Tag Archives: Black-thighed Falconet

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

JSH, 200921, PRP, Philip Chua

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

Summary:

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

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

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

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

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

CHE, 110821, NTHL, SCC

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

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

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

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

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

BHO, 150821, Mandai Track 7, Vincent Yip

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Black-Thighed Falconet in Singapore.

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.

Breeding ecology of the Black-thighed Falconets in Perak, Malaysia.

By Khoo Siew Yoong

The recent sightings of the Black-thighed Falconet, Microhierax fringillarius, in Singapore after 30 years, created considerable interest of this long-lost former resident there. This seems to be a good time to share some observations of their breeding behavior in this blog with you.

A successful brood of four juveniles

I have been studying the nesting of this falconet around the limestone hills at my backyard in Ipoh since 2005.  

A female “helper” tearing the innards of a bird to feed the chicks.

I followed a particular super productive pair full time from 2007 till present. They renewed their courtship around November to March every year, successfully brooding 3-6 chicks each year with a bumper brood of 6 chicks in 2018. In a 9 year period, between 2011 and 2019, they successfully raise at least 30 chicks.

Courtship of the studied pair. Note the size difference between the male and female.

One interesting aspect I discovered during the study was the “outsider” breeding rendered by helper adults in incubating the eggs, feeding and looking after the chicks. All of them, the parents, the helpers and the chicks roost in the same nest hole in the cliff side. Some years back, I took my Singapore birding friend Alan OwYong and his wife to check on the nesting. They were amazed to count a total of 10 of them flying back cramming into one nest hole to roost!

The nest hole inside the side of the limestone cliffs is perfect for the whole family.
A 3 month old falconet already acquired adult plumage.

Breeding – Incubation: 3-3.5 weeks. Fledging: 2.5-3 weeks. Post fledgling: 1-7,5 months.

Diet – Bat & House swift (caught on the fly), house gecko, bee, dragonfly, butterfly, moth and small birds. Occasionally small rat. Collected more than 60 pellets during one nesting period for Prof, Puan at University Putra Malaysia for analysis by his undergrad students.

Some of the pellet droppings for analysis
 MaleFemaleJuvenile
SizeSmallerLargerSmall
Belly and ThighLight rufousSlight darker rufousLight rufous
ThroatWhite/Light rufousLight to darker rufousWhite/beige
Ear StripeWhiteWhiteRufous
SuperciliumWhiteWhiteRufous
Table 1. Field features of the males, females and juveniles.
Family photo of parents, young and helper showing the different plumages.

I hope that more falconets will expand beyond Johor down to Singapore and establish a breeding colony there.

References:

In correspondence with advice from David Wells and Alan Kemp.

Research expedition with the British Broadcasting Corporation on the Black – thighed Falconet (Microhierax Fringillarins – smallest eagle in the world). 2013.

“Strange Castaways” in the Wonders of the Monsoon Series. British Broadcasting Corporation. Broadcast in 2014.  

Scientific presentation on the Black- thighed Falconet (smallest eagle in the world) at the Kasetsart University – Raptor rehabilitation Unit, Chatuchak, Bangkok. 2017

Fledging Fledgling in Bird Ecology Study Group (28 Jan. 2013). Raptors: Black-thighed Falconette in Bird Ecology Study Group (5 Sept. 2009). Black-thighed Falconet: Mating and nesting rituals in Suara Enggang (29 June 07). Co- authored with K C Tsang. 

Singapore Raptor Report, Late Spring Migration, April-June 2021

CSH, f, 260621, Fort Siloso Sentosa, Jared Tan, pic

Chinese Sparrowhawk, Sentosa, at an unusually late date – 26 June 2021, by Jared Tan

Summary:

Six migrant raptor species were recorded during this period compared with four in most other years. A Chinese Sparrowhawk Accipiter soloensis photographed by Jared Tan at Sentosa on 25th June came as a huge surprise, as it should have been at its breeding grounds now, and this individual is unseasonally late. The three other records for this species were on 1st April at Telok Blangah Hill Park, 2nd April at Henderson Waves (3 birds), and 9th April at Dairy Farm Nature Park.

The only record for the Black Baza Aviceda leuphotes was a flock of 25 at Henderson Waves on 2nd April, recorded by Zac C. In some years, this species is not recorded from April onwards for spring migration.

