiLin, present till 30 Dec 2020. Another Baillon’s Crake was recorded at Neo Tiew Harvest Lane (NTHL) on 26 Dec 2020 by Raghav Narayanswamy and on 27 Dec 2020 by Tan Kok Hui.

LWD, 261220, MED, Herman, with 9 ducklings

Lesser Whistling Duck family, Marina East Drive, 26 Dec 2020, by Herman Phua

Other birds recorded at NTHL included a Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus on 6 Dec 2020 by Mike Hooper; and the single Sand Martin Riparia riparia noted in November 2020 was still around on 1, 5 and 6 Dec 2020 (Krishna G, Yip Jen Wei and Jeff Tan respectively), and was joined by another individual from 24 to 27 Dec 2020 on 24, 25 and 27 Dec 2020 as noted by Francis Yap, Benjamin Naden and Rob Arnold respectively. At the nearby Kranji Marsh, 8 Lesser Adjutant Leptoptilos javanicus were recorded on 31 Dec 2020 by Martti Siponen.

Siberian Thrush, 091220, DFNP, TGC, crop

Siberian Thrush, adult male, Dairy Farm Nature Park, 9 Dec 2020, by Tan Gim Cheong

At Dairy Farm Nature Park, a juvenile Malayan Night Heron Gorsachius melanolophus was photographed on 2 Dec 2020 by Dennis; an adult male Siberian Thrush Geokichla sibirica photographed on 8 Dec 2020 by Joy Kutty, and present till 11 Dec 2020; a male Mugimaki Flycatcher Ficedula Mugimakion 9 Dec 2020 by Wong Chung Cheong; a Malaysian Hawk Cuckoo Hierococcyx fugax on 29 Dec 2020 by Oliver Tan. There was also a juvenile Black-naped Oriole Oriolus chinensis of the migrant diffusus subspecies on 31 Dec 2020, photographed by Tan Hong Kim. The diffusus Black-naped Oriole is a known winter visitor, but in the field, little attention has been paid to subspecies of this otherwise common bird which has a large resident population.

BNO diffussus, 311220, DFNP, Tan Hong Kim, crop

Black-naped Oriole, juvenile migrant diffusus subspecies, (note the white belly, yellow in resident maculatus) Dairy Farm Nature Park, 31 Dec 2020, by Tan Hong Kim

At Pasir Ris Park, a Black Bittern Ixobrychus flavicollis was recorded behind the toilet of car park B on 13 Dec 2020 by Nasir M; a Hodgson’s Hawk Cuckoo Hierococcyx nisicolor on 13 Dec 2020 by Valli Nalla; a Von Schrenck’s Bittern Ixobrychus  eurhythmus in the mangroves on 17 Dec 2020 by Oliver Tan; and the Mangrove Pitta Pitta megarhynca on 30 Dec 2020 by William Chong

At Changi Business Park, an Eyebrowed Thrush Turdus obscurus was recorded on 8 Dec 2020 by James Wong; a Large Hawk Cuckoo Hierococcyx sparveroides on 17 Dec 2020 by Felix Wong; and an adult male Blue-and-White Flycatcher Cyanoptila cyanomelana on 26 Dec 2020 by Lee Yin Mun.

The Yellow-browed Warbler Phylloscopus inornatus was recorded at Changi Business Park on 11 Dec 2020 by Tan Gim Cheong, at Dover Rise on 31 Dec 2020 by Jonathan Lin, and at Sentosa Skywalk on 31 Dec 2020 by Wilson Chua.

YB Warbler, posted 311220, Sentosa skybridge, AOY

Yellow-browed Warbler, Sentosa Skywalk, 31 Dec 2020, by Alan OwYong

At Jurong Lake Gardens, a Jambu Fruit Dove Ptilinopus jambu was recorded on 4 Dec 2020 by Kok M Lee; a Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus on 6 Dec 2020 by Tay Kian Guan; and a Zitting Cisticola Cisticola juncidis apparently carrying food, on 31 Dec 2020 by John Paul Briones.

Chestnut-cheeked Starling, 041220, The Grandstand, Alfred Chia, crop

Chestnut-cheeked Starling, The Grandstand vicinity, 4 Dec 2020, by Alfred Chia

Elsewhere, a rare Chestnut-cheeked Starling Agropsar philippensis was picked out from a flock of Daurian Starlings Agropsar sturninus at The Grandstand on 4 Dec 2020 by Alan OwYong and photographed by Alfred Chia; a Slaty-breasted Rail Lewinia striata apparently was nesting in the vicinity of The Grandstand, returning to the same patch of grass where chicks could be heard on 4 Dec 2020 by Tan Gim Cheong; 150 Grey Wagtails Motacilla cinerea were reported by Krishna G. at the Yishun Street 11 roost on 7 Dec 2020; an injured Grey Nightjar Caprimulgus jotaka at Raffles Place MRT on 9 Dec 2020 was reported by Ashley Ng; a tired Hooded Pitta Pitta sordida at Bukit Merah on 11 Dec 2020 was reported by Grace Ho; a Great-billed Heron Ardea sumatrana at West Coast Park on 11 Dec 2020 was reported by Dave Koh; the Pied Bushchat Saxicola caprata was still at Holland Plain on 21 Dec 2020, by Andy Chew.

Gadwall, 041220, SBWR H1D, TGC 5 birds

Gadwalls, the five birds that visited SBWR Hide 1D pond, 4 Dec 2020, by Tan Gim Cheong

This report is compiled by Tan Gim Cheong, assisted by Geoff Lim. 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 Derrick Wong, Norhafiani A. Majid, Herman Phua, Tan Hong Kim, Alan OwYong and Alfred Chia for allowing us to use their photographs

The Mystery of the Goldhill Juvenile Crested Serpent Eagle.

By Alan OwYong and Tan Gim Cheong.

The Crested Serpent Eagle, Spilornis Cheela, is listed as a rare resident and migrant in the NSS Bird Group’s Checklist 2021. Earlier authors were divided on its status. Robinson (1927) was not sure of its presence, while Burknill & Chasen (1927) noted that they visited on occasions. Gibson-Hill (1950) recorded it as a resident with small numbers. Chasen considered the subspecies here as the malayensis ( Thai-Malay Peninsula and N. Sumatra). Visiting burmanicus subspecies ( Indochina) have been recorded including one at the Chinese Gardens.

Cindy Chen had been photographing this Serpent Eagle at Goldhill for more than three years. An unusual back view of the eagle looking flustered fending off the mob attack of the Collared Kingfishers was one of her more memorable images of this eagle.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, two individual Crested Serpent Eagles were residing at the Upper Seletar Reservoir Park. Subsequent records from around the island were mostly single birds and were assumed to be wanderers from Johor.

Over the past decade, a Crested Serpent Eagle had been visiting a patch of open forest at the end Goldhill Avenue. It seemed to be taken up residence there during the past few years, mainly due to the availability of reptiles and rodents there.

The tall Albizia trees fringing the open fields at Goldhill Avenue provide vantage perches for hunting for the Crested Serpent Eagles. Photo: Alan OwYong.

