Category Archives: Singapore Avifauna

Records Committee Report 2022

Records Committee Report 2022

By Lim Kim Seng

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

Cinereous Vulture Aegypius monachus at Singapore Botanic Gardens, 29 Dec 2021. Photo by Justin Jing Liang.

The Nature Society (Singapore) Bird Group Records Committee continues to receive records of new bird species to the Singapore List and rarities as it has done every year since the early 1980s. 2021 was an exceptional year with 12 new species in Category A alone being added to the List. This report updates the findings for the period, January 2021 – January 2022.

New Species

Seventeen new bird species were added to the Singapore List, bringing the total number of species to 421, up from 407 in 2021 (Lim 2021). These included thirteen additions to Category A, three additions in Category C and one addition in Category D.

Category A: Species which have been recorded in an apparently wild state in Singapore within the last thirty years

Javan Plover Charadrius javanicus

Two birds photographed on 16 July 2021 at Pulau Tekong by Frankie Cheong were the first record for Singapore and mainland Southeast Asia. Prior to this record, the Javan Plover was recorded from South Sumatra, Java east to the Lesser Sundas. In addition, examination of photos taken in June at the same site revealed three birds including a juvenile. This indicates probable breeding in Singapore or somewhere nearby. One individual was still present at the site on 15 September. Amazingly, another individual was also seen at the Marina East breakwater on 17 December 2021 by Pary Sivaraman, the second record for Singapore and the first from the Singapore mainland. 

Javan Plower, Charadrius javanicus at Pulau Tekomg on 16 July 2021. Photo by Frankie Cheong.

Wedge-tailed Shearwater Ardenna pacifica

One individual was seen found by a resident of the estate around Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park on 23 June 2021. He brought it to the park seeking help for the weakened bird since there were bird photographers present according to William Khaw who photographed it. The bird was eventually rescued by ACRES but did not survive. This is the first confirmed record of the Wedge-tailed Shearwater for Singapore. It ranges widely in the tropical waters of the Pacific and Indian Oceans, and breeds on small tropical islands from hose off Japan to waters off Eastern and Western Australia. Two subspecies are known: A.p. pacifica and A. p. chlororhyncha.

Wedge-tailed Shearwater Ardenna pacifica at BAMK Park on 23 June 2021. Photo by William Khaw.

Christmas Frigatebird Fregata andrewsi

Previously in Category B. An immature bird photographed at Marina East breakwaters by Evelyn Lee on 26 January 2022 reinstates this species in Category A. The Christmas Frigatebird breeds only on Christmas Island but ranges widely in the Indo-Malay Archipelago during the non-breeding season.

Christmas Frigatebird Fregata andrewsi over Marine East on 26 Jan 2022. Photo by Evelyn Lee.

Cinereous Vulture Aegypius monachus

One with five Himalayan Vultures Gyps himalayensis at the Learning Forest, Singapore Botanic Gardens, on 29 December 2021 first spotted by Justin Jing Liang and Cecilia Yip and shortly after by Yip Jen Wei and Martin Kennewell was a first record for Singapore. The Cinereous Vulture breeds in western and south-eastern Europe, Algeria, the Middle East, Himalayas east to central Asia. 

Cinereous Vulture Aegypius monachus at Singapore Botanic Gardens on 30 Dec 2021. Photo by Vincent Yip.

Long-eared Owl Asio otus

An individual photographed being pestered by House Crows at Marina East Drive on 20 November 2021 by Choo Shiu Ling was our first record for Singapore. The Long-eared Owl has a wide distribution occurring in North America, Europe, Eurasia and Far Eastern Asia south to Northern Indian Subcontinent.  Four subspecies are known.

Long-eared Owl Asio Otus at Marine East on 20 Nov 2021. Photo by Choo Shiu Ling.

Black-thighed Falconet Microhierax fringillarius

Previously in Category B. Three records, all in 2021: A juvenile seen and photographed at a HDB block along Yishun Street 71 on 12 February 2021 by Lee Lay Na, an adult from Goldhill Avenue on 20 May 2021 by Art Toh and another adult at Jalan Mashhor from 9 to 12 July 2021 by Art Toh, Tan Choon Siang and Vincent Lao (Lim 2021b). The Black-thighed Falconet is resident in the Thai-Maly Peninsula, Sumatra, Borneo and Java. 

Black-thighed Falconet Microhierax fringillarius at Goldhill Ave on 20 May 2021. Photo by Art Toh.

Malayan Black Magpie Platysmurus leucopterus

Previously in Category B. One seen at Hindhede Quarry on 9 June 2021 by Vinod Saranathan, Kenneth Chow and Ash Foo was the first confirmed record since the 1950s. The Malayan Black Magpie is a forest resident of the Thai-Malay Peninsula and Sumatra. It was previously considered conspecific with Bornean Black Magpie, P. aterrimus

Malayan Black Magpie Platysmurus leucopterus at Hindhede Quarry on 9 June 2021. Photo by Kenneth Chow.

Siberian House Martin Riparia lagopodum

One seen at Neo Tiew Harvest Lane on 3 January 2021 by Mike Hooper and another at Marina East Drive on 28 December 2021 by Oliver Tan were the first records for the country. The Siberian House Martin breeds in north-eastern Russia, Mongolia and northern China and winters in Myanmar and Indochina. It was previously considered conspecific with Common House Martin, R. riparia.

Siberian House Martin Riparia lagopodum over Harvest Lane on 3 Jan 2021. Photo by Oliver Tan.

Pale-legged Leaf-warbler Phylloscopus tenellipes

An individual seen, sound recorded and photographed at Petai Trail, Central Catchment Nature Reserve, between 12 and 27 November 2021 by Yong Ding Li, Sreekar Rachakonda, T Ramesh, Tan Gim Cheong and Tan Kok Hui was the first acceptable record for Singapore. A sonogram is needed to distinguish this species from the near-identical Sakhalin Leaf Warbler, P. borealoides. The Pale-legged Leaf-warbler breeds in Manchuria and winters in Southeast Asia.

Pale-legged Leaf-warbler Phylloscopus tenellipes at Petai Trail CCNR on 25 Nov 2021. Photo by Tan Gim Cheong.

Common Starling Sturnus vulgaris

An adult seen at Marina East Drive on 13 December 2021 by Gabriel Koh and subsequently by many other observers was the first record for Singapore. It breeds in Europe and the Palearctic eastwards to Mongolia. Northern populations are migratory and winters south to Spain and Africa. It has also been introduced to Australia, New Zealand, North America, Mexico, Argentina, South Africa and Fiji. 12 subspecies have been described.

Common Starling Sturnus vulgaris at Marine East on 13 Dec 2021. Photo by Jenny Koh.

Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata

One photographed at Kent Ridge Park on 15 October 2021 by Alex Kang was the first record for Singapore. It breeds most of Europe and the Palearctic and winters in Africa and south-western Asia. Five subspecies are known.

Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata at Kent Ridge Park on 15 Oct 2021. Photo by Alex Kang.

Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochrorus

One female seen at Springwood Walk on 28 November 2021 by Ian Cash was initially identified as a Daurian Redstart. It was seen again 6 December 2021 by Art Toh who correctly identified it as a Black Redstart. This is a widespread breeder in Europe, Asia and northern Africa. Northern populations are migratory and winter in southern and western Europe and Asia, and north-west Africa, south to Morocco and east to central China. Between five and seven subspecies are known to exist.

Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochrorus at Springwood Walk on 6 Dec 2021. Photo by Art Toh.

Tree Pipit Anthus trivalis

One seen at the Ulu Pandan Park Connector (beside Clementi Road) on 23 October 2021 by Soo Kok Choong was our first record for Singapore. The Tree Pipit occurs through most of Europe and the Palearctic and migrates south to winter in Africa and Southern Asia. Two subspecies are known: A.t. trivialis and A.t. haringtoni

Tree Pipit Anthus trivalis at Ulu Pandan PC, besides Clementi Road, on 23 Oct 2021. Photo by Soo Kok Choong.

Category C: Species which although introduced by man have now established a regular breeding population which may or may not be self-sustaining

The following species have been accepted as new entrants in Category C: 

Masked Lapwing Vanellus miles

Previously in Category E (Lim 2009). A polytypic species ranging New Guinea, Australia and New Zealand, the Masked Lapwing was first recorded in Singapore when four birds were sighted at Lower Peirce Reservoir on 3-9 September 1994 (Lim 2009). They were believed to be escapees from the nearby Zoo. Subsequently, there were reports from other parts of the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, Kranji Reservoir, Lower Seletar Reservoir, Seletar Country Club, Tanah Merah and Marina East. The first breeding record was from Seletar Country Club on 24 November 2004 and, more recently, chicks have been seen at Marina East. This Australasian species appears established in the localities listed and is therefore added to Category C.

Masked Lapwing Vanellus miles at Marina East. Photo by Alan OwYong.

