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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Nesting of White-rumped Munias at Telok Blangah.
By Vincent Chiang.
An adult White-rumped Munia guarding over its nest over at Telok Blangah Estate.
Late last December I came across some munias hopping in and out of an old nest at the hanging foliage at a housing block at Telok Blangah Estate. It was in early January that I identified the pair as the White-rumped Munias. They have taken over an abandoned cup shaped nest ( Bulbul?) and started building over it by adding bits of thin dry grasses to it. Over the next few days there were not much activities but the nest seemed complete. On one occasion, I found a mixed flock of about a dozen White-rumped and Javan Munias hanging around. Only three curious adult White-rumped Munias came and perched near the nest. Not sure if they are the parents with a helper or not. They did not go into the nest.
The White-rumped Munia’s nest in red on the hanging foliage at an apartment block above an active Olive-backed Sunbird’s nest in blue.
The White-rumped Munia, Lonchura striata, is a rare resident of Singapore, occurring in forest edges, open vegetation and secondary growth. The wild mainland population most probably died out leaving few surviving birds at the offshore islands of Ubin and Tekong. The birds seen now a days on the mainland are likely to have been released or escapees. The documented nesting season is May and July to August ( Kelham 1883 and SINAV 6.2, 6.3). This March nesting record now sets an earlier date for this species in Singapore.
24th January photo of its completed elongated round nest made up of fine dried grasses.
Not much activity was observed in February. The pair were seen flying in and out of the nest and may be roosting there. Sometimes one would stay back to guard the nest. It was only in early March that I heard chirping sounds coming out of the nest and the parent birds coming back very often with traces of grass seeds in their mouths. It was either whole seeds or chewed up puree. I did not see them bringing back insects and other prey. Maybe I was not there when they did so.
Parent bird sitting on top of its nest.
Finally on 8 March, I spotted one of the parent birds feeding a juvenile on the roof top, confirming a successful nesting. I was glad to be able to document this nesting even though I was not able to find out what is happening inside the nest and record the dates when the eggs were laid, chicks hatched and fledged.
Reference: Lim Kim Seng. The Avifauna of Singapore.
All Photos: Vincent Chiang.
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 to Category A for wild birds by identifying it to subspecies level.
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:
- Late November – right timing for a northern vagrant
- It’s the subspecies we would expect to show up as a vagrant here.
- Odd small-island occurrence. Sister’s Island acting as the “land’s end” of Asia continent.
- 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.
- o.orientalis is a known wintering migrant. There are many instances of straying to various parts of the flyway.
- No signs of tags or rings, feather abrasions or body abnormalities and unusual behaviour.
Bird Records Committee Report (Feb 2020)
By Lim Kim Seng
Chairman, Nature Society (Singapore) Bird Group Records Committee.
Large Woodshrike Tephrodornis gularis at Jelutong Tower, 22 Oct 2018. Photo by Francis Yap.
The Records Committee continues to receive records of new bird species to the Singapore List and rarities. This report updates the findings of the period, October 2018 – January 2020.
Eleven new bird species were added to the Singapore List, bringing the total number of species to 414. The 2020 edition can be downlink here NSS Singapore Checklist 2020 edition. NSS-Singapore Checklist-2020-edition
They include the following:
Shikra Accipiter badius
An immature photographed flying over Jelutong Tower on 21 Nov 2019 by Alex Fok was the first record for Singapore since a specimen was collected in 1891.
Shikra Accipiter badius at Jelutong Tower on 21 Nov 2019. Photo by Alex Fok.
Pied Stilt Himantopus leucocephalus
Up to five birds photographed on Pulau Tekong on 17 Jul 2019 by Frankie Cheong was the first record for Singapore.
Pied Stilt Himantopus leucocephalus at Pulau Tekong on 17 July 2019. Photo: Frankie Cheong.
Oriental Turtle-dove Streptopelia orientalis
An adult of the nominate subspecies orientalis recorded on Sisters’ Island during an island survey by Camphora Pte Ltd on 28 Nov 2018 for SDC. This was the first record for Singapore.
Oriental Turtle-dove Streptopelia orientalis at Sisters’ Island on 28 Nov 2018. Photo: Camphora Pte Ltd.
Fairy Pitta Pitta nympha
A bird seen and photographed near Dillenia Hut in the Central Catchment Nature Reserve on 8 Nov 2019 by Francis Yap and Richard White was the first record for Singapore.