The first record of another bird here was on 14 March 2019 when Art Toh photographed both eagles perched on the same tree. They appeared to be of different sex but no bonding or pairing between the two was seen. Will these two be the real deal?

Photo of the two Serpent Eagles perched on the same tree on 14 March 2019 by Art Toh.

It took almost two years before we got the answer. On 7 March 2021, Julian Wong videoed the mating of this pair on an Albizia tree at the fringe of the Goldhill area. He was surprised to learn that this is the first record of these eagles mating here. This was great news as the Crested Serpent Eagle has no proven breeding records in Singapore.

Julian Wong videoed the first mating of a pair of Crested Serpent Eagles on 7 March.

But it was the photo of a juvenile bird taken by Tan YinLing on 25 May 2021 at the same forest that got us excited. This was the second photo of a juvenile Crested Serpent Eagle in Singapore (the other photo was in August 2018 at Bukit Batok). The first record of an immature was from Botanic Gardens on 11 November 1982. On 12 December 2001, a juvenile was recorded at Kent Ridge Park. Dr. Chaiyan Kasorndorkbua of the Kasetsart Laboratory of Raptor Research, Thailand, commented that this is a malayensis subspecies.

Second photo of the juvenile Crested Serpent Eagle taken on 25 May by Tan YinLing.

Trevor Teo made his own luck, roaming the area for several days, and finally got a close up look at the juvenile eating a snake on 3 June 2021. A just reward for his hard work. Unfortunately he did not see how the juvenile got the snake.

Trevor Teo worked very hard to get this photo of the juvenile with a snake. It was tearing and eating the snake when he saw it.

But the big question remains unanswered. Where did this juvenile come from?

So far no one has spotted any nests around the Malcolm Road area. These eagles build large platform nests with sticks and small branches close to the canopy of tall and secluded trees. They lay one egg and incubate it for 37-42 days. It will take a further 59-65 days before it fledges. The interval between mating to appearance of this Goldhill juvenile was 80 days. This time line looks a bit tight.

Curiously, none of the adults had been seen together with the juvenile, either on the same tree or close to each other. There were no reports of the adults chasing the juvenile away. No feeding was observed.

Juveniles are known to wander around. In a tracking study done in Taiwan, a juvenile was recorded some 20 km away from its natal site.

The Bird Group’s Records Committee will be evaluating this in their next review to determined the origin of this juvenile and change its status if needed.

We wish to thank Cindy Chen, Art Toh, Julian Wong, Tan YinLing and Trevor Teo for sharing their sightings and notes with us and for the use of their photographs.


Lim Kim Seng. The Avifauna of Singapore. Nature Society (Singapore) 2009

Gombobaatar Sundev and Toru Yamazaki (compilers). 2018. A field Guide to the the Raptors of Asia. Volume 1.


In letters Dr. Chaiyan Kasorndorkbua. Kasetsart Laboratory of Raptor Research and Conservation Medicine. Thailand.

Singapore Raptor Report – January 2020


Himalayan Vulture, 090120, Pinnacle, Bp Chua, crop

Himalayan Vulture, near the Pinnacle@Duxton, 9 Jan 2020, by Bp Chua

Summary for migrant species:

The Himalayan Vultures stole the show in January. Amazingly, a total of 12 immature vultures showed up, besting the previous high of 9 immature birds in January 1992. On the 8th, one vulture was photographed at The Pinnacle@Duxton at 2:24pm, flying east, and another two were photographed at Cashew Road at 2:45pm. At 6:25pm, a flock of ten vultures, initially mistaken for Asian Openbills, were photographed at Bedok, flying towards Siglap. Shortly after 7pm, up to 11 vultures were captured on video flying at the Tanjong Pagar area around Amara Hotel and The Pinnacle@Duxton. One vulture even landed on the roads – Peck Seah Street & Maxwell Road, causing vehicles to slow down and avoid the bird. Members of the public expressed shock in seeing such a huge bird, which eventually flew off to safety.

The vultures must have roosted on the tall building in the Tanjong Pagar area as they were spotted on top of the buildings on the morning of the 9th. Twelve vultures were spotted and after 9am, they took flight, heading south towards Sentosa, but then turned back, probably dreading to fly over the open sea. By around 11am, eleven vultures were spotted flying over Fort Canning Park and by noon time, twelve vultures were spotted at Dairy Farm Nature Park – they were heading north.

There were no sightings of the vultures on the 10th. Then on the 11th, nine vultures were spotted at West Coast Park in the afternoon, flying west.

HV, 090120, DFNP, Siew Mun, around noon (managed 7 out of 10)

Himalayan Vultures at Dairy Farm Nature Park on 9 Jan 2020, by Siew Mun

A total of 137 raptors of 14 migrant species were recorded in January 2020. This is in great contrast to 7 migrants species recorded in January 2019! Only one Grey-faced Buzzard, a juvenile, was photographed at St John’s Island on the 3rd. Also, a single Eastern Marsh Harrier was recorded, a juvenile on the 19th at Neo Tiew Harvest Lane. The wintering immature Rufous-bellied Hawk-Eagle was recorded at Dairy Farm Nature Park–Hindhede Nature Park area on the 15th, and at Bukit Timah Hill vicinity on the 17th.

Two Booted Eagles were reported – one at Pasir Ris Park on the 7th, and another at Pulau Ubin on the 9th. Also, two Chinese Sparrowhawks were recorded – one at the Botanic Gardens on the 15th and the wintering female at Ang Mo Kio on the 25th.

Five Western Ospreys were recorded along the northern coast from Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve (SBWR) to Yishun Dam to Pulau Ubin. Six Jerdon’s Bazas were recorded – two at Changi Business Park, three at Coney Island, and one at Pasir Ris–Tampines Eco Green area. Ten Japanese Sparrowhawks were recorded, mostly singles at various location in the western half of Singapore.

GFB, 030120, St John's Island, Dillen Ng

Grey-faced Buzzard, juvenile, at St John’s Island, on 3 Jan 2020, by Dillen Ng

Thirteen Peregrine Falcons were recorded, probably the highest monthly number for the species, comprising both adults and juveniles; they were recorded singly, with some individuals regularly perching near the top of apartment blocks at Jurong and Punggol. Twenty Black Bazas were recorded, mostly in the Lim Chu Kang area (including SBWR & Kranji Marshes) and Pasir Ris Park. 61 Oriental Honey Buzzards were recorded – apart form 12 recorded at Kranji Marshes on the 1st, the others were mostly singles from various localities.

A Buteo photographed at a distance at Tuas South on the 5th by Martin Kennewell and Zacc HD was initially thought to be a Common Buzzard Buteo buteo, but may potentially be a Long-legged Buzzard Buteo rufinus – stay tuned! Lastly, two Oriental Scops Owls, a nocturnal raptor, were photographed during the daytime at the Central Catchment Nature Reserve on the 23rd.

Brahminy with Red-legged Crake, posted 140120, SBTB, Andrew Seah

Brahminy Kite, flying with a dead Red-legged Crake in its talons, at Satay by the Bay, on 14 Jan 2020, by Andrew Seah

Highlights for sedentary species: 

Three Crested Serpent Eagles were recorded, one at Malcolm Road on the 10th and probably the same bird at Stevens MRT on the 12th; one at Seletar on the 12th; and one at Pulau Ubin on the 19th and 22nd.