Milky Stork Mycteria cinerea

Previously in Category E (Lim 2009). The Milky Stork is a monotypic species with a range covering the Thai-Malay Peninsula, Indochina, Greater Sundas and Sulawesi (Clements 2007). It was first reported in Singapore when 2 birds were reported on 9-22 September 1997 at Seletar Farmway (Lim 2009). The birds were believed to be free-flying birds from the Zoo. Subsequently, sightings became regular in the north and northwest of Singapore. Breeding has not yet been reported outside the Zoo but juveniles are frequently seen and are indicative of local breeding.  

Milky Stork Mycteria cinerea at Chinese Gardens. Photo by Alan OwYong.

Painted Stork Mycteria leucocephala

Previously in Category E (Lim 2009). The Painted Stork is a monotypic species ranging from the Indian Subcontinent to South China and Southeast Asia (Clements 2007). It is a common escapee, presumably from free-flying stock from the Zoo, first reported in Singapore at Senoko on 29 March 1987 (Lim 2009). Subsequently, sightings have become frequent in coastal wetlands in the north and north-west of Singapore, especially at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve. Like the preceeding species, breeding has not yet been reported outside the Zoo but juveniles have been seen. Hybrids with the previous species are common and care should be taken to separate them.

Painted Stork Mycteria leucocephala. Photo by Alan OwYong.

Category D: Species which have occurred in an apparently wild state but for which the possibility of escape or release cannot be satisfactorily excluded

The following species have been accepted as a new entrant in Category D:

Ashy-headed Green Pigeon Treron phayrei

A male seen in the Central Catchment Nature Reserve on 9 Oct 2021 by Yip Jen Wei was the first record for Singapore. However, since it was not clear if the bird was a genuine straggler as it is over 1,000 km from its normal range, or whether it is a product of the regional cagebird trade, this record was assigned to Category D, pending further evidence.

Ashy-headed Green Pigeon Treron phayrei at CCNR on 9 Oct 2021. Photo by Yip Jen Wei.

Other updates to the Checklist

The taxonomy, nomenclature and systematics follow that of the latest IOC version 12.1 which was released in January 2022. 

An update done by the committee was to review species in Category C and apply a shorter timeframe to introduced species. Instead of 30 years as applied for species in Category A, Category C species must be present in the last ten years and there must be records of breeding within that period. As a result, two species, Crested Myna and Black-winged Starling, have been removed.

Another important change is an update on the nationally threatened species of Singapore using IUCN criteria and extending the coverage to include non-resident species except introduced species. This was possible through the excellent work of the Singapore Red Data Book Working Group for Birds, headed by Yong Ding Li. The recently completed re-assessment also highlighted the plight of wild birds in Singapore and the rest of the world from a multitude of threats of extinction including habitat loss and disturbance, poaching, pollution and climate change. 

Please click on the link to download the NSS Bird Checklist 2022.

Acknowledgements

We would like to thank the following observers for submitting their records for review and for the use of their photographs in this report: Ian Cash, Frankie Cheong, Choo Shiu Ling, Kenneth Chow, Ash Foo, Mike Hooper, Alex Kang, William Khaw, Gabriel Koh, Jenny Koh, Vincent Lao, Evelyn Lee, Lee Lay Na, Justin Jing Liang, Pary Sivaraman, T. Ramesh, Soo Kok Choong, Sreekar Rachakonda, Tan Choon Siang, Art Toh, Tan Gim Cheong, Tan Kok Hui, Oliver Tan, Vinod Saranathan, Vincent Yip, Alan OwYong, Yip Jen Wei and Yong Ding Li. Finally, thanks are also due to my fellow committee members for their expertise in the deliberation process:  Benjamin Lee, Lim Kim Keang, Tan Gim Cheong, Tan Kok Hui, and Yong Ding Li. 

References 

Clements, J.F. (2007). The Clements Checklist of the Birds of the World, Sixth Edition. Christopher Helm, London.

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

Lim, K.S. (2021a). Records Committee Report 2021. Nature Society (Singapore) Bird Group Records Committee, Singapore. Accessed on 24th March 2022.  https://singaporebirdgroup.wordpress.com/2021/02/02/birds-records-committee-report-jan-2021/?msclkid=6dd4d878ab7011ec99532166de9b43cbLim, K.S. (2021b). The Black-thighed Falconet in Singapore. Nature Society (Singapore) Bird Group, Singapore. Accessed on 24th March 2022.  https://singaporebirdgroup.wordpress.com/2021/09/11/the-black-thighed-falconet-in-singapore/

Singapore Bird Report – October 2021

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

This month, we received reports of five spectacular finds: three first records in the form of an Ashy-headed Green Pigeon, a Spotted Flycatcher and a Tree Pipit, a second record Fairy Pitta, and a Mangrove Whistler, a bird seldom encountered on the main Singapore island.

1, AHGP, Art Toh, 101021, crop

Ashy-headed Green Pigeon by Art Toh, taken on 10 October 2021 at Dillenia Hut.

Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR)

The first ever record of an Ashy-headed Green Pigeon, Treron phayrei, was reported on 9 Oct 2021 by Yip Jen Wei, who found the bird near Dillenia Hut. The bird was subsequently seen with Pink-necked Green Pigeon, Treron vernans, and fed on the fruiting Vitek pinnata and Leea indica growing on the banks of the stream and was last seen on 11 Oct 2021. Opinion is divided between whether the pigeon was an escapee or a wild bird, as the species is not found beyond Thailand and is known to be frequently trapped in Indochina. Other species seen within the core CCNR included a Short-tailed Babbler, Pellorneum malaccense, seen on 3 Oct 2021 by Max Khoo, a rare Black-naped Monarch, Hypothymis azurea, on 12 Oct 2021 by Oliver Tan, and three Cream-vented Bulbul, Pycnonotus simplex, spotted on 14 Oct 2021 by Oliver Tan.

2, Fairy Pitta, Art Toh, 311021

Fairy Pitta by Art Toh, taken on 31 October 2021 at Hindhede Nature Park.

Singapore’s second record of the Fairy Pitta, Pitta nympha, was spotted on the second last day of the month, 30 Oct 2021 by Vincent Lao at Hindhede Nature Park. Vincent was looking for a tree shrew when he spotted the bird in the dark understorey. Other species spotted included a Laced Woodpecker, Picus vittatus, spotted on 19 Oct 2021 by Jonathan Lin, an Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher, Ceyx erithaca, on 20 Oct 2021 by John Ascher and a Changeable Hawk-Eagle, Nisaetus cirrhatus, on 21 Oct 2021, by Vinokumar Saranathan.

At Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, a Yellow-vented Flowerpecker Dicaeum chrysorrheum was photographed by Francis Yap on 26 Oct 2021, and a Chestnut-bellied Malkoha, Phaenicophaeus sumatranus, was seen on 28 Oct 2021 by Jeff Tan.

Visitors to Dairy Farm Nature Park reported seeing a variety of resident and migratory forest species. Notably, a Black-crested Bulbul, Pycnonotus flaviventris, was spotted on 8 Oct 2021 by Dillen Ng, and a Ferruginous Flycatcher, Muscicapa ferruginea, was seen on 10 Oct 2021 by Jonathan Lin. On 17 Oct 2021, a Red-crowned Barbet, Megalaima rafflesii, an Abbott’s Babbler, Malacocincla abbotti, and a Blue-rumped Parrot, Psittinus cyanurus, were seen by Fadzrun A., while an Asian Red-eyed Bulbul, Pycnonotus brunneus, was seen by Darren Leow. On the same day, a pair of Blue-winged Leafbird, Chloropsis cochinchinensis, was seen by Lukasz Wojciech. The next day on 18 Oct 2021, a Brown Hawk-Owl, Ninox scutulata, and a Siberian Blue Robin, Larvivora cyane, were seen by Jon Garcia.

Further away, a Brown-streaked Flycatcher, Muscicapa williamsoni, was spotted on 8 Oct 2021 at the Singapore Quarry by John Ascher, while a Barred Eagle-Owl, Bubo sumatranus, was seen on 16 Oct 2021 by Lua Wai Heng in the woods near Jalan Asas.

YVFP, 291021, BT hilltop, Herman Phua

Yellow-vented Flowerpecker by Herman Phua, taken on 29 October 2021 at Bukit Timah hill top.

Singapore Botanic Gardens

Several regular migratory species were reported by visitors on 19 Oct 2021. These included a Common Kingfisher, Alcedo atthis, (Bear Jia), a Crow-billed Drongo, Dicrurus annectans, (Li Si Tay), a Blyth’s Paradise Flycatcher, Terpsiphone affinis, (Hamad Azam), an Amur Paradise Flycatcher, Terpsiphone incei, (Bear Jia) and an Eastern Crowned Warbler, Phylloscopus coronatus, (Vinokumar Saranathan). On 24 Oct 2021, Ted Kiku photographed a Brown Shrike Lanius cristatus preying on a Swinhoe’s White-eye Zosterops simplex.