The twelve Oriental Honey Buzzard Pernis ptilorhyncus on 2nd April – eight at Henderson Waves and four at Pinnacle@Duxton – might have been the last migrants to head north for the breeding grounds. There were another 13 records in April, 12 in May and 9 in June, and where photos were available, were all immatures, which would be over-summering here.

Fifty four Japanese Sparrowhawks Accipiter gularis were recorded between 1st to 19th April, a high number compared with only five last April. Three Peregrine Falcons Falco peregrinus were recorded, one adult at Bangkit Road on 18th April, one at Chek Jawa on 25th April, and a juvenile at Sembawang from 18th April to 3rd May. Small numbers of Western Osprey Pandion haliaetus were also recorded between April to June.

Black-thighed Falconet, 300521, Goldhill, Art Toh, same

Black-thighed Falconet, practicing its habit of perching at the top of a bare branch, Goldhill Avenue, 30 May 2021, by Art Toh

Sedentary Raptors

The biggest surprise came in the form of a tiny Black-thighed Falconet Microhierax fringillarius photographed by Art Toh at Goldhill Avenue on 30th May, doing what the species like to do – perching on the top of a bare branch. Unfortunately, it did not stay long. Apart from the juvenile at Yishun in February this year, the last confirmed record for this species was more than 30 years ago, amazing.

The next great find was the first breeding record of the Crested Serpent Eagle Spilornis cheela, for which a fresh juvenile was photographed by Tan YinLing on 25th May at Goldhill Avenue. For the next two weeks it appeared on and off alone, and it was only on 8th June that lucky Koh Lian Heng managed to see an adult catching a skink and then passing it to the juvenile before flying off, leaving the juvenile to feed by itself, showing that it had recently fledged and was still dependent on its parents. On 10th June, Zacc HD had the good fortune of seeing the adult serpent eagle holding a snake, and the juvenile flew to the same perch, no doubt to feed on the prey. Other records of the serpent eagle came from Pulau Ubin, on 7th and 10th April, and a sub-adult at Upper Peirce Reservoir on 1st June.

CSE juv, 220621, Goldhill, TGC

Crested Serpent Eagle, the recently fledged juvenile looking well fed, Goldhill Avenue, 22 June 2021 by Tan Gim Cheong

There were breeding records for five other resident raptors. Three nestlings of the Brahminy Kite Haliastur Indus were noted by Lee Chin Pong on 3rd April at Dover Road. On 24th May, three Changeable Hawk-Eagles Nisaetuscirrhatus, an adult and two fresh juveniles, all pale morphs, were photographed at Tampines Avenue 12, where a pair has had a nest for a number of years. On 1st June, a fresh juvenile Grey-headed Fish Eagle Haliaeetus ichthyaetus that was apparently still dependent on its parents for food was photographed by Ash Foo at Little Guilin.The Crested Goshawks Accipiter trivirgatus at Sin Ming raised a second brood and two chicks were noted on 5th April, however one died on 15th April and the remaining chick was seen perching a few metres outside the nest on 23rd April. Another Crested Goshawk nest was discovered at Toa Payoh on 5th May, with an adult on the nest.

There were five nesting records for the White-bellied Sea Eagle Haliaeetus leucogaster. The pair at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve bred again this season and two chicks were out of the nest on 30 May. The pair at Fort Canning also bred again, re-using their old nest which held two chicks on 7th June. At Loyang Avenue, an active nest was reported on 25th April, and two fully grown chicks were recorded on 29th May. At Yishun Avenue 1, a nest with two chicks was seen on 26th April, and at West Coast Park, a chick was reported to have made its maiden flight on 23rd June.

BHO, 300621, HNP, TGC

Brown Hawk Owl, 2 recently fledged young with an adult (partially hidden on the right), Hindhede Nature Park, 30 June 2021, by Tan Gim Cheong

Nocturnal Raptors

There were breeding records for five species of nocturnal raptors. A fledgling Barred Eagle-Owl Bubo sumatranus was photographed at Rifle Range Link on 4th April, while two adults, presumably its parents, were seen the day prior at the same locality.

On 19th April, a family of Spotted Wood Owls Strix seloputo with two chicks was spotted at Pasir Ris Park, and one of the chicks was already out of its nest, which was fittingly a bird’s nest fern. The other chick was also out of the nest on 27th April. At Benjamin Shears bridge, a fully grown Eastern Barn Owl Tyto javanicachick was spotted on 27th April, with its parent.