Fairy Pitta Pitta nympha at Central Catchment Forest on 8 Nov 2019. Photo: Francis Yap.
Large Woodshrike Tephrodornis gularis
A female seen at Jelutong Tower on 22 Oct 2018 by Oliver Tan, Francis Yap and Pary Sivaraman. This was the first record for Singapore since the 1950s.
Large Woodshrike Tephrodornis gularis at Jelutong Towers on 22 Oct 2019. Photo: Francis Yap.
Eurasian Skylark Alauda arvensis
One photographed at Pandan Reservoir on 3 Nov 2018 by Angela Chua was the first record for Singapore.
Eurasian Skylark, Alauda arvensis, at Pandan Reservoir on 3 Nov 2018. Photo by Angela Chua.
Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus
A male photographed at the Ecolake, Singapore Botanic Gardens, on 12 Nov 2019 by Dennis Lim and Arman Nacionales and confirmed by Geoff Lim on 15 November 2019 was our third record for Singapore. A female seen at Satay by the Bay on 9 Feb 2013 by Laurence Eu was the first record. A male seen at Cashew Heights by Subha on 20 Jan 2014 was the second record while a female seen at Tg Rhu on 14 and 15 Jan 2020 by Manju Gang was our fourth record. Lastly, a male seen at National University of Singapore on 30 Jan 2020 by Lynette Chia was our fifth. Previously assigned to Cat E, recent studies have shown that this species occur on a regular basis in Southeast Asia during the winter months, and should be rightly considered as wild birds.
Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus at Singapore Botanic Gardens on 15 Nov 2019. Photo: Geoff Lim.
Taiga Flycatcher Ficedula albicilla
A non-breeding male/female seen and photographed at the Ecolake, Singapore Botanic Gardens on 30 Nov 2019 by Lim Kim Seng, Wayne Merritt and Roy Toh was the first record for Singapore.
Taiga Flycatcher Ficedula albicilla at Singapore Botanic Gardens on 30 Nov 2019. Photo: Lim Kim Seng.
Japanese Tit Parus minor
A bird photographed at Pasir Ris Park on 30 Nov 2019 by Yeo Seng Beng was our third record of this species in Singapore. The first record came from a bird observed at Chinese Garden on 27 Oct 2012 by Choo Teik Ju and photographed by Frankie Lim and Wong Lee Hong. The second was another individual photographed at Tuas on 5 November by Yong Ding Li.
Japanese Tit Parus minor at Pasir Ris Park on 30 Nov 2019. Photo: Yeo Seng Beng.
White-cheeked Starling Spodiopsar cineraceus
A subadult male was found at Seletar Aerospace Drive on 16 Jan 2020 by Martin Kennewell. This was our first record. It was seen again later by Alan OwYong and Alfred Chia who submitted a formal report for it to be accepted into Cat A.
White-cheeked Starling Spodiopsar cineraceus at Seletar Aerospace Drive on 16 Jan 2019. Photo: Alan OwYong.
Brahminy Starling Sturnia pagodarum
A bird photographed at Jurong Lake Gardens on 30 Jan 2020 by Deborah Friets was our sixth record. The other records were singles at Marina East on 2 Feb 2008 and 5 Oct 2008 by Mike Hooper, Bidadari on 3 Dec 2013 by Frankie Cheong, Punggol Barat on 8 Feb 2016 by Francis Yap and 12 Sep 2016 at Gardens by the Bay by Mike Hooper. Terry Heppell also photographed one at Gardens by the Bay on 13 Sept 2016 and should be the same bird as Mike Hooper’s. Previously assigned to Category E, recent studies have shown that this species occur on a regular basis in Southeast Asia during the winter months, and should be rightly considered as wild birds.
Brahminy Starling Sturnia pagodarum at Jurong Lake Gardens on 30 Jan 2020. Photo: Deborah Friets.
In addition, a record of Black-headed Bunting in difficult juvenile plumage reported from Kranji on 18 Nov 2018 remains as “pending” as its identification (from the similar Red-headed Bunting) was not conclusive. Another record of Blue Whistling Thrush reported from Fort Canning Park on 7 Dec 2019 was assigned to category E.
The following eight rarities were accepted.
Swinhoe’s Snipe Gallinago megala
An adult photographed at Lim Chu Kang Lane 3 on 18 Jan 2020 by Dillen Ng was our second confirmed record from the field. Its similarity to Pintail Snipe means that a close look at its outermost tail feathers is essential to confirm its identification.
Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus
A bird seen and photographed at Kranji Marshes on 15 Jan 2020 by Veronica Foo and Lim Kim Keang was our fourth record. This individual was photographed at Lim Chu Kang Lane 3 earlier on 11 Jan 2020 by Art Toh.
Chestnut-cheeked Starling Agropsar philippensis
A male photographed at Jurong Lake Gardens on 9 Feb 2020 by Sandra Chia was our fifth record. Previous records include singles at Loyang on 8 Dec 1987 by R. Subaraj, Bidadari on 11 Oct 2014 by Zahidi Hamid, Pandan River on 1 Nov 2019 by Mai Rong Wen and at Henderson Waves on 16 Nov 2019 by See Toh Yew Wai.
We would like to thanks the following observers for submitting their records for review and for the use of their photographs in this report: Frankie Cheong, Alfred Chia, Lynette Chia, Sandra Chia, Angela Chua, Veronica Foo, Alex Fok, Deborah Friets, Geoff Lim, Lim Kim Seng, Dillen Ng, Alan Owyong, Oliver Tan, Felix Wong, Francis Yap and Yeo Seng Beng. Finally, thanks are also due to my fellow committee members for their expertise in the deliberation process: Alfred Chia, Kenneth Kee, Benjamin Lee, Lim Kim Chuah, Lim Kim Keang, Alan Owyong, Dr Frank Rheindt, Tan Gim Cheong and Dr Yong Ding Li.
Lim, K.S. (2009). The avifauna of Singapore. Nature Society (Singapore), Singapore.
Interbreeding between a Northern and a Southern Oriental Pied Hornbill at Pasir Ris Park.
By Seng Alvin.
This may be the first record of a successful breeding of two races of Oriental Pied Hornbills in Singapore. In 1996, a pair of the northern race bred successfully in Upper Seletar Reservoir Park. These together with a small population of Southern Pieds were introduced after they went extinct in the last century. Our first pair of wild hornbills was sighted at Pulau Ubin on 14 March 1994 during a round the island survey by the NSS Bird Group.
In early November 2019, a park visitor told me that a pair of Pied Hornbills were seen at an old nest in an Angsana tree. On 11 November I went to check and found a pair of Pied Hornbills tidying the same nest hole that was previously used by another pair of hornbills. What was unusual was that the male was a northern race (A.a albirostris) and the female was our southern race (A.a. convexus). The southern race is found throughout extreme South Thailand and Peninsular Malaysia. This could be the same pair that nested there earlier this year from February to May.
I continued to monitor and document the nesting from the time when the mummy bird moved in around late November until the fledgling of both chicks on 20 February, a period spanning eleven weeks. The biggest excitement for me is to see which parent’s genes would the chicks take after. From the photos you can see that the chick has a black and white undertail pattern of the daddy instead of a all white undertail of the mummy southern pied. So if you visit the park, do keep a lookout for these hornbills to see which race are they.
( I received information from experience birders that both adults are Southern Pied Hornbills. Younger birds do have some blacks at the upper tail that will fade away as it aged. The Northern Pied race has two third of the under tail black.)
11.11.2019. Mrs OPH ( a southern race) checking out the nest hole. The male OPH, a northern race A.a. albirostris was watching nearby.
23.11.2019. Mrs. OPH decided to move into the nest to lay eggs. Mr. OPH started to bring back food like this lizard to feed her. The nest hole entrance was sealed in the next few days.
31.01.2020. Daddy bird working hard to bring back food for the Mummy bird and two chicks.
The black and white tail pattern of the northern race of the male can be seen in this photo.
20.2.2020. Taking its first flight but landed on the ground instead. Managed to regain its strength and confidence after 15 minutes and flew off to join the parents over at the toilet area. The encouraging calls by the parent did the trick.
20.2.2020. Mama OPH continued to feed her chick. From this photo you can see this fledgling taking the genes of the papa bird.
Lim Kim Seng. The Avifauna of Singapore. Nature Society (Singapore) 2009.
Craig Robson. A Field Guide to the Birds of Thailand and South-East Asia.
Boonsong and Round. A Guide to the Birds of Thailand.
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!
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).
Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR) and Fringe Parks
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, while an Indian Pond Heron, Ardeola grayii, in breeding plumage was photographed on 15 January 2020 by Millie Cher. 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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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).
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.
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 Jerdon’s 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.
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.
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 Baillon’s 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.
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 Stejneger’s 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 Swinhoe’s 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.