Residents include a pair of Asian Palm Swift, Cypsiurus balasiensis, seen on 14 Oct 2021 (Joshua Chong), a House Swift, Apus nipalensis, spotted on 18 Oct 2021 (Chen Boon Chong), eight Lesser Whistling Duck, Dendrocygna javanica, seen on 19 Oct 2021 (Joshua Chong), a solitary Black-crowned Night Heron, Nycticorax nycticorax, spotted on 19 Oct 2021 (Bear Jia), a Grey-headed Fish Eagle, Haliaeetus ichthyaetus, seen on 19 Oct 2021 (Tuck Loong Kwok) and a pair of Coconut Lorikeet, Trichoglossus haematodus, seen on the same day (Joshua Chong).

Northern Singapore

The Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve (SBWR) yielded a number of waders, such as a solitary Terek Sandpiper, Xenus cinereus, on 10 Oct 2021 (Lukasz Wojciech), 150 Pacific Golden Plover, Pluvialis fulva and 130 Whimbrel, Numenius phaeopus, as well as 30 Common Redshank, Tringa totanus, on 23 Oct 2021 (Lim Kim Chuah). Four Copper-throated Sunbird, Leptocoma calcostetha, were spotted that 17 Oct 2021 by Charles Bokman, while a Drongo Cuckoo, Surniculus lugubris, was seen on7 Oct 2021 (Evelyn Lee), and four Lesser Adjutant, Leptoptilos javanicus, were counted seven days later on 14 Oct 2021 by young Kaeden Sim.

Over at Neo Tiew Harvest Lane, a lurking Cinnamon Bittern, Ixobrychus cinnamomeus, was spotted on 9 Oct 2021 (Fadzrun A), a Red Turtle Dove, Streptopelia tranquebarica, 17 Oct 2021, was seen at Kranji Marsh (Kaeden Sim).

Punggol Park was fruitful with a Forest Wagtail, Dendronanthus indicus, a Yellow-rumped Flycatcher, Ficedula zanthopygia, and three Pied Imperial Pigeon, Ducula bicolor, on 20 Oct 2021 by Kwok Tuck Loong.

Eastern Singapore

Visitors to Pulau Ubin reported seeing two Grey Plover, Pluvialis squatarola, on 10 Oct 2021 at Chek Jawa (YK Han), two White-rumped Shama, Copsychus malabaricus, on 18 Oct 2021 (John Chin), and three Blue-winged Pitta, Pitta moluccensis on 28 Oct 2021 (Lim Yu Jun). Over at the canal along Changi Business Park, a single Green Imperial Pigeon, Ducula aenea, was seen on 19 Oct 2021 (Vish M), as was a Brown Shrike, Lanius cristatus, and a pair of Large-billed Crow, Corvus macrorhynchos, on 21 Oct 2021 (Vish M). Other sightings in the east include five White-shouldered Starling, Sturnia sinensis, one Dark-sided Flycatcher, Muscicapa sibirica, and one Black-browed Reed Warbler, Acrocephalus bistrigiceps, on 11 Oct 2021 at Tampines Eco Green (Kwok Tuck Loong), and a pair of Spotted Wood Owl, Strix seloputo, on 20 Oct 2021 along Changi Coast Road (Tay Li Si).

Southern Singapore

3, MW, Karen Chiew, 091021

Mangrove Whistler by Karen Chiew, taken on 9 October 2021 at Berlayer Creek.

Two of the five major discoveries for October 2021 were made in southern Singapore. A single Mangrove Whistler, Pachycephala cinerea, was found lurking in the mangroves along Tanjong Berlayer Creek on 9 Oct 2021 by Karen Chiew, while a Spotted Flycatcher, Muscicapa striata, the first for Singapore, was discovered on 15 Oct 2021 at Kent Ridge Park by Alex Kang.

4, Spotted FC, Geoff, 231021

Spotted Flycatcher by Geoff Lim, taken on 23 October 2021 at Kent Ridge Park.

Early birds seen in the south were a Large Hawk-Cuckoo, Hierococcyx sparverioides, seen on 1 Oct 2021 by the indefatigable Ramesh T. at Dover Road, while a Blue Rock Thrush, Monticola soltarius, was seen on 5 Oct 2021 at the Pinnacle@Duxton by the young and talented Kaeden Sim.

Sightings from the Southern Ridges included thirty Pacific Swift, Apus pacificus, on 18 Oct 2021 along Henderson Waves by Oliver Tan, one Chinese Sparrowhawk, Accipiter soloensis, and one Japanese Sparrowhawk, Accipiter gularis, on 19 Oct 2021 at Telok Blangah Hill Park by Alan OwYong, and a Crested Serpent Eagle, Spilornis cheela, and one Crested Goshawk, Accipiter trivirgatus, on 20 Oct 2021 at  Kent Ridge Park by Joshua Chong.  Residents included a pair of Van Hasselt’s Sunbird, Leptocoma brasiliana, on 17 Oct 2021 at Mount Faber Park, as reported by Raghav Narayanswamy, and a single White-rumped Munia, Lonchura striata, seen on 23 Oct 2021 at Telok Blangah Hill Park by Tay Kian Guan.

The usual plovers were present at Marina East – three Kentish Plover, Charadrius alexandrinus, one White-faced Plover, Charadrius dealbatus, on 18 Oct 2021 as seen by Kwok Tuck Loong, and four Malaysian Plover, Charadrius peronii, spotted on 19 Oct 2021 by Kaeden Sim. Also seen were seven White-winged Tern, Chlidonias leucopterus, on 7 Oct 2021 by Sylvester Goh and one Whiskered Tern, Chlidonias hybrida, on 18 Oct 2021 by Kwok Tuck Loong.

Island-hoppers contributed with reports of six House Sparrow, Passer domesticus, on 6 Oct 2021 from Sakra Road, Jurong Island (Martin Kennewell), two Eastern Cattle Egret, Bubulcus coromandus, two Oriental Pratincole, Glareola maldivarum, and one Golden-bellied Gerygone, Gerygone sulphurea, on 19 Oct 2021 on Kusu Island (Tan Gim Cheong) and one Chinese Hwamei, Garrulax canorus, on 27 Oct 2021 on Sentosa Island (Max Khoo).

Western Singapore

6, Tree Pipit, LKS, 311021

Tree Pipit by Lim Kim Seng, taken on 31 October 2021 at Ulu Pandan-Clementi Rd junction.

The fifth serendipitous find for the month was a single Tree Pipit, Anthus trivialis, another first for Singapore, found on 23 Oct 2021 in a patch of grass at the Ulu Pandan-Clementi Road junction by Soo Kok Choong. On a previous day, three Buffy Fish Owl, Ketupa ketupu, were seen near the Pine Grove estate on 19 Oct 2021 by Julie Edgley.

Visitors to the monsoon canal along Lim Chu Kang Lane 3 reported seeing a Greater Painted-Snipe, Rostratula benghalensis, on 17 Oct 2021 (Martin Kennewell), one Blue-eared Kingfisher, Alcedo meninting, and two Red Avadavat, Amandava amandava, on 18 Oct 2021 (Raghav Narayanswamy), and nine Little Ringed Plover, Charadrius dubius, and ten Wood Sandpiper, Tringa glareola, one  Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler, Locustella certhiola, one Eastern Yellow Wagtail, Motacilla tschutschensis, and one Grey Wagtail, Motacilla cinerea, on 19 Oct 2021 (Kaeden Sim).

Tuas South, which is the western-most end of Singapore, yielded a mix of usual and spectacular migrants. The reclaimed land off Tuas South Avenue 16 had an Oriental Plover, Charadrius veredus, one Red-necked Stint, Calidris ruficollis, and a pair of Long-toed Stint, Calidris subminuta, seen on 6 Oct 2021 (Martin Kennewell). The area also yielded a Chestnut-winged Cuckoo, Clamator coromandus, a Hodgson’s Hawk-Cuckoo, Hierococcyx nisicolor, and a Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher, Cyornis brunneatus, on 19 Oct 2021 (Raghav Narayanswamy).


This report is compiled/written by Geoff Lim and Isabelle Lee and edited by Tan Gim Cheong. We are grateful for the birders and photographers whose postings in various Facebook birding pages, bird forums, individual reports and extracts from eBird make up this report. This compilation is not a complete list of birds recorded for the month and not all the records were verified.

Many thanks to Art Toh, Herman Phua, Karen Chiew, Geoff Lim & Lim Kim Seng for allowing us to use their photographs.

Singapore Bird Report – September 2021

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

Reports of migratory birds continue to surface in social media and eBird, including the surprise find of a rare Red Knot at Yishun Dam, and elsewhere, the Oriental Plover, and Red-necked Phalarope.

Red Knot, 060921, Yishun Dam, Vincent Yip

Red Knot with Lesser Sand Plover at Yishun Dam taken on 6 September 2021 by Vincent Yip.

Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR) & vicinity

An Oriental Darter, Anhinga melanogaster, was spotted at Singapore Quarry on 12 Sep 2021 by Lua Wai Heng, while two Cinnamon-headed Green Pigeon, Treron fulvicollis, were seen by Robin Arnold on 18 Sep 2021 at Jelutong Tower. Blue-rumped Parrots, Psittinus cyanurus, were also seen within the confines of Windsor Nature Park on 29 Sep 2021 by Lee Yue Teng. At Dairy Farm Nature Park on 30 Sep 2021, Gan Lee Hsia photographed a Dark-sided Flycatcher Muscicapa sibirica, and Vincent Yip photographed a Ferruginous Flycatcher Muscicapa ferruginea.

Singapore Botanic Gardens

Notable sightings from this UNESCO heritage park comprised an Amur Paradise Flycatcher, Terpsiphone incei, (Andy Lee) and a Brown-streaked Flycatcher, Muscicapa williamsoni, (BP Chua) on 11 Sep 2021, a Malaysian Hawk-Cuckoo, Hierococcyx fugax, on 17 Sep 2021 (Oliver Tan) and seven Ruddy-breasted Crake, Porzana fusca, on 28 Sep 2021 (Colin Lee) at the NUS Faculty of Law drop-off point.

Northern Singapore

A surprise visit by a solitary Red Knot, Calidris canutus, on 6 Sep 2021 at Yishun Dam (Vincent Yip) had many scrambling to see this rarity, while a Gull-billed Tern, Gelochelidon nilotica, visited the waters on 10 Sep 2021 (Chen Boon Chong). The mudflats also welcomed a Greater Sand Plover, Charadrius leschenaultii, which was reported on 14 Sep 2021 (Sylvester Goh).

Ruby-cheeked Sunbird, 040921, SBWR, Joseph Lim

Ruby-cheeked Sunbird at SBWR on 4 September 2021, by Joseph Lim.

Visitors to the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve spotted a Ruby-cheeked Sunbird, Chalcoparia singalensis, on 4 and 5 Sep 2021 (Joseph Lim and Norhafiani A Majid, respectively), a Blue-eared Kingfisher, Alcedo meninting, on 15 Sep 2021 (Kwok Siew Mun), a pair of Marsh Sandpiper, Tringa stagnatilis, on 19 Sep 2021 (Darren Leow), two Broad-billed Sandpiper Calidris falcinellus, on 24 Sep 2021 (Pary Sivaraman), and a Terek Sandpiper, Xenus cinereus, on 29 Sep 2021 (BP Chua). There were also 2 Lesser Adjutants, Leptotilus javanicus, on 3 Sep 2021, by Veronica Foo.

Eastern Singapore

Visitors to Pasir Ris Park were treated to the sight of a Terek Sandpiper, Xenus cinereus, on 1 Sep 21 (Ko Eng Wee), three Black-throated Laughingthrush, Pterorhinus chinensis, on 19 Sep 2021 (Frank Chen) and a Japanese Sparrowhawk, Accipiter gularis, on 20 Sep 2021 (Philip Chua). On an offshore area in the northeast undergoing land reclamation, a Great Knot Calidris tenuirostris was recorded on 10 Sep 2021 by Frankie Cheong.

Southern Singapore

GRTS, chick, Sep 2021, Geoff Lim

Grey-rumped Treeswift chick taken on 17 September 2021 by Geoff Lim.

A number of Grey-rumped Treeswift, Hemiprocne longipennis, were reported on and around 16 Sep 2021 (Lee Chin Pong) at Margaret Drive, including a nest bearing a chick, which subsequently fledged on 22 Sep 2021. At Pinnacle@Duxton, a Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitarius (philippensis subspecies) was photographed on 16 Sep 2021 by Angie Cheong.

Blue Rock Thrush, 160921, Pinnacle at Duxton, Angie Cheong, philippensis she says, crop

Blue Rock Thrush, Pinnacle@Duxton, on 16 September 2021 by Angie Cheong.

Western Singapore

Migratory woodland species reported at Jurong Lake Gardens included one Yellow-rumped Flycatcher, Ficedula zanthopygia, seen on 13 Sep 2021 by Andy Lee, and one Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher (Black-backed) Ceyx erithaca photographed by 29 Sep 2021 by Gan Lee Hsia.

At Tuas South, two Black-winged Stilt, Himantopus himantopus, were photographed on 3 Sep 2021 by Mike Hooper, and an Oriental Plover, Charadrius veredus, photographed on 20 Sep 2021 by Pary Sivaraman. At nearby Tuas South Boulevard, Max Khoo spotted an Indian Cuckoo, Cuculus micropterus, on 25 Sep 2021.

A Ruddy Kingfisher, Halcyon coromanda, was seen on 15 Sep 2021 at Nanyang Technological University by Frank Chen, and one Green-backed Flycatcher, Ficedula elisae, was found dead (likely collided into a building) at National University of Singapore on 30 Sep 2021 by Li Daiqing.

Straits of Singapore

Three pelagic trips were undertaken this month. On 21 Sep 2021, there were 11 sightings of the Aleutian Tern Onychoprion aleuticus, two Bridled Tern Onychoprion anaethetus, and nine Greater Crested Tern, Thalasseus bergii (Con Foley). On 25 Sep 2021, two Black-naped Tern, Sterna sumatrana, (Oliver Tan) and a number of Swinhoe’s Storm Petrel, Oceanodroma monorhis, (Krishna Gopagondanahalli) were spotted along the Singapore Straits and off Kusu Island, respectively, while those on 26 Sep 2021 saw one Lesser Crested Tern, Thalasseus bengalensis, thirteen Aleutian Tern, Onychoprion aleuticus, eleven Bridled Tern, Onychoprion anaethetus, and five Greater Crested Tern, Thalasseus bergii, (Adrian Silas Tay).

Lau Jia Sheng spent four weekends in September on Kusu Island watching seabirds and reported 6 Red-necked Phalaropes Phalaropus lobatus on 4 Sep 2021. He had amazing counts of the Swinhoe’s Storm Petrel, Hydrobates monorhis, starting with 39 petrels on 4 Sep 2021, to 203 petrels on 11 Sep 2021, peaking at 800 petrels on 18 Sep 2021, followed by 418 petrels on 25 Sep 2021.

This report is compiled/written by Geoff Lim and Isabelle Lee, and edited by Tan Gim Cheong. We are grateful for the birders and photographers whose postings in various Facebook birding pages, bird forums, individual reports and extracts from eBird make up this report. This compilation is not a complete list of birds recorded for the month and not all the records were verified.

Many thanks to Vincent Yip, Joseph Lim, Geoff Lim and Angie Cheong for allowing us to use their photographs.

The different stages of our three resident Heron species at Pasir Ris Park.

By Seng Alvin.

We are blessed to have three resident heron species living and breeding at Pasir Ris Park, mainly due to the mangroves along Sungei Tampines, the tall trees lining Sungei Api Api and the abundant fishes around the rivers and sea coast. This is my backyard and I have been photographing these herons in varies stages of their life for a few years now.

This is a collection of some of my photos showing their different plumages from juvenile to adult and breeding.

The Striated Heron is the most common of the three and can be found waiting for passing fishes along the sides of the canal or perch at the lower branches of the mangroves. The brown upper and underparts of a juvenile ( top left) turning into pale grey ( top right) as it gets older. The plumage of the adult (bottom left) is all grey for both sexes. Its legs and facial skin turn reddish pink for breeding males ( bottom right).

The Black-crowned Night Herons are nationally threatened due to diminishing suitable habitat and they are fussy breeders. The fact they they are breeding here for over two decades underline the importance and fragility of the riverine and mangrove forests of the park. The juvenile ( bottom left) has orangey-yellow eyes, brown upperparts with white spots and streaks. The sub-adult ( top right) has no spots and the brown plumage has turned to pale gray. Eyes are darker. Adults ( top left) of both sexes has dark grey crown, mantle and back, yellow legs and two or more plumes. During breeding its legs turned orange ( bottom right).

Grey Herons are the most visible waterbird at the park foraging on the mud flats at low tides or perch high up on the tall trees around the park. They build communal large nests on trees by the river for easy access to the Tilapias there. The juveniles ( top right) has an overall blackish plumage and legs. Non-breeding adult males and females ( left top and bottom) share the same greyish plumage. The male adults ( bottom right) acquire pinkish red legs and facial skin during breeding.

I hope that these images help with identifying the varies ages of these herons.

Reference: A Field Guide to the Waterbirds of Asia 1993 Wild Bird Society of Japan

The Role of the NSS Bird Group Records Committee in the Documentation and Conservation of Wild Birds in Singapore

By Lim Kim Seng. Chair Bird Group Records Committee.

With the many recent new bird arrivals in Singapore the inevitable question of the origins of these new species, specifically if they are wild, released or escapees comes up. Many would like to know who evaluate their status and how is it done?

The quick answer is the Bird Records Committee of the country and in Singapore it is the Nature Society (Singapore) Bird Group Records Committee, or NSSBGRC, that had been doing this for the past three decades, with regular meetings several times a year.