In May, a fledgling Sunda Scops Owl Otus  lempiji was photographed at the Botanic Gardens, and the adults were seen bringing food to the young owl. On 26th June, a family of Brown Hawk Owl Ninox scutulata with two fledglings was discovered at Hindhede Nature Park.

On 10th June, the mixed Brown Fish Owl Ketupa zeylonensisandBuffy Fish Owl Ketupa ketupupair was spotted at Hindhede Quarry, together with their hybrid offspring. This family was first discovered in February 2021.

Many thanks to everyone for posting / sending in / sharing their records, and to Jared Tan & Art Toh for the use of their photos.

For a pdf version with more details, please click Singapore Raptor Report, Late Spring Migration, Apr-Jun 2021

Singapore Bird Report – February 2021

CPG, 090221, BAMK, SCC

Cotton Pygmy Goose, Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park, 9 Feb 2021, by Sim Chip Chye

February 2021 was marked by a number of interesting records. A Brown Fish Owl Ketupa zeylonensis, the first for Singapore, was photographed at Hindhede Quarry on 17 Feb 2021 by Jackie Yeo and Yeak Hwee Lee. The Brown Fish Owl even sired an owlet with a Buffy Fish OwlKetupa ketupu. At Yishun, a juvenile Black-thighed Falconet Microhierax fringillarius showed up at an apartment block on 12 Feb 2021 to the delight of Lee Lay Na (refer to the Feb 2021 raptor report for more details for both of these).

A rare Cotton Pygmy Goose Nettapus coromandelianus showed up at a pond at Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park on 8 Feb 2021, recorded by Teo Ang Guan, and was present through the month. At Goldhill Avenue/Malcolm Road patch of woods, a male Scarlet Minivet Pericrocotus speciosus with a portion of its tail missing/broken, was photographed on 25 Feb 2021 by Thomas Soo. A Sakhalin Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus borealoides was seen and sound-recorded at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve (SBWR) on 9 Feb 2021 by Yong Ding Li, and also recorded by others through the rest of the month, with Norhafiani A. Majid snagging a photo on 28 Feb 2021.

Sakhalin Leaf Warbler, 280221, SBWR entrance boardwalk, Norhafiani A Majid, pic

Sakhalin Leaf Warbler, SBWR, 28 Feb 2021, by Norhafiani A. Majid

A juvenile diffusus Black-naped Oriole Oriolus chinensis was photographed at Hampstead Wetlands on 21 Feb 2021 by Ash Foo, and also at SBWR on the same day by Ang Hou Boon. At SBWR, 14 Lesser Adjutants Leptoptilos javanicus were recorded on 7 Feb 2021 by Rene Sun, and on 27 Feb 2021 by Spencer Yau. About 100 Asian Openbills Anastomus oscitans at SBWR on 27 Feb 2021 early morning recorded by Bernard Seah flying southwest was the biggest flock for this season; there were 74 at Tuas South on the same day mid-morning, possibly the same flock, heading west, recorded by Martti Siponen. At nearby Lim Chu Kang Lane 3, a Baillon’s Crake Zapornia pusilla was photographed on 27 Feb 2021 by Keith Hutton.

Towards the south, a Black Bittern Ixobrychus flavicollis was recorded at Satay by the Bay on 7 Feb 2021 by Saravanan K., and an Oriental Pratincole Glareola maldivarum at Marina East on 27 Feb 2021 by Lam SG. The wintering Grey-headed Lapwing Vanellus cinereus was at Central Boulevard on 6 Feb 2021 (Khoo MeiLin), and at Marina East on 18 Feb 2021 (Marcel Finlay). Interestingly, Adrian Silas Tay found a Pied Bushchat Saxicola caprata at Central Boulevard on 21 Feb 2021, and the bird was on site for the next four days. The Pied Bushchat at Holland Plain was still there on 11 Feb 2021 (Yip Jen Wei).