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.
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?
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Feeding behaviour of Pheasant-tailed Jacana, Hydrophasianus chirurgus.
By Amar-Singh HSS.
Location: Wetlands, Perak, Malaysia
Habitat: Extensive ex-tin mining area with pond/lakes, wetlands
Date: 17th February 2020.
Some colleagues mentioned a group of Pheasant-tailed Jacana at a wetlands site (at least 5 birds present) and I visited to observe feeding behaviour. One common feeding method is to swim in open water and pick prey from the water surface, especially from floating vegetation; what is actually taken is uncertain. Most sources say their diet consists of insects, molluscs, other invertebrates. I observed them for a 1.5 hours and saw (with video) many such feeding episodes but all I could see taken (even with video grab images) was plant material – the opinion is that aquatic vegetation is ingested accidentally/incidentally while feeding on animal prey (see HBW 2020). It is possible that they feed on a large number of small insects and invertebrates on the water surface. I saw some competitive feeding between the birds (defending their stretch of water) but this was not common; they could also feed communally. A video of feeding behaviour is here: https://youtu.be/dVTE0MfrHgk
Jenni, D.A. & Kirwan, G.M. (2020). Pheasant-tailed Jacana (Hydrophasianus chirurgus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
Summary for migrant species:
Two Peregrine Falcons interacting with each other at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve on the 12th were captured on camera by Ang T. H., providing an excellent opportunity for plumage comparison between the two similar-looking subspecies. For the month, we had 11 migrant type (japonensis/calidus) Peregrine Falcons. Interestingly, two adult japonensis were perched within meters of each other at Jurong East, on the 11th.
Just a few days before the year came to a close, on the afternoon of the 28th, two huge Himalayan Vultures flew over Hindhede Quarry, surprising birders who were there looking for a waterbird, the vultures eventually settled on the cliff edge for the night. The next morning, birders were out in force to marvel at these two rare vagrants, which took flight at mid-morning and were mobbed by the resident White-bellied Sea Eagles. They were seen shortly after at Jelutong Tower, thermalling high up.
The single wintering immature Rufous-bellied Hawk-Eagle was photographed twice at Dairy Farm Nature Park, on the 4th & 6th. The only Common Kestrel, a female/juvenile type, was recorded at Tuas South on the 22nd & 23rd. Only one Common Buzzard, an adult, was seen/photographed at Holland Village Car Park on the 25th & 26th.
An adult female Chinese Sparrowhawk, probably the same individual from previous years, and which returned on October 2019, was still wintering at Ang Mo Kio Town Garden West. Elsewhere, there were three other individuals, one each at Dairy Farm Nature Park (juvenile), Pasir Ris Park (adult female), and Changi Business Park.
Three Western Ospreys were recorded: two at Kranji Marshes, and another at Yishun Pond. Five Jerdon’s Bazas were recorded: three at the Pasir Ris – Lorong Halus – Coney Island area, and two at Changi Business Park.
Finally, we come to the most abundant migrant raptors. 15 Japanese Sparrowhawks and 33 Black Bazas were recorded, including 13 bazas at the Botanic Gardens on the 25th. The Oriental Honey Buzzard is tops again with 84 birds, including many juveniles and a small number of dark morphs.
Highlights for sedentary species:
The notable sightings for resident raptors include that of the locally rare Crested Serpent Eagle, which was recorded three times: one at Pulau Ubin on the 1st, one at Malcolm Road on the 3rd, and an adult at Dairy Farm Nature Park on the 16th.
Nesting-related records were reported for four species. There was a nest of a pair of Grey-headed Fish Eagles, with one chick, high up a tall tree at Little Guilin. Nest-building activity was observed for the Brahminy Kite at Lim Chu Kang area, and for the Crested Goshawk at Pasir Ris. At Bishan, the chick of a pair of Spotted Wood Owls had already fledged.
At Dairy Farm Nature Park, a juvenile ernesti Peregrine Falcon was photographed in flight on the 8th. The other resident raptors recorded were the Black-winged Kite, Changeable Hawk Eagle, and the common White-bellied Sea Eagle.
For more details, please click Singapore Raptor Report – December 2019
Compiled by Tan Gim Cheong
Many thanks to everyone who had reported their sightings in one way or another, and especially to Ang T H, Lee Van Hien, Chan Yoke Meng, Sim Chip Chye, Johnny Chew, Dennis Lim, and Tay Kian Guan for the use of their photos.