The groundwork laid by then Malayan Nature Society Singapore Bird Group in the late 1970s and early 1980s by various pioneers such as Ng Soon Chye, Hugh Buck and Clive Briffett led to Chris Hails being appointed as the recorder for Singapore and the first bird checklist for the country being published in 1984. Chris left Singapore in 1988 and kick-started the formation of Nature Society (Singapore) Bird Group Records Committee (or NSSBGRC) in 1988 whose members included Clive Briffett, Lim Kim Keang, Lim Kim Seng and R. Subaraj. The current head is Lim Kim Seng who has over 40 years of birding experience in Singapore and Southeast Asia. The committee also includes Benjamin Lee from National Parks Board, Yong Ding Li from Birdlife International, Tan Kok Hui, current and past Bird Group Chairs, Tan Gim Cheong and Lim Kim Keang.

The task of NSSBGRC is not just to evaluate and verify new and rare records and submissions but more importantly to determine its status and assign a category to them. To do this, the RC consults with an advisory panel of global bird experts including Dr Nigel Collar, Dave Bakewell, Dr Phil Round, Dr David Wells, Dr Chaiyan Kasorndorkbua, Mike Chong, Peter Kennerley and Uthai Treesucon.

Another aspect of the work of the NSSBGRC is to keep tap of the status and taxonomic changes of the birds in Singapore. These changes include its abundance and status, i.e. abundant, common, uncommon or rare and status, i.e. resident breeder, winter visitor, passage migrant, non-breeding visitor or vagrant. The NSSBGRC also evaluates its breeding or non-breeding status based on available evidence.

The NSSBGRC also assigns a national threat status to every affected species and lists its IUCN global threat status. All this was made possible with the extensive and invaluable data from more than three decades of bird censuses, counts, surveys and studies conducted by the Nature Society (Singapore) Bird Group with the help of fellow birdwatchers and in collaboration with government agencies such as the National Parks Board.

All these classifications proved to be extremely useful for assessing the biodiversity importance of a nature site for conservation in Singapore, e.g. Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve and the Rail Corridor, and listings on nationally threatened birds in the Singapore Red Data Book. 

Besides publishing and updating the rarities list, the NSSBGRC also publish a fully up-to-date annotated checklist at regular intervals. It has published updated checklists in 1991, 1999, 2007, 2011, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021 beginning with 284 species up to the current 407 species. The NSSBGRC also published a complete avifauna of Singapore in 2009 that captured its work in evaluation and documentation of wild birds as well as those of the early collectors since the 1800s.

The role of the NSSBGRC will always be to inform birdwatchers, observers and agencies of the latest updates by publishing an accurate and up-to-date national bird checklist, adopting the best practices in reviewing records of rarities and new species, and sharing them on suitable online platforms.

The NSSBGRC seeks experienced birders with in-depth knowledge of local and regional birds to carry on the work which must be transparent and democratic. It will continue to look to field experts, taxonomists, academics and ornithologists from across the globe for their advice. We wish to thank past and present members for their contributions in helping the committee to carry out this important work.

We hope that all birdwatchers in Singapore recognise the importance of their records and share them for the benefit of everyone, to obtain an accurate picture of the avifauna of Singapore with the ultimate objective of conserving our wild bird populations and its habitat.

The Black-Thighed Falconet in Singapore.

THE BLACK-THIGHED FALCONET IN SINGAPORE

Lim Kim Seng

Introduction

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.

Acknowledgements

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.

References

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. https://singaporebirdgroup.wordpress.com/tag/black-thighed-falconet/

Lim, G., Lee, I. & Tan, G.C. (2021). Singapore Bird Report – July 2021. Nature Society (Singapore) Bird Group.  https://singaporebirdgroup.wordpress.com/category/monthly-bird-reports/

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. https://singaporebirdgroup.wordpress.com/2021/02/02/birds-records-committee-report-jan-2021/

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. https://singaporebirdgroup.wordpress.com/category/raptor-report/singapore-raptor-report/

Tan, G.C. & Lim, G. (2021). Singapore Bird Report – February 2021. Nature Society (Singapore) Bird Group. https://singaporebirdgroup.wordpress.com/category/monthly-bird-reports/

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.

Singapore Bird Report – July 2021

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

TGC_0319_01,-Blue-winged-Pitta,-160721,-v,-nd

A fledgling Blue-winged Pitta at Mandai Track 15 on 16 Jul 2021, by Tan Gim Cheong

Two spectacular July discoveries were reported in the NSS Bird Group blog – the first evidence of breeding of the Blue-winged Pitta, Pitta moluccensis, on mainland Singapore (and only the second breeding record in country), as well as the amazing discovery of the Javan Plover, Charadrius javanicus, a species hitherto never found outside Indonesia.

The story about the Blue-winged Pitta can be found here, while the exciting discovery of the Javan Plover can be accessed here.

Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR)

Within the CCNR core, a Malaysian Hawk-Cuckoo, Hierococcyx fugax, was spotted on 16 July 2021 by Bryan Lim, while a Square-tailed Drongo-Cuckoo, Surniculus lugubris, was seen on 28 July 2021 by Marcel Finlay. A pair of Chestnut-bellied Malkoha, Phaenicophaeus sumatranus, and a single White-rumped Shama, Copsychus malabaricus, were seen on 22 July 2021 within Sime forest by Clarice Yan, while a Blue-eared Kingfisher, Alcedo meninting, two Cream-vented Bulbul, Pycnonotus simplex, Asian Red-eyed Bulbul, Pycnonotus brunneus, and a Blue-winged Leafbird, Chloropsis cochinchinensis, were seen on 25 July 2021 along Rifle Range Link by Lim Kim Chuah. Meanwhile, the regular and solo Oriental Darter, Anhinga melanogaster, was spotted at Hindhede Nature Park, on 17 July 2021 (Matthew Teng) and 27 July 2021 (Martti Siponen).

The western fringe parks abutting CCNR yielded two Van Hasselt’s Sunbird, Leptocoma brasiliana, seen on 10 July 2021 at Dairy Farm Nature Park, by Raghav Narayanswamy, one Short-tailed Babbler, Pellorneum malaccense, and two Blue-winged Leafbird, Chloropsis cochinchinensis, on 11 July 2021 at Chestnut Nature Park by Fadzrun A, while over at Singapore Quarry, three Red-breasted Parakeet, Psittacula alexandri were seen on 21 July 2021 by Sylvester Goh, while two Rufous-tailed Tailorbird, Orthotomus sericeus, and one Little Spiderhunter, Arachnothera longirostra, were spotted on 22 July 2021 by Martti Siponen.

Along Mandai Track 15, Joseph Lim made the stunning discovery of a fledgling Blue-winged Pitta, Pitta moluccensis, on 16 July 2021, while two Short-tailed Babbler, Pellorneum malaccense, were seen on 24 July 2021 at Jalan Ulu Sembawang by Norhafiani A Majid. Birders working along Mandai Road Track 7 reported a Changeable Hawk-Eagle, Nisaetus cirrhatus, two Red-crowned Barbet, Megalaima rafflesii, three Common Hill Myna, Gracula religiosa, and a Cream-vented Bulbul, Pycnonotus simplex, on 21 July 2021 (Oliver Tan); a Chestnut-winged Babbler, Cyanoderma erythropterum, was seen on the same day by Leslie Loh; and Steven Cheong found a Banded Woodpecker, Chrysophlegma miniaceum, feeding its chick at its nest hole on 22 July 2021. A Common Emerald Dove, Chalcophaps indica, was seen on 22 July 2021 at Upper Peirce Reservoir Park by Fermandez Francis.

TGC_7904,-RC-Barbet,-1000v

An excellent portrait of a Red-crowned Barbet taken on 14 Jul 2021 at Thomson Nature Park by Tan Gim Cheong

Visitors had been drawn to Thomson Nature Park in early July 2021 to look at a nesting Red-crowned Barbet, Megalaima rafflesii, which subsequently failed as the tree trunk broke during heavy rain. The birds re-commenced building another nest hole around 20 July 2021 but this, too, did not materialise. At another Red-crowned Barbet’s nest in the park, Tan Chuan Yean managed to photograph the barbet carrying a frog in its beak on 17 July 2021. During this period, visitors noted birds such as two Thick-billed Green Pigeon, Treron curvirostra, on 18 July 2021 (Kaeden Sim), two Plume-toed Swiftlet, Collocalia affinis, and one Asian Palm Swift, Cypsiurus balasiensis, on 19 July 2021 (Krishna Gopagondanahalli), as well as a pair of Chestnut-winged Babbler, Cyanoderma erythropterum, on 27 July 2021 (Joyce Le Mesurier), a species that has become increasingly rare in our forests. On 31 July 2021, a Brown-streaked Flycatcher, Muscicapa williamsoni, was photographed by Meng Kuang Han.

Other breeding records at Thomson Nature Park included a Banded Bay Cuckoo, Cacomantis sonneratii, being fed by a Common Iora, Aegithina tiphia, on 7 July 2021, by Alex Kang; a pair of Crimson Sunbirds, Aethopyga siparaja, feeding their two chicks behind the ladies toilet also on 7 July 2021, by Jojo Kuah; and on 23 July 2021, the successful nesting of a pair of Olive-winged Bulbuls, Pycnonotus plumosus, that the chicks fledged but were still being fed by their parents, also by Jojo Kuah.