PBC, 230221, Lee Chin Pong, crop

Pied Bushchat, Central Boulevard – Marina Gardens Drive junction, 23 Feb 2021, by Lee Chin Pong

Elsewhere, a Hodgson’s Hawk Cuckoo Hierococcyx nisicolor was recorded at Dairy Farm Nature Park on 5 Feb 2021 by Tan Gim Cheong; an Orange-headed Thrush Geokichla citrina at Ubin on 5 Feb 2021 by Mike Hooper; the Grey Nighjar Caprimulgus jotaka was still wintering at Hampstead Wetlands on 22 Feb 2021 (Johnny Wee); a Hooded Pitta Pitta sordida at Venus Drive on 25 Feb 2021 by Adeline Goh; an Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher (Black-backed) Ceyx erithaca at the rail corridor south of King Albert Park on 27 Feb 2021 by Gideon; and a Javan Pond Heron Ardeola speciosa had started to moult into breeding plumage at Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park on 28 Feb 2021 (Khoo MeiLin).

A male Green-backed Flycatcher Ficedula elisae was recorded at Rifle Range Link on 7 Feb 2021 by Ramesh T., while individual females were recorded at Dairy Farm Nature Park (1 Feb 2021, Steven Cheong), Central Catchment (6 Feb 2021, Raghav N.), and Hindhede Nature Park (18 Feb 2021, Choong YT), quite a month for the Green-backed Flycatchers.

GBFC male, 070221, Rifle Range Link, Ramesh T

Green-backed Flycatcher, male, Rifle Range Link, 7 Feb 2021, by Ramesh T.

Breeding records

Mating was observed for the following birds: Asian Koel Eudynamys scolopaceus at Windsor Nature Park on 16 Feb 2021 by Ong Peline; White-throated Kingfisher Halcyon smyrnensis on 19 Feb 2021 by Lai Yeu Huan; Zebra Dove Geopelia striata at Hampstead Wetlands on 20 Feb 2021 by Meena Vathyam; Coppersmith Barbet Psilopogon haemacephalus at Hampstead Wetlands on 21 Feb 2021 by Ash Foo; and Blue-throated Bee-eater Merops viridis at Neo Tiew Harvest Lane on 21 Feb 2021 by Wang Jun Loong.

A Red-legged Crake Rallina fasciata chick was moving about with its parents at Hindhede Nature Park on 5 Feb 2021, by Tan Gim Cheong. At Whampoa, the Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot Loriculus galgulus was visiting a treehole on 9 Feb 2021 (Eric Yeo), and was photographed bringing leaves, tucked into its rump feathers, back to the treehole on 25 Feb 2021, by Tan Gim Cheong.

At Hampstead Wetlands, a pair of Banded Woodpeckers Chrysophlegma miniaceum was observed feeding their chicks in a treehole on 11 Feb 2021, by Kwok Tuck Loong. On 15 Feb 2021, Javan Mynas Acridotheres javanicus entered the nest hole and attacked the chicks, causing one chick to fall into the pond below. Unfortunately, as the chick struggled on the water, a monitor lizard closed in swiftly and caught it, observed by Jess Leo, Serene Ong and Tan Heng Liang. This is an example of how an invasive species (Javan Myna) can negatively affect native species (Banded Woodpecker). The parent woodpeckers fought with the mynas and one chick was strong enough to fly to safety (Yeak Hwee Lee). In the aftermath, the Javan Mynas occupied the nest hole. Note: in mid-November 2020, Wong Keng photographed the Banded Woodpecker and Javan Mynas fighting over the tree hole, and the Banded Woodpeckers proceeded to use the hole for nesting.

Banded Woody fight J Myna, 150221, Hampstead, Lai Yeu Huan

Banded Woodpecker defending its nesting hole against a Javan Myna, Hampstead Wetlands, 15 Feb 2021, by Lai Yeu Huan

In the vicinity of Hampstead Wetlands, a male Oriental Pied Hornbill Anthracoceros albirostris was seen bringing food to its mate sealed in a treehole on 3 Feb 2021, by Wong Chung Cheong. Unfortunately, this nesting failed eventually. At SBWR, a Crimson Sunbird Aethopyga siparaja nest with two chicks was observed on 21 Feb 2021 by Andy Chew, but on 25 Feb 2021 only one chick remained and a pair of Copper-throated Sunbirds Leptocoma calcostethaattacked the nest and were chased away by the nesting sunbird. On 28 Feb 2021, the remaining chick was found dead, noted by Khoo MeiLin.

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

Many thanks to Sim Chip Chye, Norhafiani A. Majid, Lee Chin Pong, Ramesh T., and Lai Yeu Huan for allowing us to use their photographs.