Up to nine Grey-headed Fish Eagles were recorded, localities included SBWR, Kranji Marshes, Little Guilin, Sungei Ulu Pandan, Botanic Gardens, Central Catchment forest, Springleaf Nature Park, Yishun Dam, Lorong Halus and Pulau Ubin.

Breeding-related activities were observed for four species. Mating was observed for the Black-winged Kite at Neo Tiew Harvest Link on the 4th and at Kranji Marshes on the 26th. For the Crested Goshawk, a nest with chicks was observed at West Coast Park on the 3rd, and at Pasir Ris Park, nest building was observed on the 30th, followed by mating on the 31st. Interestingly, the nest at West Coast Park was only about 20m away from the nest of a pair of Brahminy Kites.

CGH x2 fighting, posted 040120, near Aljunied MRT, BICA, KL Pow's hubby

Crested Goshawks, feet locked together, apparently refusing to let go, was separated by a passerby before flying off, male (left) is much smaller than female (right), Aljunied MRT vicinity, Jan 2020, by KL Pow’s husband

There were two nesting records for the Brahminy Kite, the nest at West Coast Park had two chicks, with one fledging on the 17th, and amazingly the adults were observed mating! By the 21st, the second chick had also fledged. The second nest was found at the Lim Chu Kang area on the 12th. On the 14th, an adult Brahminy Kite at Satay by the Bay was captured on camera flying with a dead Red-legged crake in its talons. For the White-bellied Sea Eagle, a pair was building a nest at SBWR on the 26th.

There was one ernesti Peregrine Falcon, an adult, on the 29th, in the vicinity of the Botanic Gardens, eating a bird. No torquatus Oriental Honey Buzzzards were recorded in January. The other sedentary raptors recorded were five Changeable Hawk-Eagles, and one Barred Eagle Owl at the Singapore Quarry, its usual location, on the 23rd.

Table 1

For more details, please click Singapore Raptor Report – January 2020

Compiled by Tan Gim Cheong

Many thanks to everyone who had reported their sightings in one way or another, and also thanks  to Siew Mun, Bp Chua, Dillen Ng, and Andrew Seah for the use of their photos.

Oriental Turtle Dove, Wild or Caged?

Oriental Turtle Dove, Wild or Caged?

By Records Committee, Bird Group.

The committee was able to accept and assign the Oriental Turtle Dove Streptopelia oreintalis, found at Sister’s Island on 28 November 2018 to Category A for wild birds by identifying it to subspecies level.

Oriental Dove

This dove is very likely a nominate orientalis from Northeast Asia (wintering as far south as Cambodia and southern Vietnam), chiefly because it’s less vinaceous on the head and has a buff belly contrasting with a more vinaceous breast band than agricola from Southeast Asia and Northeast India.

Other subspecies (e.g. from peninsular India or western Asia) can also be ruled out.

This subspecific identity gives us important hints.

There are several reasons for natural vagrancy against the burden of proof for escaped status:

  1. Late November – right timing for a northern vagrant
  2. It’s the subspecies we would expect to show up as a vagrant here.
  3. Odd small-island occurrence. Sister’s Island acting as the “land’s end” of Asia continent.
  4. Not reported being seen in Indonesian and Malaysian bird markets or shops during many market surveys. Not seen in birds shops in Singapore as well.
  5. o.orientalis is a known wintering migrant. There are many instances of straying to various parts of the flyway.
  6. No signs of tags or rings, feather abrasions or body abnormalities and unusual behaviour.

Singapore Bird Report – January 2020

by Geoff Lim, Alan Owyong (compilation), & Tan Gim Cheong (ed.)

The turn of the new year yielded several amazing sightings, such as twelve Himalayan Vultures gathering at the Central Business District, a rare Slaty-legged Crake feeding regularly over several days at Punggol, Black-headed Gulls at Yishun Dam, a splendid male von Schrenck’s Bittern at SBWR, an appearance by a very rare Green Sandpiper at Lim Chu Kang, and the first sighting of a White-cheeked Starling in Singapore!

Himalayan Vultures

HV, 090120, CBD, Zacc HD

Himalayan Vulture over Peck Seah Street on 9 January 2020, photo by Zacc HD.

Following the report of two Himalayan Vultures, Gyps himalayensis, at Hindhede on 28 December 2019, a flock of vultures were reported on 8 and 9 January 2020 over the Central Business District by the news and birders like T. Ramesh. On the morning of 9 January 2020, Lee Chuin Ming reported 12 vultures at the CBD area, and on the afternoon of the same day, Raghav Narayanswamy had a sighting of ten vultures at Cashew Road. On 11 January 2020, a flock of nine birds were photographed at West Coast Park (Tan Chuan Yean).

HV, 110120, WCP, Tan Chuan Yean

A Himalayan Vulture being mobbed by a Brahminy Kite on 11 January 2020 over West Coast Park, photo by Tan Chuan Yean.

Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR) and Fringe Parks

Jambu,120120, DFNP, Gan Lee Hsia

Juvenile Jambu Fruit Dove spotted on 12 January 2020 at DFNP, photo by Gan Lee Hsia.

The CCNR core yielded one Brown-backed Needletail, Hirundapus giganteus, two Black-headed Bulbuls, Pycnonotus atriceps, and five Cinereous Bulbuls, Hemixos cinereus, on 4 January 2020 by Adrian Silas Tay at Jelutong Tower, as well as a single female Green-backed Flycatcher, Ficedula elisae, seen between Dillenia Hut and the stream. Several days later, two Eyebrowed Thrush, Turdus obscurus, and one Forest Wagtail, Dendronanthus indicus, was spotted on 7 January 2020 by Martin Kennewell. Other notable migrants included a Blyth’s Paradise Flycatcher, Terpsiphone affinis, on 17 January 2020 by Richard Davies, an Amur Paradise Flycatcher, Terpsiphone incei, on 18 January 2020 by Martin Kennewell, and a Sakhalin Leaf Warbler, Phylloscopus borealoides, on 24 January 2020 by YT Choong. Resident species spotted included a Chestnut-winged Babbler, Stachyris erythroptera, on 26 January 2020 by Marcel Finlay, a Chestnut-bellied Malkoha, Phaenicophaeus sumatranus, on 28 January 2020 by Oliver Tan, who also spotted three Red-crowned Barbets, Megalaima rafflesii, on the same day.

Two Black-crested Bulbul, Pycnonotus flaviventris, were reported on 16 January 2020 by Keita Sin who surmounted the steep incline that snaked its way up Bukit Timah Hill, while three Cream-vented Bulbul, Pycnonotus simplex, were spotted on 19 Jan 2020 along Rifle Range Link by Fadzrun A. .