At Windsor Nature Park, on 20 July 2021, the nest of the Stork-billed Kingfisher, Pelargopsis capensis, was discovered by Frankie Low. This is the first nest of this kingfisher to be found in Singapore, and it was built in a termite nest on the vertical trunk of a sturdy tree. Frankie Low photographed an adult feeding fish to a chick through the hole in the termite nest.   

Further afield, two Asian Red-eyed Bulbul, Pycnonotus brunneus, were seen on 20 July 2021 along Old Upper Thomson Road by Tan Kok Hui. The Lornie-MacRitchie area also yielded a Red-legged Crake, Rallina fasciata, on 17 July 2021 at MacRitchie Reservoir Park (Marcel Finlay) and an Abbott’s Babbler, Malacocincla abbotti, spotted on 20 July 2021 along Lornie Road (Chen Boon Chong).

Singapore Botanic Gardens

A Buffy Fish Owl, Ketupa ketupu, was spotted within the garden grounds on 11 July 2021 by Joyce Le Mesurier, while a juvenile Banded Bay Cuckoo, Cacomantis sonneratii, was being fed by Common Iora, Aegithina tiphia, from 11 July 2021 (Vincent Chin) to 20 July 2021 (Andrew William). On 15 July 2021, Philip Ng reported three Banded Bay Cuckoo fledglings at separate areas being fed by their foster parents.  

Central Singapore

BT Falconet, 090721, Jln Mashhor, Tang Choon Siang

Black-thighed Falconet at Jalan Mashhor on 9 Jul 2021 by Tang Choon Siang.

On 9 July 2021, a Black-thighed Falconet, Microhierax fringillarius, was spotted at Jalan Mashhor by Art Toh and Tang Choon Siang. The bird was seen on subsequent days up till 12 July 2021 (Vincent Lao). At the same locality, a pair of Common Hill Mynas, Gracula religiosa, mated on 10 July 2021, seen by Chew Serteck. At Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park, a Common Kingfisher, Alcedo atthis, was photographed on 16 July 2021 by Vincent Ng, and a Grey-headed Fish Eagle, Haliaeetus ichthyaetus, spotted on 20 July 2021 by Clarice Yan.  Along Potong Pasir, a Purple Heron, Ardea purpurea, was seen on 21 July 2021 by S.O Wu. At Bukit Brown on 21 July 2021, SB Lim photographed a female Pink-necked Green Pigeon, Treron vernans, mounting another female!

Northern Singapore

Note: Sg Buloh, the Kranji Marshes and the Lim Chu Kang-Neo Tiew farmlands are now moved to the section on Northern Singapore to align with NPark’s geographical description of the main Singapore island.

Two Baya Weaver, Ploceus philippinus, were seen on 12 July 2021 at Lorong Halus Wetland (Fermandez Francis), while two Black-crowned Night Heron, Nycticorax nycticorax, were spotted on 24 July 2021 at the Serangoon Estuary (Tan Kok Hui). A single Spotted Wood Owl, Strix seloputo, was seen on 26 July 2021 at the Hampstead Wetlands Park (Steven Cheong).

The Kranji-Lim Chu Kang area yielded a Black-winged Kite, Elanus caeruleus, at the grounds of Kranji Marsh on 19 July 2021 (Martti Siponen) and five early arriving Wood Sandpiper, Tringa glareola, on 25 July 2021 at Lim Chu Kang Lane 3 (Raghav Narayanswamy); further afield, the report of the Ruby-cheeked Sunbird, Chalcoparia singalensis, at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve on 11 July 2021 by YK Han electrified the local birding community, while the report of six Lesser Adjutant, Leptoptilos javanicus, at the Reserve on 12 July 2021 by Martti Siponen served to anchor the birds’ presence in the island republic.

At Kranji Marshes on 14 July 2021, Kok M Lee recorded a Malaysian Pied Fantail, Rhipidura javanica, feeding its foster chick, a Rusty-breasted Cuckoo, Cacomantis sepulcralis, and on 23 July 2021, Avadi L Parimalam saw the mating of a pair of Pied Trillers, Lalage nigra, and the Malaysian Pied Fantail building a nest. 

Eastern Singapore

Javan Plover, 150721, Tekong, Frankie Cheong

Javan Plover taken on 15 Jul 2021 by Frankie Cheong

July witnessed the spectacular discovery of the Javan Plover, Charadrius javanicus, on 15 July 2021 on reclaimed land adjoining one of our eastern islands by Frankie Cheong. At Pulau Ubin, the Green Broadbill, Calyptomena viridis, continued to be seen on 2 July 2021 (Isabelle Lee) until the end of the month; and a Ruddy Kingfisher, Halcyon coromanda, of the resident subspecies minor, given the timing, was heard and photographed on 20 July 2021 by Keita, Dillen and Hong Yao. (The first record of the resident subspecies H. c. minor on Pulau Ubin was in August 2016.)

Other visitors reported the presence of Ubin regulars, such as the Greater Crested Tern, Thalasseus bergii, on 4 July 2021 (Raghav Narayanswamy), Black Hornbill, Anthracoceros malayanus, on 19 July 2021 (Jared Tan), Blue-winged Pitta, Pitta moluccensis, Mangrove Pitta, Pitta megarhyncha, and Copper-throated Sunbird, Leptocoma calcostetha, on 20 July 2021 by Darren Leow and others, as well as up to six White-rumped Shama, Copsychus malabaricus, on 25 July 2021 by Fitri Adnan. Near the site of the Green Broadbill, two Buffy Fish Owls were seen, one blind in the right eye, reported by Tan Chuan Yean.

Green Broadbill, 020721, Ubin, Geoff Lim

Green Broadbill taken on Pulau Ubin on 2 Jul 2021 by Geoff Lim

Other notable sightings in eastern Singapore included a Red Turtle Dove, Streptopelia tranquebarica, at Changi Business Park on 19 July 2021 by T. Ramesh; and at Pasir Ris Park, two Black-crowned Night Heron, Nycticorax nycticorax, on the same day by Joshua Chong.

Breeding-related records at Pasir Ris included a juvenile Slaty-breasted Rail, Lewinia striata, with its parents, on 7 July 2021, and a nest of the Yellow-vented Bulbul, Pycnonotus goaiver, with two chicks on 12 July 2021 when the adult bulbul was photographed holding a young Changeable Lizard in its beak, both by Alvin Seng; and Andrew Hunt found the Collared Kingfishers, Todiramphus chloris, feeding their chicks in their nest at car park D on 21 July 2021, and the chicks reportedly fledged the next day.

YVB catch changeable lizard, 120721, PRP, Alvin Seng

Yellow-vented Bulbul holding a young Changeable Lizard, Pasir Ris Park, 12 Jul 2021, by Alvin Seng

Southern Singapore

Birders who visited the Marina East area reported an early Common Sandpiper, Actitis hypoleucos, and two Lesser Whistling Duck, Dendrocygna javanica, on 18 July 2021 (Max Khoo), while a Great-billed Heron, Ardea sumatrana, was spotted on 20 July 2021 (Krishna Gopagondanahalli) and 24 July 2021 (Jon Garcia). A pair of Malaysian Plover, Charadrius peronii, was also spotted on 20 July 2021, as was a Greater Painted-Snipe, Rostratula benghalensis, and eight Little Tern, Sternula albifrons, all by Krishna Gopagondanahalli.

Other sightings included a pair of Ruddy-breasted Crake, Porzana fusca, at Gardens by the Bay on 5 July 2021 (Joshua Chong), a Chinese Hwamei, Garrulax canorus, at Fort Siloso on 11 July 2021(Chen Boon Chong), a Barred Buttonquail, Turnix suscitator, at Lazarus Island on 16 July 2021 (Rajesh Nagaraj), as well as a White-rumped Munia, Lonchura striata, at Telok Blangah Hill Park on 25 July 2021 (Low Zhi Hao).

Breeding records included a Little Tern, Sternula albifrons, feeding its chick at Lazarus Island on 6 July 2021, by Cecilia Lee; and the Collared Kingfisher feeding its chicks at Buona Vista, by Tan Chuan Yean.

Western Singapore

Two Spotted Wood Owl, Strix seloputo, were seen near King Albert Park on 17 July 2021 by Jai Humphries, while at the nearby Holland Plain, a pair of fairly regular Red-wattled Lapwing, Vanellus indicus, were seen on 21 July 2021, as was an Oriental Dollarbird, Eurystomus orientalis, and five Long-tailed Parakeet, Psittacula longicauda, by Lynn Tan, who also spotted a single Grey-rumped Treeswift, Hemiprocne longipennis, at Maryland Drive the day before on 20 July 2021. Incidentally a single Greater Coucal, Centropus sinensis, was spotted at Holland Plain on 20 July 2021 by Lynn Tan, while two birds were reported on 23 July 2021 by Richard Sanders. It remains to be seen if the Green Corridor area supports more than a pair of these prehistoric-looking birds.