Singapore Raptor Report – February 2021

Brown FO crop, Jackie Yeo

Brown Fish Owl, at Hindhede Nature Park, 17 Feb 2021, by Jackie Yeo

The highlight for February 2021 must have been the incredible sighting of the first Brown Fish Owl in Singapore, and the Black-thighed Falconet which had not been seen for decades, more on these later.

Summary for migrant species:

In February 2021, 139 raptors of eight migrant species were recorded. The only Rufous-bellied Eagle wintering in Singapore was recorded at Dairy Farm Nature Park on the 1st, Woodlands on the 6th, and Hillview MRT vicinity on the 21st. Only two Chinese Sparrowhawks were recorded, the wintering female at Ang Mo Kio Town Garden West on the 12th and 13th, and a male at Lorong Halus Wetlands on the 20th.

Five Jerdon’s Bazas were recorded, singles at Pulau Ubin, Changi Business Park, Pasir Ris Park, Tampines Eco Green, and Lorong Halus-Punggol Waterway area. There were also five Western Ospreys and they were recorded at Changi Business Park, Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, Upper Seletar Reservoir, Jelutong Tower, and Hindhede Nature Park. Fourteen Peregrine Falcons were recorded, often perched on buildings. There were also 22 Japanese Sparrowhawks, 39 Black Bazas,and51 Oriental Honey Buzzards.

Highlights for sedentary species:

Jackie Yeo was at Hindhede Nature Park on 17 Feb 2021 when he photographed an unusual-looking large brown owl that proved to be a Brown Fish Owl, the first sighting of the species in Singapore. The nearest known population is at northern Peninsular Malaysia, some 500-600 kilometres away. More incredibly, the next day, Vincent Yip photographed the Brown Fish Owl perching next to an almost fully grown hybrid owlet that looked mostly like a young Buffy Fish Owl. Subsequently, the Brown Fish Owl was seen perched next to an adult Buffy Fish Owl, presumably its mate. The mystery deepens when Jan Tan checked her photos of an unusual-looking owl taken at nearby Singapore Quarry on 3 Aug 2019, one and a half years ago, and discovered that it was a Brown Fish Owl!   

Brown FO crop, Jan Tan

Brown Fish Owl, at Singapore Quarry, 3 Aug 2019, by Jan Tan

The other amazing occurrence was that of a juvenile Black-thighed Falconet that was found by Lee Lay Na, perched on the parapet of an HDB flat in Yishun Street 71, on 12 Feb 2021, as if to welcome the first day of the Lunar New Year. The last confirmed record for the falconet was more than 30 years ago.

150998907_10159235630236214_6006288479226158474_o

Black-thighed Falconet, perched on HDB parapet at Yishun Street 71, 12 Feb 2021, by Lee Lay Na

Breeding-related activities were noted for three other species. At least one chick was observed in the nest of a pair of Black-winged Kites at Seletar on the 28th. Separate pairs of White-bellied Sea Eagles were observed on their respective nests at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve on the 6th, and Fort Canning on the 20th. For the Buffy Fish Owl, a fledgling was observed with its parents at Yishun on the 4th & 9th, another owlet at Jurong Lake Gardens had fledged from its nest (a Bird’s Nest Fern) by the 6th, and yet another owlet was observed in its nest (another Bird’s Nest Fern) along Hampstead Gardens on the 6th and 8th.

One adult ernesti Peregrine Falcon was recorded in the vicinity of the Botanic Gardens on the 25th. There were four records of the Crested Serpent Eagle at SBWR, Chek Jawa, Goldhill Avenue, and Kent Ridge Park. Ten Grey-headed Fish Eagles, 12 Black-winged Kites, 17 Crested Goshawks, and eight Changeable Hawk-Eagles were also recorded. Finally, one Barred Eagle Owl was recorded at Rifle Range Link, while one Spotted Wood Owl was recorded at Goldhill Avenue, Satay by the Bay, and Pasir Ris Park.

Table 1

Many thanks to everyone who had reported their sightings in one way or another, and especially to Jackie Yeo, Jan Tan, and Lee Lay Na for the use of their photos.

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

Threatened, Endangered, Going, Gone?