Hindhede Park, which buffers the old growth Bukit Timah forest core, yielded a Rufous-bellied Hawk-Eagle, Lophotriorchis kienerii, and one Asian House Martin, Delichon dasypus, on 15 January 2020 by Martin Kennewell, who also saw an Asian House Martin again on 18 January 2020. The park also hosted a Hooded Pitta, Pitta sordida, which was reported on 26 January 2020 by Francis Yap, followed by two Red-legged Crakes, Rallina fasciata, on the same day by Geoff Lim, who noted that the crakes flushed the pitta from the undergrowth. On 28 January 2020, a Malayan Night Heron, Gorsachius melanolophus, in full adult regalia was spotted and reported by Leslie Loh, while a Violet Cuckoo, Chrysococcyx xanthorhynchus, was seen on 28 January 2020 by Lim Kim Chuah.

OHT, 100120, DFNP, Danny Khoo

Orange-headed Thrush at DFNP on 10 January 2020; photo taken by Danny Khoo.

Dairy Farm Nature Park, another excellent buffer park abutting the Bukit Timah forest core in the west, continued to yield exciting species, which included a Siberian Thrush, Geokichla sibirica, on 1 January 2020 by John Ascher, an Orange-headed Thrush, Geokichla citrina, on 10 January 2020 by Danny Khoo, a juvenile Jambu Fruit Dove, Ptilinopus jambu, 11 January 2020 by Gan Lee Hsia, a female Japanese Paradise Flycatcher, Terpsiphone atrocaudata, on 12 January 2020 by Jackie Yeo, a Grey Nightjar, Caprimulgus jotaka, on 21 January 2020 by Martin Kennewell, and a Blue-winged Leafbird, Chloropsis cochinchinensis, on 26 January 2020 by Karyne Wee.

Further afield at the Singapore Quarry, a Barred Eagle-Owl, Bubo sumatranus, and a Pacific Swift, Apus pacificus, were spotted on 23 January 2020 by Martin Kennewell.

Singapore Botanic Gardens (SBG)

The garden grounds received three White-rumped Munia, Lonchura striata, spotted on 16 Janaury 2020 by Dillen Ng, as well as two Asian Palm Swift, Cypsiurus balasiensis, seen on 24 January 2020 by Mike Hooper, as was a Black-crowned Night Heron, Nycticorax nycticorax, on 30 January 2020 by Samuel Ng.

Central Singapore

At Ang Mo Kio, a single Chinese Sparrowhawk, Accipiter soloensis, was reported on 25 January 2020 by Norhafiani A Majid, while a Chinese Hwamei, Garrulax canorus, a recent escapee, and a Yellow-rumped Flycatcher, Ficedula zanthopygia, were spotted at Toa Payoh Town Park on 30 January 2020 by Richard Davis.

Northern Singapore

The northern region yielded a rare Slaty-Legged Crake, Rallina eurizonoides, which was reported on 6 January 2020 at the HDB carpark at Block 305D, Punggol Road by Oliver Tan and Kwok Tuck Loong, and remained until 12 January 2020. On 8 January 2020, George Presanis and Geoff Lim noticed that the bird was actively foraging in a planter at the basement carpark from about 10:15pm to 11:10pm. At one stage, the crake managed to find an earthworm in the soil and tugged at it until the worm came free from the soil. (Note: the Slaty-legged Crake was first photographed at nearby Block 299 Punggol Central by Stephen Cheok, who posted his pic for ID on 30 December 2019).

Slaty-legged Crake, 100120, Punggol 305D, TGC

Slaty-legged Crake at Punggol on 11 January 2020, by Tan Gim Cheong

Between 5 and 14 January 2020, there were up to two Black-headed Gulls, Chroicocephalus ridibundus, at Yishun Dam, first spotted by Ng Wei Khim, followed by many other birders.

BH Gull, 110120, Seletar, Zacc HD

Black-headed Gull over Seletar Dam on 10 January 2020, photo by Zacc HD.

Other sightings included one White-shouldered Starling, Sturnia sinensis, at Seletar Aerospace Drive on 15 January 2020 by Wang Wee Woan, one Barred Buttonquail, Turnix suscitator, on 16 January 2020, at Picadilly by Martin Kennewell, and a potential national first White-cheeked Starling, Spodiopsar cineraceus, spotted on 16 January 2020 at Seletar Aerospace Drive by Martin Kennewell. The White-cheeked Starling was last seen on 24 January 2020 (Norhafiani A. Majid).

WCS, 240120, Seletar Aerospace, Norhafiani A Majid

A White-cheeked Starling at Seletar on 24 January 2020, photo by Norhafiani A Majid

A Mangrove Pitta, Pitta megarhyncha, was discovered at Woodlands Park on 24 January 2020 by  Loh Wei, Norhafiani A Majid and others, a first for the location. On 25 January 2020, Geoff Lim found it unresponsive and unmoving despite having passers-by barely 2 metres away. At one point in time, a White-breasted Waterhen, Amaurornis phoenicurus, rushed at the pitta, forcing it to hop about 10 metres from where it was first found. There, it remained quiet and closed its eyes for long periods of time. It was subsequently rescued by NParks, with assistance from Clarinda Yap, Vincent Lao and Kwok Tuck Loong, who stayed around to ensure that the rescuers could locate it. The bird subsequently died, possibly from swelling and possible internal bleeding.

MP, 250120, Woodlands, Geoff Lim

Mangrove Pitta found at Woodlands Park on 25 January 2020, photo by Geoff Lim

Eastern Singapore

Visitors to Pulau Ubin reported spotting one Curlew Sandpiper, Calidris ferruginea, on 11 January 2020 by Martin Kennewell, a Crested Serpent Eagle, Spilornis cheela, on 19 January 2020, by Vicki Stokes, two White-rumped Shama, Copsychus malabaricus, along with 45 Grey Plover, Pluvialis squatarola, one Lesser Sand Plover, Charadrius mongolus, three Bar-tailed Godwit, Limosa lapponica, two Red-necked Stint, Calidris ruficollis, and 23 Greater Crested Tern, Thalasseus bergii, reported on 23 January 2020 by Oliver Tan, as well as one Chestnut-Winged Cuckoo, Clamator coromandus, spotted on 27 January 2020, by Hannu Kemola.

Other birds spotted in the east included the report of one Booted Eagle, Hieraaetus pennatus, on 7 January 2020 at Pasir Ris Park by Oliver Tan, three Jerdons Baza, Aviceda jerdoni, on 11 January 2020 at Coney Island by Ng Wei Khim, a Cinnamon-headed Green Pigeon, Treron fulvicollis, on 27 January 2020 at the broadwalk in Pasir Ris Park by Serin, two Yellow-browed Warbler, Phylloscopus inornatus, on 29 January 2020 at Changi Business Park by Oliver Tan, and an Indian Cuckoo, Cuculus micropterus, on 31 January 2020 by Peter Bijlmakers.

Southern Singapore

Nest building by White-Rumped Munia, Lonchura striata, on New Year’s Day was reported at Telok Blangah Heights by Vincent Chiang, while a Grey-faced Buzzard, Butastur indicus, was spotted on 3 January 2020 on St John Island by Dillen Ng. On 8 January 2020, about 150 Oriental Pratincole, Glareola maldivarum, were spotted overflying Ayer Rajah by Lillian Sng, while a Brown-backed Needletail, Hirundapus giganteus, was seen on 9 January 2020 from atop Pinnacle@ Duxton by Oliver Tan.