Two Square-tailed Drongo-Cuckoo, Surniculus lugubris, and a Laced Woodpecker, Picus vittatus, were spotted at Bukit Batok Nature Park on 20 July 2021 by Tan Hwee Main. At Jurong Lake Gardens, one Barred Buttonquail, Turnix suscitator, was reported on 28 July 2021 by Tay Kian Guan.

Breeding records at Jurong Lake Gardens included a Slaty-breasted Rail foraging with its young, still in black downy feathers, on 1 July 2021, by Kok M Lee; three Common Tailorbirds, Orthotomus sutorius, fledged on 4 July 2021, by Felix Wong who also recorded the nesting of the Yellow-vented Bulbul, Pycnonotus goaiver; and a pair of Lesser Coucal, Centropus bengalensis, mating on 7 July 2021, when the male offered a grasshopper to the female during the process, photographed by Tan Boon Tiong. At Ulu Pandan on 8 July 2021, Tan Boon Tiong photographed a House Crow, Corvus splendens, carrying a Black-naped Oriole, Oriolus chinensis, chick in its beak as it flew.

Farther west, we noted the report of a Pacific Reef Heron, Egretta sacra, from Pioneer South on 15 July 2021 by Raghav Narayanswamy, while a Buffy Fish Owl, Ketupa ketupu, was reported from the grounds of NTU on 25 July 2021 by Frank Chen.

This report is compiled/written by Geoff Lim and Isabelle Lee, and edited by Tan Gim Cheong. We are grateful for the birders and photographers whose postings in various Facebook birding pages, bird forums, individual reports and extracts from eBird make up this report. This compilation is not a complete list of birds recorded for the month and not all the records were verified.

Many thanks to Tang Choon Siang, Frankie Cheong, Geoff Lim, and Alvin Seng for allowing us to use their photographs.

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.

Acknowledgements

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.

References

BirdLife International (2021) Species factsheet: Charadrius javanicus. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org 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.

The first sighting of a juvenile Blue-winged Pitta on mainland Singapore.

By Joseph Lim.

On the morning of 16 July this year, I went hiking to the Central Catchment Forest, Mandai Track 15 to look for the Sambar deer, a former native but probably escapees from the zoo. I started the hike at 7.40 am and shortly reached a stream where sightings of the deer had been reported. I tread slowly and quietly anticipating the deer to appear anytime. Suddenly, I saw some small movements at the bare dark patches of the bushes about 5 meters away.

Surprised to see that it was a juvenile Blue-winged Pitta, a first for mainland Singapore.

It was a small bird and from the size and shape I could see that it was a pitta even though it was dark and shaded at 8 am in the morning. As I got nearer I could see it “hopping” around just like a pitta. Upon seeing me coming, the pitta jumped up and perched on a low branch, instead of getting skittish and flee. At one point the pitta turned and looked straight at me in absolute silence. From my photos, I can see that it was a juvenile Blue-winged Pitta, Pitta moluccensis, with duller plumage and gape. On checking with my friends I was told that this is the first mainland record of a juvenile Blue-winged Pitta. The previous sighting of a fledged juvenile was at Pulau Ubin also around July in 2016 where its nest was discovered ( See reference).

The gape, duller and less defined plumage of the juvenile Blue-winged Pitta

I tried to move in for a closer shot and to avoid the many mountain bikers coming through as this was a shared track at this spot. Unfortunately a biker went by fairly fast and spooked the bird. It quickly hopped and flew further into the bushes.

I wandered around the vicinity to look for it. Then I heard the calls of a Blue-winged Pitta coming from a forest patch about 20 meters away. It turned out to be another pitta, a bigger adult with brighter plumage and clear define plumage perched on a small tree, 3 meters from the ground.

The adult Blue-winged Pitta calling loudly from a small tree.

This adult Blue-winged Pitta was calling loudly and regularly  throughout my observations. It remained perched for about 3 minutes and flew deeper into the forests when I approached it for closer shots. I can only assumed that this is the parent bird.

Both the adult and the juvenile could not be located and was not seen again.

Reference :

1.‘First documented records of the Blue-winged Pitta Pitta moluccensis breeding in Singapore, BING WEN LOW, ALFRED CHIA, GIM CHEONG TAN, WEE JIN YAP & KIM KEANG LIM

source:  https://singaporebirdgroup.wordpress.com/2017/03/18/first-nesting-record-of-the-blue-winged-pitta-in-singapore/?fbclid=IwAR07OKZ95cOOwwBNKrDr0OVpNyYrPXvdoBuD3pRVtdl4eomPPeT4J-8i2XQ

2.‘PITTAS (PITTIDAE) OF SINGAPORE’  NATURE IN SINGAPORE 2009 2: 155–165,

     A. F. S. L. Lok1*, K. T. N. Khor2 , K. C. Lim3 and R. Subaraj4

source:  https://lkcnhm.nus.edu.sg/wp-content/uploads/sites/10/app/uploads/2017/06/2009nis155-165.pdf

Singapore Bird Report – June 2021

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

Not one but five spectacular species were reported in a hitherto quiet month of June. Read on to find out more!

Black Magpie, 090621 1720h, Hindhede, Kenneth Chow on FBBS

Black Magpie by Kenneth Chow, 9 June 2021 at Hindhede Nature Park.

The first surprise find for June was a Black Magpie, Platysmurus leucopterus, on 9 June 2021 at Hindhede Quarry by Vinod Saranathan. Vinod reported that its “weird raucous call” gave it away when he saw it at 6:40pm that day. Another birder, Kenneth Chow, reported seeing the bird at 4:30pm, which he thought was a “strange crow with dirty wings” at the quarry area, and at 5:20pm when he thought it was a Greater Coucal.

Fluffy-backed Tit-Babbler, posted 150621, Upper Seletar Res, Lawrence Cher, pic

Fluffy-backed Tit-Babbler by Lawrence Cher, 15 June 2021 at Upper Seletar Reservoir Park.

While the community was reeling from the appearance of the Magpie, a hitherto unexpected find in the form of a Fluffy-backed Tit-Babbler, Macronus ptilosus, was made on 15 June 2021 around 2pm at the Upper Seletar Reservoir Park by Lawrence Cher. Lawrence was at the park looking for butterflies to photograph that afternoon as June was relatively quiet in terms of interesting bird life, when he noticed several Pin-striped Tit-Babblers and Chestnut-winged Babbler calling in the background. The birds were popping in and out from view as they foraged, when one popped into the open. Lawrence managed to obtain one clear photo from the series taken; he had thought that it was a Chestnut-winged Babbler until post-processing revealed that it was a different babbler species.

Shearwater, 230621, BAMK, Art Toh, same

Wedge-tailed Shearwater by Art Toh, 23 June 2021 at Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park.

The third report to take the community by storm was the appearance of a Wedge-tailed Shearwater, Ardenna pacifica, a seabird more likely to be encountered in the seas and oceans, than at Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park, as reported by William Khaw on 23 June 2021. The bird was apparently found at one of the apartment blocks of the housing estate that morning, and brought to the park by an unknown person. Concerned parties alerted ACRES, who collected the bird that evening.  While the shearwater appeared to be far from any body of sea-water, these birds travel across long distances and may well have been in transit across our island when it possibly came into contact with one of our tall concrete structures. Unfortunately, the bird expired shortly after its rescue.

Green Broaodbill, 280621, Ubin, AOY

Green Broadbill at Pulau Ubin by Alan Owyong, 28 June 2021.

A Green Broadbill, Calyptomena viridis, was discovered on 27 June 2021 along Jalan Batu Ubin, Pulau Ubin, by Adrian Silas Tay and Jerold Tan. The bird continued to remain visible for the rest of that Sunday, and was seen for subsequent days. According to our records, the bird was last reported in 1941 as a resident and thought to have been extirpated ever since. So, where did this Green Broadbill, a former resident come from?  That was a question venerable birder, Alan Owyong, asked and an excerpt of his social media post is reproduced here:

It is always a difficult question to answer especially if the species is being sold in the pet shops in Singapore or a popular caged bird. On 27 November 2014, one was photographed at East Coast Park and another was photographed a month later on 25 December at Pulau Ubin. These were assigned to Category [D] but were reassigned to Cat A in 2020 and listed in the 2021 Checklist. [I was reminded of one heard at Nee Soon in 2002.]

The Green Broadbills can be nomadic and are known to wander afar in search of fruits. The continuous forest cover at Pulau Ubin must surely be a welcome sight for those birds that fly over from the forest of southern Johor.

This Green Broadbill should be the same bird spotted on 11 April 2021 along the same stretch of road. [On] 28 June, we noticed that the Green Broadbill flew to a MacArthur’s Palm by the roadside to feed on the young green palm fruits. Most broadbills are insectivorous. But the Green Broadbill is [mainly] frugivorous and feed on berries, figs and small fruits. This may be the reason why it stayed around the same area for the past three days.

Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR)

BEO, 050621, RRL, LKC

Barred Eagle Owl by Lim Kim Chuah, 5 June 2021, Rifle Range Link.