The current Singapore Checklist published in 2013 has 385 species based on species classified under Category A: i.e. species recorded in an apparent wild state in Singapore in the last 50 years. If you go through this list you will find that many of our resident species have actually not been seen for quite some time. We fear that many of these ‘missing’ species may have died out in their last stronghold due to habitat loss and other factors associated with small populations (e.g. disease). The good news is that some of the species that we thought we have lost like the Buff-rumped Woodpecker and Barred Eagle Owl were spectacularly rediscovered in recent years, although this does not guarantee that their populations will persist in the long time. In this article, we highlight a number of species in Singapore’s checklist that have not been seen in the last decade and more.

Many of these ‘lost’ birds can still be found at the Panti Forest Reserve just across the Causeway in Johor, Malaysia. We are lucky to be able to showcase these eight species brilliantly documented by Con Foley at Panti Forest, and hope that they will be seen here again some day.

WoodpeckerWhitebellied Con Foley1. White-bellied Woodpecker. Dryocopus javensis

A large, rare woodpecker that is distinctive both in appearance and call, the White-bellied Woodpecker is also the second largest woodpecker in the Old World, after the Great Slaty Woodpecker. Like the possibly extinct Ivory-billed Woodpecker of North America, this is no doubt the Holy Grail of birdwatching in Singapore! The last confirmed record was from the Canopy Walkway at the Central Catchment Nature Reserve where one was heard on 24 July 2005, almost ten years ago. The last stronghold of the White-bellied Woodpecker was the Central Catchment Forest where most of the sightings were reported. One exceptional record was on 30 September 2001 when three males and one female were seen on a Terentang tree at the CCNR (Alfred Chia, Kenneth Kee & Alan OwYong). This is the largest single count for this woodpecker to date. Subsequent sightings involved a single male around the Sime Road area and MacRitchie Forest. Outside the Central Catchment, one bird was seen at the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve in the mid-1990s, and a stray individual was reported at the Mount Pleasant and Gymkhana areas in the early 2000s. There have also been unconfirmed records of single birds in remnant patches of woodlands in Tuas and Marina South. Large woodpeckers need large areas of relatively undisturbed forests to forage almost wherever they are found. We may have lost this woodpecker as a result of forest fragmentation and unless this is reversed the chances of this woodpecker returning to our forest is nil.

There was this note from Jon Chan of an unconfirmed sighting in 2013. He wrote: “Found out one of my buddies, Gabriel Kang, fellow Sunburnbrother and spotter, found a White Bellied Woodpecker at Rifle Range Rd on 6 Feb ’13 at 11.15am’. He heard the call first, suspected something amiss, stopped the car, and It flew past him on the road. Described it as crow-size but with a woodpecker’s behaviour. “

PigeonLittlegreenmale Com Foley

2. Little Green Pigeon. Treton olax

The Little Green Pigeon is the rarest of four green pigeons known from Singapore. Surprisingly this species was considered to be common in the 1960s by birdwatchers from the Royal Air Force Ornithological Society (Tweedy 1970, RAFOS 1968). Most of the recent records were from 1986 to 1990 when either singles or two birds were seen at Pulau Tekong and Upper Seletar, Upper Peirce, and Nee Soon in the Central Catchment Forests (SINAV). But sightings dwindled to only two records in the mid-2000s, a male on 17 October 2004 (SINAV 4.5) and a female reported two days later at the Jelutong Tower during the Bird Race that year. So far, we have no sightings of this species for more than a decade. Hopefully a stray from Johor will make it to our forests in the coming years since green pigeons are known to disperse widely for fruiting trees. Birdwatchers are encouraged to keep a lookout for this species at fruiting figs in and around the Central Catchment.

CuckooshrikeLesserfemale Con Foley

3. Lesser CuckooshrikeCoracina fimbriata

This very rare resident has only been recorded in Pulau Ubin and Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. Unfortunately, the forests there is unlikely to sustain its survival in Singapore.  Recent records from Bukit Timah was a male seen on October 1986 (BGNB Spet/Oct 1986) with the last record of a female at the same location on 4th January 1998 (K.S. Lim, SINAV 12.1). (Lim Kim Seng reported another female flying over Jelutong Towers on 14 October 2013). A report of a purported Lesser Cuckooshrike accompanied by a photograph in 2014, turned out to be the Black-winged Cuckooshrike (a species not in our checklist). The 2013 sighting gave hope of a comeback but we may have to accept that this species is now most likely extinct in Singapore.