A female Daurian Redstart, Phoenicurus auroreus, the second record for the season, was reported on 14 and 15 January 2020 at Tanjong Rhu by Manju Gang, while two Asian Fairy-bluebird, Irena puella, were reported on 11 January 2020 at Hort Park by Millie Cher. Previously restricted to the central forests, the Asian Fairy Bluebird may be using park connectors or other patches of greenery to slowly disperse from the central forests.

Daurian Redstart, 140120, Tg Rhu condo, Manju Gang

Female Daurian Redstart spotted on 14 January 2020 at Tanjong Rhu by Manju Gang

Western Singapore

The marshes and fields around Kranji Marsh proved to be a fruitful venue for birding. The turn of the new year and the ensuing days saw reports of a Baillons Crake, Porzana pusilla, on 1 January 2020, a King Quail, Excalfactoria chinensis, and a White-browed Crake, Porzana cinerea, on 4 January 2020, and two Common Moorhen, Gallinula chloropus, on 12 January 2020 at Kranji Marsh by Martin Kennewell. This was followed by the sighting of two Asian Pied Starling, Gracupica contra, a Cat E-Introduced species, on 19 January 2020 by Martin Kennewell, and a Watercock, Gallicrex cinerea, on 26 Janaury 2020 by Peng Ah Huay.

RT Pipit, 150120, NTHL, Luke Milo Teo

A Red-throated Pipit spotted at Neo Tiew on 15 January 2020 by Luke Teo.

The fields encompassed by Neo Tiew Harvest Lane yielded a Red-Throated Pipit, Anthus cervinus, which was seen on 7 January 2020 by CL Lau, while a Lanceolated Warbler, Locustella lanceolata, was spotted on 11 January 2020 by Raghav Narayanswamy, who also spotted an Eastern Marsh Harrier, Circus spilonotus, several days later on 19 January 2020. On 20 January 2020, a Savanna Nightjar, Caprimulgus affinis, was seen by Peter Bijlmakers, while two Oriental Pratincole, Glareola maldivarum, were spotted on 22 January 2020 by Choong YT, while a Stejnegers Stonechat, Saxicola stejnegeri, was seen on 28 January 2020 by Lu Kiat.

A distance away, birders at Lim Chu Kang Lane 3 spotted various species, including a Common Snipe, Gallinago gallinago, and a Swinhoes Snipe, Gallinago megala, on 18 January 2020 by Dillen Ng, while a very rare Green Sandpiper, Tringa ochropus, was photographed on 18 January 2020 by Fadzrun Adnan, and recorded again on 19 & 20 January 2020 by other birders; upon checking his photos, Art Toh realised that he had unknowingly photographed the Green Sandpiper on 11 January 2020. Visitors seeking out the Green Sandpiper also saw a Greater Coucal, Centropus sinensis, on 22 January 2020, and a Barred Buttonquail, Turnix suscitator, on 23 January 2020, both spotted by Luke Teo.

Green Sandpiper, 110120, LCK3, Art Toh

Green Sandpiper at Lim Chua Kang Avenue 3 on 11 January 2020 by Art Toh.

Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve (SBWR) yielded a Von Schrenck’s Bittern, Ixobrychus eurhythmus, on 11 January 2020 (Adrian Silas Tay), which stayed through the Chinese New Year holidays and was last reported on 30 January 2020 (John Spiler). The reserve also held a Black-capped Kingfisher, Halcyon pileata, on 14 Jan 2020 by Richard Lim, five Lesser Adjutants, Leptoptilos javanicus, on 22 January 2020 (Hannu Klemola), a Thick-billed Green Pigeon, Treron curvirostra, and a White-headed Munia, Lonchura maja, on 25 January 2020 (Fadzrun A), another Lesser Adjutant on 26 January 2020 (Geri Lim), and a Blue-winged Pitta, Pitta moluccensis, on 27 January 2020 (Mike Hooper). Shorebirds reported included one Terek Sandpiper, Xenus cinereus, spotted on 14 Jan 2020 (Martin Kennewell), thirty Pacific Golden Plover, Pluvialis fulva, on 27 January 2020 (Mike Hooper) and one Common Greenshank, Tringa nebularia, on 28 January 2020 by YK Han.

Schrenck's Bittern, 250120, SBWR, Geoff Lim

Von Schrenck’s Bittern at SBWR on 25 January 2020 by Geoff Lim.

Other notable sightings in the west included a Watercock, Gallicrex cinerea, on 22 January 2020 by Kaikee Leong at Jurong Lake Gardens, a male Daurian Redstart, Phoenicurus auroreus, at U-Town, Kent Ridge on 29 January 2020 by Lynette Chia, two White-shouldered Starling, Sturnia sinensis, by Oliver Tan, a Dark-sided Flycatcher, Muscicapa sibirica, by Choong YT, both on 30 January 2020 at Jurong Lake Gardens.

CCNR: Central Catchment Nature Reserve
SBWR: Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve

This report is compiled and by written by Geoff Lim and edited by Tan Gim Cheong. We are grateful for the birders and photographers whose postings in various Facebook birding pages, bird forums, and 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 Art Toh, Danny Khoo, Zacc HD, Gan Lee Hsia, Tan Chuan Yean, Manju Gang, Luke Teo, T. Ramesh, Norhafiani A. Majid and Geoff Lim for allowing us to use their photographs.

Motacilla alba alba: A new subspecies of White Wagtail for Singapore?

Motacilla alba alba: A new subspecies of White Wagtail for Singapore?

By Alfred Chia.

I write further on my recent note on 10 February in the “Singapore Birders” FB group of a White Wagtail Motacilla alba of subspecies alba occurring in Singapore. The bird was seen & photographed by Lee Van Hien on 9 February at Neo Tiew Harvest Link. This subspecies is new to Singapore. Currently, we have three subspecies: the commoner leucopsis, followed by ocularis and the rarer lugens.

There has been suggestions that this is not an alba but a baicalensis subspecies instead.


Baicalensis was suggested because “the wing panel doesn’t have to be completely white early in the season  and the two white wing bars usually show as a starting point” while “the shape of the bib leaves no doubt, especially the two lateral extensions”. This subspecies “would also not be unexpected” (in terms of range).


Allow me to clarify and justify why this is an alba and not a baicalensis.