Within the core CCNR area, a Barred Eagle-Owl, Bubo sumatranus, was spotted on 5 June 2021, along Rifle Range Link (Lim Kim Chuah), while on the same day a single Black-headed Bulbul, Pycnonotus atriceps, was seen along the same track (Lau Jia Sheng). Visitors also spotted Malaysian Hawk-Cuckoo, Hierococcyx fugax, on 15 June 2021 (Max Khoo), and heard a Chestnut-winged Babbler, Stachyris erythroptera, on 19 June 2021 at Mandai Road Track 7 (Tan Kok Hui). From Jelutong Tower, two Blue-rumped Parrot, Psittinus cyanurus were spotted by Yap Bao Shen on 3 June 2021, as well as two Chestnut-bellied Malkoha, Phaenicophaeus sumatranus, (T. Ramesh), and a pair of Asian Red-eyed Bulbul, Pycnonotus brunneus, (Chan Mei Yee) on 20 June 2021.

Fringe parks abutting the CCNR yielded good forest species such as the Violet Cuckoo, Chrysococcyx xanthorhynchus, seen at Hindhede Nature Park on 10 June 2021 by Yip Jen Wei, a Red-crowned Barbet, Megalaima rafflesii, spotted on 20 June 2021 at MacRitchie Reservoir Park by Marcel Finlay. At Thomson Nature Park, a Short-tailed Babbler, Malcocincla malaccensis, was recorded by Fitri Adnan on 20 June 2021, and a family of White-rumped Shama, Copsychus malabaricus, with two fledglings were recorded by Khong Yew on 30 June 2021. A Blue-eared Kingfisher, Alcedo meninting, was spotted at Hindhede Nature Park on 21 June 2021 by Raghav Narayanswamy.

Central Singapore

CSE, 220621, Goldhill, TGC, juvenile

Juvenile Crested Serpent Eagle at Goldhill Avenue by Tan Gim Cheong, 22 June 2021.

There was much rejoicing over the sighting of a juvenile Crested Serpent Eagle, Spilornis cheela, together with adults at Goldhill Avenue. One sighting of the juvenile eagle was on 19 June 2021 by Matthew Teng. More reports of the confirmation of a successful nesting can be found in this link.

Central Singapore also yielded the afore-mentioned Wedge-tailed Shearwater, Ardenna pacifica, which was reported on 23 June 2021 at Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park by William Khaw, Art Toh and others. On 13 June 2021, Ash Foo found a pair of Striated Herons, Butorides striata, at their nest at the same park.

Northern Singapore

The Lorong Halus Wetland continued to support the Little Grebe, Tachybaptus ruficollis, which was spotted on 15 June 2021 by Yip Jen Wei, who also saw an Asian Palm Swift, Cypsiurus balasiensis, at the same location. On 24 June, 2021, Yeong WaiKai found a male Common Iora, Aegithina tiphia, sitting on its nest.

Further afield, a Purple Heron, Ardea purpurea, was reportedly seen at Sengkang Riverside Park/ Sengkang Floating Wetland on 21 June 2021 by Vilis Lu. At Punggol Barat on 4 June 2021, Keith Hutton found a Large-tailed Nightjar, Caprimulgus macrurus, nest with two eggs.

Eastern Singapore

Mangrove Pitta, 280621, PRP, Danny Khoo

Mangrove Pitta at Pasir Ris Park by Danny Khoo, 28 June 2021.

Pasir Ris Park continued to support a diverse range of residents, including the single Mangrove Pitta, Pitta megarhyncha, spotted on 4 June 2021 by Danny Khoo, and on 9 June 2021 by Low Zhi Hao, a pair of adult and two juvenile Spotted Wood Owl, Strix seloputo, on 15 June 2021 by Mae Wong, as well as reports of a Green Imperial Pigeon, Ducula aenea, a Tanimbar Corella, Cacatua goffiniana, and an over-summering Crested Honey Buzzard, Pernis ptilorhynchus, on 22 June 2021 by Shuna Maekawa.

At the nearby Tampines Eco Green, a Rufous Woodpecker, Micropternus brachyurus, was reported on 22 June 2021 by Lim Kim Keang, who also reported the presence of two Asian Golden Weavers, Ploceus hypoxanthus.

Pulau Ubin continued to dazzle with reports of the Cinnamon-headed Green Pigeon, Treron fulvicollis, spotted on 12 June 2021 by Lim Kim Chuah, a Black-winged Flycatcher-shrike, Hemipus hirundinaceus, on 21 June 2021, at the Chek Jawa Wetlands by Jeff Tan, and the spectacular Green Broadbill, Calyptomena viridis, on 27 June 2021 at Jalan Batu Ubin, discovered by Adrian Silas Tay and Jerold Tan.

On another northeastern island, Frankie Cheong found a small colony of 20-30 breeding  Little Terns, Sternula albifrons, with some 8-10 chicks hatching around mid-June; later on a single stilt was seen on 25 June 2021, and then he reported 4 stilts, which appeared to be an interesting mix of at least one Pied Stilt, Himantopus leucocephalus, (which was the fifth exceptional species for the month) and one Black-winged Stilt, Himantopus himantopus, on 28 June 2021.   

Southern Singapore

Over at Gardens by the Bay, two House Swift, Apus nipalensis, were reported on 6 June 2021 by Yip Jen Wei, while two species of raptor were reported on 20 June 2021 – a single Changeable Hawk-Eagle, Nisaetus cirrhatus, and a Crested Goshawk, Accipiter trivirgatus, by budding birder, Kaeden Sim, who also saw the Ruddy-breasted Crake, Porzana fusca.

On 20 June 2021, Abegale Queddeng witnessed a snake catching one of the Sunda Pygmy Woodpeckers, Yungipicus moluccensis, that tried to defend their nest, and on the next day Kelvin Ng found the remaining parent still attending to the nest. Kelvin also spotted a fledgling Olive-backed Sunbird, Cinnyris jugularis on the same day. Then on 23 June 2021, Jayden Woo found a Yellow-vented Bulbul’s, Pycnonotus goiavier, nest that held two chicks.

A stone’s throw away, albeit not too literally, a Malaysian Plover, Charadrius peronii, our resident plover, was reported on 12 June 2021 at Marina East by Low Zhi Hao. Across the waters, an Eastern Barn Owl, Tyto javanica, was reported on 22 June 2021 at Millenia Tower by Yip Jen Wei.

Visitors to Sentosa were serenaded by up to two Chinese Hwamei, Garrulax canorus, reported on 21 June 2021 by Norhafiani A Majid. Meanwhile, along the waters of the Southern Islands, a Great-billed Heron, Ardea sumatrana, a Pacific Reef Heron, Egretta sacra, and a Black-naped Tern, Sterna sumatrana, were seen the day before, 20 June 2021, by Raghav Narayanswamy.

Western Singapore

Sungei Buloh Weland Reserve was visited by, not one but eight spectacular Lesser Adjutant, Leptoptilos javanicus, on 14 June 2021 (Ester Gerber), while a pair of Copper-throated Sunbird, Leptocoma calcostetha, were reported on 21 June 2021 (Kieran Kwek). On 12 June 2021, Lee Chin Pong found a Common Tailorbird, Orthotomus sutorius attending to two chicks in a nest. At the nearby Kranji Marsh, a male Pied Triller, Lalage nigra, was seen feeding a chick in its nest on 13 June 2021, by Philip Ng.

Over at the popular Jurong Lake Gardens, a cryptic Barred Buttonquail, Turnix suscitator, was seen on 8 June 2021 (Jared Tan), while the regular Grey-headed Fish Eagle, Haliaeetus ichthyaetus, was seen on 21 June 2021 along the Ulu Pandan Park Connector (Norhafiani A Majid), where a pair of Golden-bellied Gerygones, Gerygone sulphurea, were observed to have mated on 17 Jun 2021 (Richard Lee), and on 20 June 2021, David Chan photographed a Golden-bellied Gerygone feeding a Little Bronze Cuckoo, Chrysococcyx minutillus, that had already left the nest.

Other species noted in the west included a Watercock, Gallicrex cinerea, on 6 June 2021, along Jalan Murai, (Marcel Finlay), a Large-billed Crow, Corvus macrorhynchos, on 20 June 2021 at Greenleaf View (Lynn Tan), as well as two Long-tailed Parakeet, Psittacula longicauda, and three Baya Weaver, Ploceus philippinus, both on 22 June 2021 along Holland Plain (Lynn Tan).


This report is compiled/written by Geoff Lim and Isabelle Lee, and edited by Tan Gim Cheong. We are grateful for the birders and photographers whose postings in various Facebook birding pages, bird forums, individual reports and extracts from eBird make up this report. This compilation is not a complete list of birds recorded for the month and not all the records were verified. Rarities would be assessed by the Records Committee.

Many thanks to Kenneth Chow, Lawrence Cher, Art Toh, Alan Owyong, Lim Kim Chuah, and Danny Khoo for allowing us to use their photographs.