BabblerMoustached Con Foley

4. Moustached Babbler. Malacopteron magnirostre

Our rarest babbler ‘came back to life’ when ornithologist Chris J. Hails from the Parks and Recreation Department (the predecessor of today’s National Parks Board) found a remnant population at the Seletar Catchment in 1983.  A census in 1986 found six birds in two locations within the Central Catchment forests. Lim Kim Chuah also reported seeing a pair of Moustached Babblers with two youngs, proving that the birds successfully bred. Breeding was recorded in 1984 and 1986. However their numbers appear to have declined thereafter, with only one bird sighted in 1987 and this became our second last record (SINAV 1.6). The last record was in June 1994, when one bird was sighted at the MacRitchie Catchment (K.S. Lim 1988). Subsequent surveys did not produce any sightings and we think that this babbler may already have gone extinct.

.SunbirdPlainmale Con Foley

5. Plain Sunbird. Anthreptes simplex.

The Plain Sunbird lives up to its name with its drab olive-green plumage, which makes it very similar to female sunbirds of other species if poorly seen. We have only one acceptable record of a male seen at Senoko on 25 January 1986 by Lim Kim Seng (BGB 2. Lim, K.S. 1989e). The last sighting of the Plain Sunbird was an unconfirmed record from Rifle Range Road in 2006 by Yong Ding Li and Ong Kiem Sian. Plain Sunbirds may have been overlooked in the past and dismissed as a female of other sunbirds but birdwatchers looking for this species should note that the males with their bluish patch above its bill are very distinctive.

SpiderhunterThick-billed Con Foley

6. Thick-billed Spiderhunter. Arachnothera crassirostris.

We had given up on this rare Spiderhunter and thought that it has gone extinct until one was seen again along Island Club Road in November 1989 (SINAV 3.11; Lim K.S. 1989j), almost 70 years after the last sighting. There were three more records after this, a) 23 October 2005 at Jelutong Towers during the Bird Race (SINAV 19.4), b) 2 birds at Nee Soon on 11 March 2006 by Albert Low and, c) an individual at Sime Road on October 2007.  There was another report by at Sime Forest by James Heng after the 2007 record but this was not confirmed. Due to these recent records, there is hope that a small population may still persist undetected in the Central Catchment Forest.

.MinivetScarlet Con Foley

7. Scarlet Minivet. Pericrocotus flammeus

Most of our records for this minivet were from the Bukit Timah Nature Reserves. The first record was in 1986 and the last in September 2001 by Yong Ding Li and Ong Kiem Sian at the Rock path. Out of a total of some 30 records, the largest number seen involved four birds. Alan OwYong recorded a pair on 3 December 1994 during a survey along Jungle Fall trail. There were only two records outside Bukit Timah, with a few unconfirmed sightings along the Sime Road area. In the 2000 Bird Race, a female was seen at MacRitchie forest by many groups, shortly after a White-bellied Woodpecker showed up! Being a vocal canopy feeder that occasionally join mixed flocks with bluebirds, Blue-winged Leafbirds and Chestnut-bellied Malkoha (Yong D.L. in litt.) based on observations at Bukit Timah, Scarlet Minivets should be easily seen if they are still around.

.FalconetBlackthighed Con Foley

8 Black-thighed Falconet. Microhierax fringillarius

The last stronghold of the Black-thighed Falconet was in Ulu Sembawang where four sightings were reported between 1979 and 1986, all by Lim Kim Seng. They disappeared when the forest there was disturbed and eventually developed. The last record was an adult at Sime Road Forest on 7 October 1990. There were four more records from 1992 to 2005 from Sime Road, Loyang and Bukit Batok Nature Park by various observers but unfortunately most of these records could not be confirmed. The best place for this raptor to show up may actually be in Pulau Ubin or Tekong, since falconets are still reasonably common in parts of Malaysia, occurring even in logged forests.

All records were taken from The Avifauna of Singapore. Lim Kim Seng 2009, Vanishing Birds of Singapore Lim Kim Seng 1992 and Yong Ding Li’s article in Nature Watch Vol 7 No 1. 1999. Many thanks to Con Foley for the use of these hard-to-get photographs from his extensive Panti Forest Collection and Yong Ding Li for editing the draft and adding in several unpublished records.