  1. Alba is a known migratory race. The features of the wagtail that was seen & photographed fits a male summer adult alba: i) the large black gorget extending all the way to the upper throat (perhaps the primary diagnostic feature to differentiate between an alba & baicalensis) and neck-sides, including the lateral extension ii) two prominent white wing bars formed by the white edges to the median & greater coverts (contra “starting point” towards a “white wing panel”) iii) the black centres on the greater coverts iv) the “clean” white face and grey upperparts etc.
  2. Baicalensis, in all plumages do NOT have a black upper throat but a white upper & central throat instead. Searches through Macaulay Library and the Internet reveal all baicalensis with white upper throat. This salient feature was unfortunately overlooked when suggesting the bird as a baicalensis.image3
  1. Intergradation in its breeding range exist between alba and baicalensis, alba and ocularis and between alba and personata but there is no evidence as yet that such intergrades (especially with baicalensis) result in a black upper throat. Indeed, Alstrom & Mild (2003) indicated several times in the monograph that baicalensis can be separated from alba by its white upper throat.
  2. On current knowledge, the nearest wintering range of alba is in the Indian subcontinent. It would thus be a very long-distance vagrant for an alba to be found in Singapore. However, such long-distance vagrancy cannot be ruled out entirely. Recent years’ long-distance vagrancies resulting in new country records should be noted. Singapore’s Booted Warbler Iduna caligata in December of 2017 and West Malaysia’s most recent discovery of same warbler species in February 2020 are cases in point. Co-incidentally, Booted Warbler’s hitherto wintering range was also in the Indian subcontinent!


In summary, perhaps the most important reason for an alba is the overwhelming features this bird has that distinguishes it as an alba. It is identifiable and should not be treated as an unidentified taxa. Baicalensis can be ruled out because they do not have a black upper throat in all plumages.



Thanks to Lee Van Hien for sharing his sighting and allowing the use of his photographs.


Alstrom, P., Mild, K. & Zetterstrom, B. (2003) Pipits & Wagtails of Europe, Asia and North America. London: Christopher Helm.

Kennewell, M. (11 February 2020) Facebook “Global Rare Bird Alert”.

Rasmussen, P.C. & Anderton, J.C. (2005) Birds of South Asia: The Ripley Guide. Vols 1 and 2. Smithsonian Institution and Lynx Edicions, Washington, D.C. and Barcelona.

Robson, C. (2000) A field guide to the birds of South-east Asia. London: New Holland.

Note: This record of White Wagtail Motacilla alba alba is pending acceptance by the Records Committee.



Singapore Bird Report – November 2019

By Geoff Lim, Alan Owyong (compiler), Tan Gim Cheong (ed.).

November was spectacular, with the first record of two species – the Fairy Pitta and Shikra at the Central Catchment Nature Reserve; an Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher (the locally extinct rufous-backed subspecies), found inside a camera shop in the city; and, a rare Red-footed Booby at St John’s Island. Also, it was and has always been a great month to spot migrating raptors in southern Singapore.

A Fairy’s Visitation in November

1 FP, 081119, CCNR, Fryap

The first Fairy Pitta discovered in Singapore on 8 Nov 2019 – photo by Francis Yap.

On 8 November 2019, Francis Yap and Richard White were en route to Jelutong Tower, when the duo spotted a paler than usual pitta along the trail under the darkening morning sky as a storm threatened from Sumatra. When Francis managed to regain phone reception and were able to refer to other photos on the internet, the two confirmed that they had Singapore’s first record of the Fairy Pitta, Pitta nympha. Francis’ electrifying account can be accessed here. The Fairy Pitta stopped over for a week, with daily records from 8-13 November 2019.

The Fairy Pitta has been recognised as part of a superspecies comprising the Blue-winged Pitta, P. moluccensis, Mangrove Pitta, P. megarhyncha, and Indian Pitta, P. brachyura (Lambert & Woodcock, 1996:162), hence the superficial resemblance with one another. BirdLife has classified the species as Vulnerable, with key threats being habitat loss and conversion, as well as local trapping pressure (BirdLife, 2019). The pitta breeds in coastal eastern China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan, and migrates to Borneo, and possibly Indochina, during the northern winter (Lambert & Woodcock, 1996:163). The species is known as a long-distance migrant; however, its movement is still not well understood.

Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR) and Fringe Parks

Souls who braved the relative steep inclines of our modest Bukit Timah Hill were rewarded with sightings of our resident fruit pigeons and doves, needletails and raptors. Visitors on 1 November 2019 noted the presence of five Thick-billed Green Pigeon, Treron curvirostra and two Jambu Fruit Dove, Ptilinopus jambu, both by Choong YT, as well as a Zappey’s or Blue-and-white Flycatcher, Cyanoptila cumatilis/cyanomelana, spotted by Richard White at the summit.

A week later, four White-throated Needletail, Hirundapus caudacutus, and one Silver-backed Needletail, Hirundapus cochinchinensis, were seen on 7 November 2019 by Fadzrun Adnan, the summit being a known site for needletail sightings. Subsequently, two Booted Eagle, Hieraaetus pennatus, were seen on 10 November 2019 by Martin Kennewell, while an immature Rufous-bellied Hawk-Eagle, Lophotriorchis kienerii, was seen on 14 November 2019 by Alfred Chia. Another sighting of the Rufous-bellied Hawk-Eagle flying towards the summit on 30 November 2019 by Francis Yap probably relate to the same individual.

On the foothills, at Hindhede Nature Park, a Malayan Night Heron, Gorsachius melanolophus, in full adult splendour was spotted on 18 November 2019 by Richard White, and the bird was spotted again on 30 November 2019 by Felix Wong.

2 RBE, 301119, BT, Fryap, crop

Rufous-bellied Hawk-Eagle at Bukit Timah on 30 November 2019 by Francis Yap

The core CCNR area continued to yield good sightings. On 1 November 2019, a White-throated Needletail, Hirundapus caudacutus, was spotted flying southwards from Jelutong Tower by Francis Yap, who also spotted three Ashy Minivet, Pericrocotus divaricatus. Apart from the spectacular discovery of the Fairy Pitta, Pitta nympha, by Richard White and Francis Yap on 8 November 2019 as narrated above, a Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher, Cyornis brunneatus, was also spotted on the same day by Nicholas Lim along Rifle Range Link. Fairy Pitta hunters the following week stumbled on an Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher, Ceyx erithaca, (black-backed subspecies) on 9 November 2019 (Norhafiani Majid), while visitors to other parts of the CCNR reported a Drongo Cuckoo, Surniculus lugubris, on 10 November 2019 at Sime Road (Felix Wong) and a Blue-eared Kingfisher, Alcedo meninting, on 11 November 2019 (Adrian Tay). On 21 November 2019, the first Singapore record of the Shikra, Accipiter badius, was made by Alex Fok, who photographed the bird from his vantage point at Jelutong Tower.

Several days later on 25 November 2019, a Malayan Night Heron, Gorsachius melanolophus, was flushed at Rifle Range Link behind the fenceline within a protected area next to the main track (Oliver Tan), while Asian Palm Swift, Cypsiurus balasiensis, were seen flying over the MacRitchie Reservoir. Further afield, a male Japanese Paradise Flycatcher, Terpsiphone atrocaudata, was spotted on 2 November 2019 at Thomson Nature Park by Andrew Wood, while a Black-capped Kingfisher, Halcyon pileata, was seen on 16 November 2019 at Lower Peirce Reservoir Park by Stephen Matthews.

Farther west, at the fringe parks comprising Singapore Quarry-Dairy Farm Nature Park, a Besra, Accipiter virgatus, was photographed on 3 November 2019 by Keita Sin & Dillen Ng. A few days later on 6 November 2019 at the quarry, a single  Brown-backed Needletail, Hirundapus giganteus, was seen by Martin Kennewell. A  Cinereous Bulbul, Hemixos cinereus, was seen by Richard White on 10 November 2019 at Dairy Farm Nature Park, while a small flock of four birds was spotted at the park on 14 November 2019 by Martin Kennewell. One day later on 15 November 2019, a female Greater Green Leafbird, Chloropsis sonnerati, an IUCN red-listed and endangered species, was spotted by Mike Hooper. The Barred Eagle-Owl, Bubo sumatranus, continued to make a regular appearance, with a report of one bird being made on 29 November 2019 by Chelsea Lee.

Singapore Botanic Gardens

On 1 November 2019, a Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher, Cyornis brunneatus, was spotted within the garden by Tomohiro Iuchi, while a single Blue-winged Pitta, Pitta moluccensis, was spotted on 2 November 2019 by Kwok Tuck Loong and Geoff Lim. On the same day, a  Ferruginous Flycatcher, Muscicapa ferruginea, was spotted within the garden grounds by Kwong Yew. Two days later on 4 November 2019, a Greater Spotted Eagle, Clanga clanga, was spotted by Christi Kemmel, while on 12 November 2019, a male Daurian Redstart, Phoenicurus auroreus, was spotted by photographer Dennis Lim. Birders arriving to confirm the redstart’s presence discovered an adult Malayan Night Heron, Gorsachius melanolophus, on 13 November 2019 (Martin Kennewell), as well as a female Japanese Paradise Flycatcher, Terpsiphone atrocaudata, on 14 November 2019 (Francis Yap).

3 DR, 161119, SBG, DF

Daurian Redstart at the Singapore Botanic Gardens on 16 November 2019 by Dorcas Fong.

Other noticeable sightings included a flock of several Common Hill Myna, Gracula religiosa, on 16 November 2019, a Booted Eagle, Hieraaetus pennatus, on 21 November 2019, which was harassed by a Brahminy Kite, Haliastur indus (Oliver Tan), and a Jerdon’s Baza, Aviceda jerdoni, on 23 November 2019 by Peng Ah Huay.

4 JB, 231119, SBG, MY

Jerdon’s Baza at Singapore Botanic Gardens on 24 November 2019 by Angela Yeo

Central Singapore

The fragmented woods of Bidadari continued to attract important bird species such as the globally vulnerable Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher, Cyornis brunneatus, spotted on 3 November 2019 by Norhafiani Majid, an Indian Cuckoo, Cuculus micropterus, on the same day by T. Ramesh, a very skittish Large Hawk-Cuckoo, Hierococcyx sparverioides, on 5 November 2019 by Kelvin Ng Cheng Kwan, who also spotted the first-of-the-season Grey Nightjar, Caprimulgus jotaka.

5 Zappey, 101119, Bida, Isabelle Lee

Adult male Zappey’s Flycatcher taken on 10 November 2019 by Isabelle Lee

A full adult male Zappey’s Flycatcher, Cyanoptila cumatilis, appeared on 10 November 2019 and was reported by Krishna Gopagondanahalli, while a first winter male Zappey’s / Blue-and-white Flycatcher, Cyanoptila sp., was sighted by Yang Chee Meng on 11 November 2019. Several days later, a Japanese Paradise Flycatcher, Terpsiphone atrocaudata, was reported on 16 November 2019 by Chan Kumchun, while a first winter male Siberian Thrush, Geokichla sibirica, was spotted on 21 November 2019 by Alan Owyong.

6 Z or BNWFC, 151119, Bida, Art Toh, crop

First winter male Zappey’s or Blue-and-White Flycatcher on 15 November 2019 by Art Toh

Further afield came the surprising report of a Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher, Ceyx erithaca, (the locally extinct rufous-backed subspecies), found on 6 November 2019 inside Peninsula Plaza by the staff of Cathay Photo; while a less happy news of a building strike casualty in the form of a female Thick-billed Green Pigeon, Treron curvirostra, was reported on 25 November 2019 by Shiva at Hotel V, Lavender.

7 ST, 211119, Bida, AOY

Siberian Thrush at Bidadari on 21 November 2019 by Alan Owyong

Northern Singapore

Eight first-of-the-season White-Shouldered Starling, Sturnia sinensis, were reported on 1 November 2019 at Lorong Halus by Lim Kim Keang. Further away at Canberra Street, a fledgling Long-tailed Shrike, Lanius schach, was seen on 22 November 2019  by Desmond Yap.

Eastern Singapore

The woods along a large canal at Changi Business Park has proven to be a good birding spot, as a Ruddy Kingfisher Halcyon coromanda, was seen on 1 November 2019 by Tan Eng Boo, while four Green Imperial Pigeon, Ducula aenea, were seen on 6 November 2019 by Mike Hooper, and a Jerdon’s Baza, Aviceda jerdoni, was spotted on 21 November 2019 by Steven Cheong, and on 25 November 2019 by Mike Hooper.

Pasir Ris Park yielded a migrating Hodgson’s Hawk-Cuckoo, Hierococcyx nisicolor, on 5 November 2019 by Alvin Seng, a Crested Serpent Eagle, Spilornis cheela, on 19 November 2019 by Tan Yes Chong, and a report of a first winter male Zappey’s / Blue-and-white Flycatcher, Cyanoptila sp, on 23 November 2019 by Wong Sangmen. Over at Pulau Ubin, we received a report of a flying Crested Serpent Eagle, Spilornis cheela, on 24 November 2019.

8 HHC, 051119, PRP, AS

Hodgson’s Hawk-Cuckoo spotted on 5 November 2019 at Pasir Ris Park by Alvin Seng

Southern Singapore

With migration progressing in earnest in November, migrant watchers congregated along the Henderson Waves were rewarded by sightings of a wide variety of birds. On 1 November 2019, a Jerdon’s Baza, Aviceda jerdoni, constituted a new arrival date, thirty-seven first-of-the-season Black Baza, Aviceda leuphotes, arrived in four kettles, as did nine Crested Honey Buzzard, Pernis ptilorhynchus, and a single Chinese Sparrowhawk, Accipiter soloensis; as reported by Oliver Tan. The next day, 2 November 2019, yielded a south-flying Greater Spotted Eagle, Clanga clanga, by Francis Yap, a Booted Eagle, Hieraaetus pennatus, by Sandra Chia, a Grey-faced Buzzard, Butastur indicus, by Oliver Tan, who also spotted a Cinereous Bulbul, Hemixos cinereus.

On 3 November 2019, a Grey-faced Buzzard was seen by Oliver Tan. A Pied Harrier, Circus melanoleucos, was seen shortly after twelve noon on 4 November 2019, by Francis Yap, while seventy nine Crested Honey Buzzard were spotted flying at varying intervals on 7 November 2019 by Low Choon How, with the peak occurring around 10:53am (24 birds) and 11:03am (23 birds); Choon How also reported the sighting of four Grey-faced Buzzard.  A first-of-the-season Black Kite, Milvus migrans, was also spotted on the same day by Zacc HD.

9 PH, 041119, HW, Fryap

Pied Harrier taken from Henderson Waves on 4 November 2019 by Francis Yap

On 9 November 2019, a Greater Spotted Eagle, Clanga clanga, and a Common Buzzard, Buteo buteo, were seen by Martin Kennewell. An Asian House Martin, Delichon dasypus, was seen on 11 November 2019 by Keita Sin, who also saw a White-throated Needletail, Hirundapus caudacutus, on 14 November 2019, which constituted the tenth record of the bird for 2019, and a Brown-backed Needletail, Hirundapus giganteus, on the same day. The next day, on 16 November 2019, a single Chestnut-cheeked Starling, Agropsar philippensis, was photographed among fifteen Daurian Starling by See Toh Yew Wai.

The Telok Blangah park area, where most birders would park or pass by on their way to the Henderson Waves, also yielded several species. These included a Mugimaki Flycatcher, Ficedula mugimaki, spotted on 11 Nov 19 by Tan Eng Boo, a Zappey’s / Blue-and-white Flycatcher, Cyanoptila sp., on 16 November 2019 by Herman Phua, a Siberian Thrush, Geokichla sibirica, on 21 Nov 19 by Dean Tan.

10 Z or BNWFC, 161119, TBHP, Herman

Female Zappey’s / Blue-and-White Flycatcher taken on 16 November 2019 by Herman Phua

Further south, Kent Ridge Park yielded two Greater Spotted Eagle, Clanga clanga, on 6 November 2019 by Choong YT, ten Asian Palm Swift, Cypsiurus balasiensis, and a Common Buzzard, Buteo buteo, on 7 November 2019 by Alan Owyong, and two high flying Oriental Darter, Anhinga melanogaster, on 24 November 2019 by Raghav Narayanswamy.

Over at Satay-by-the-Bay, a Blue-eared Kingfisher, Alcedo meninting, was spotted on 4 November 2019 by Choong YT, while a Jerdon’s Baza, Aviceda jerdoni, was seen on 8 November 19, at Gardens-by-the-Bay by Steven Ang. On 30 November 2019, there was an amazing report of an immature Red-footed Booby, Sula sula, photographed on St. John’s Island, by Chua Yingzhi.

Red-footed Booby, 311119, St John, Chua Ying Zhi

Red-footed Booby, at St John’s Island on 30 November 2019, by Chua YingZhi

Western Singapore

At Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve (SBWR), a Black-tailed Godwit, Limosa limosa, was seen on 2 November 2019 by Andy Dinesh, who observed that the bird fed continuously for 2-3 hours. The next day on 3 November 2019, a Greater Spotted Eagle, Clanga clanga, was reported by Bryan Lim, while three days later on 6 November 2019, an Oriental Darter, Anhinga melanogaster, was spotted by Jimmy Wong. Towards the end of the month, on 23 November 2019, birders at SBWR thought they might have had four Eurasian Curlews, but they turned out to be Whimbrels, Numenius phaeopus, a common winter visitor, of which 35 were recorded by Alastair Newton.

11, BTGW021119, SBWR, Ramesh

Black-tailed Godwit on 2 November 2019 at SBWR by T. Ramesh

Birders visiting the area around the Kranji Marshes (KM) noted a pale morph Greater Spotted Eagle, Clanga clanga, on 3 November 2019 along Neo Tiew Harvest Link (Zacc HD), a White Wagtail, Motacilla alba, at Lim Chu Kang Avenue 3 on 10 November 2019 (Veronica Foo), as well as a Grey-headed Lapwing, Vanellus cinereus, on 16 November 2019 along Turut Track (Sandra Chia).

12 GHLW, 161119, TT, Sandra Chia

Grey-headed Lapwing at Turut Track on 16 November 2019 by Sandra Chia

The adventurous ones visiting Tuas were ambly rewarded. Birds seen on 2 November 2019 includewd a Von Schrenck’s Bittern, Ixobrychus eurhythmus, one Black Bittern, Dupetor flavicollis,  one Greater Spotted Eagle, Clanga clanga, Large Hawk-Cuckoo, Hierococcyx sparverioides, and Hodgson’s Hawk-Cuckoo, Hierococcyx nisicolor (Martin Kennewell), a Grey-faced Buzzard, Butastur indicus (Low Choon How), Indian Cuckoo, Cuculus micropterus, and Himalayan Cuckoo, Cuculus saturatus (Jerold Tan). The next day, on 3 November 2019, yielded a Jambu Fruit Dove, Ptilinopus jambu, (Art Toh), and a Blue Rock Thrush, Monticola soltarius, (Jerold Tan), while  5 November 2019 yielded two Barred Buttonquail, Turnix suscitator (Martin Kennewell), and a Northern Boobook, Ninox japonica, (Yong Ding Li). On 16 November 2019, a female House Sparrow, Passer domesticus, was spotted by Richard White, while an Asian House Martin, Delichon dasypus, was seen on 23 November 2019 by Choong YT. A Common Kestrel, Falco tinnunculus, was subsequently seen on 30 November 2019, hovering over the grasslands by Gahyathree Arasu.

13, HS, 191119, Tuas, Zacc, crop

House Sparrow (left ) with Eurasian Tree Sparrows at Tuas on 19 November 2019 by Zacc HD

Mai Rong Wen (麥榮文)photographed a big flock of Daurian Starlings at Pandan River on 1 November 2019, and Kim Chuah, amazingly, noticed a single Chestnut-cheeked Starling, Agropsar philippensis, among the mass of flying birds. Birders trawling the Pandan Canal reported seeing a Yellow-browed Warbler, Phylloscopus inornatus, on 2 November 2019 (Martin Kennewell), a Greater Spotted Eagle, Clanga clanga, on 3 November 2019 (Francis Yap), and a Short-toed Snake Eagle, Circaetus gallicus, on 6 November 2019 (Pary Sivaraman). The Rufous-bellied Hawk-Eagle, Lophotriorchis kienerii, recorded on 9 November 2019 by Krishna Deepak RNV appeared to be the same individual seen in the Bukit Timah Area.

A variety of species encountered in other parts of Western Singapore included three Ashy Minivet, Pericrocotus divaricatus, on 1 November 2019 at Jurong Lake Gardens (Oliver Tan), a Black Bittern, Dupetor flavicollis, near Dunearn Road on 2 November 2019 (Yeo Seng Beng), seven hundred and eighty seven roosting Blue-throated Bee-Eater, Merops viridis, on 7 November 2019 at Eng Kong Place (Richard White), a dead Chestnut-winged Cuckoo, Clamator coromandus, on 19 November 2019 at Upper Bukit Timah Road (Francis Loke), and a Brown-backed Needletail, Hirundapus giganteus, on 23 November 2019 (Mike Hooper).


This report is written by Geoff Lim, compiled by Alan OwYong & Geoff Lim, 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 Art Toh, Angela Yeo, Alan Owyong, Alvin Seng, Dorcas Fong, Francis Yap, Isabelle Lee, Herman Phua, T. Ramesh, Sandra Chia, and Zacc HD for allowing us to use their photographs.


BirdLife International 2017. Pitta nympha (amended version of 2016 assessment). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2017: e.T22698684A116880779. Downloaded on 23 December 2019.

Lambert, F. and Woodcock, M. (1996). Pittas, Broadbills and Asities. London: Pica Press.