Tag Archives: frigatebird

Singapore Bird Report-April 2016

April is the tail end of the Spring migration for most of our winter visitors. Many still make a stop over at Bidadari, on their way back. Just shows how important the place is for these migrants. Unfortunately parts of Bidadari have been boarded up for tree cutting and road works. Will we see them again next year? The other location where most migrants made their pit stops is at Tuas South, a site we have not previously checked.

Frigatebird James Tann


One of the rare photos of a Frigatebird taken within Singapore. Photo: James Tann.

The surprised find for the month was a juvenile Frigatebird photographed flying over the Johor Straits by Birder Dawn, James Tann, Roger Boey and CP Lee on 26th during a boat trip to look for the Brown Booby (last seen on 16th). The juvenile Christmas and Lesser Frigatebirds are hard to separate but the votes so far are for the Christmas, Fregata andrewsi.

Indian Pond Heron LTK

The Indian Pond Heron returning to Bidadari this year for the many of us. Photo: Lee Tiah Khee.

There is a high probability that the Indian Pond Heron, Ardeola grayii, found by Keita Sin at Bidadari on 6th could be the same bird that visited Bidadari last year. This time it stayed until 19th giving those who missed it last year an easy tick. Migrants reported from Bidadari this month included a Chestnut-winged Cuckoo, Clamator coromandus, on 1st (Lim Kim Keang), a breeding male Yellow-rumped FlycatcherFecedula zanthopygia, on 2nd (Lawrence Cher), Crow-billed Drongo, Dicrurus annectans, on 15th (Chuin Ming Lee) and a Large Hawk Cuckoo, Hierococcyx spaverioides, on 16th (Christopher Lee). Other notable sightings were a non-breeding visitor Crested Serpent Eagle, Spilornis cheela, on 8th (Lim Khee Ming) and two wandering Red-wattled Lapwings, Vanellus indicus,  on 11th (Zacc HD).

Northern Boobook Koh Liang Heng

A probable migrating Northern Boobook found by Koh Lian Heng at Tuas South on 21st April. 

Over at Tuas South, it was flycatchers galore. Koh Lian Heng had the rare Japanese Paradise Flycatcher, Terpsiphone atrocauda, on 1st, our second record for the year and a Mugimaki Flycatcher, Ficedula mugimaki, on 7th. Lim Kim Keang recorded three Yellow-rumped Flycatchers, two globally threatened Brown-chested Jungle Flycatchers, Cyornis brunneata on the 2nd. On the same day, he also found a Chestnut-winged Cuckoo, an Indian Cuckoo, Cuculus micropterus and a Hooded Pitta, Pitta Sordida there on the 9th. An adult Tiger Shrike, Lanius tigrinus, was reported on 3rd by Robin Tan and another at Bidadari by Keita Sin on 21st. Interestingly the adult Tigers do not stop over during the Autumn migration. Koh Lian Heng was rewarded for the time he spent at Tuas with a Forest Wagtail, Dendronanthus indicus, on 18th, Eye-browed Thrush, Turdus obscurus, on 19th and a Hawk Owl with non heart-shaped belly markings on 21st, a possible candidate for the Northern Boobook, Ninox japonica.

Barn Swallow Lena Chow

Barn Swallow sub species mandschurica new for Singapore. Photo: Lena Chow.

On the 3rd Lena Chow photographed a Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica, with a light rufous underparts at Punggol Barat. It was identified by Lim Kim Seng as a mandschurica sub species, new for Singapore but recorded in NW Thailand. A day earlier a Hooded Pitta was spotted at Central Catchment Forest by Manawa Ranasinghe and photographed by Khong Yew (Photo below).


You can just make out one of the pin feather of this snipe at Chinese Gardens. Photo: Koh Lian Heng.

Koh Lian Heng managed to photograph the pin feather of the Chinese Gardens snipe on 7th, giving us a confirmed Pintail Snipe, Gallinago stenura, while Dean Tan flushed a Large Hawk Cuckoo at SBWR on 10th. A single Oriental Pratincole, Glareola maldivarum, was reported at Punggol Barat by Tan Julin on 10th, a returning Ashy Drongo, Dicrurus leucophaeus, to Mount Faber by Joyce Chia on the evening of the 11th, another Indian Cuckoo at DFNP on 26th by Art Toh and a vocal Blue-winged Pitta, Pitta moluccensis, at Kranji Marshes photographed by Adrian Silas Tay and James Tann on 30th. Another Blue-winged Pitta have been wintering at the Singapore Botanic Gardens for a large part of April and is still there on 3rd May ( Richard White).

Hooded Pitta Khong Yew

Hooded Pitta making a stop over at the Central Catchment Forest. Photo: Khong Yew.

Two non-breeding visitors that were seen this month were a Crested Serpent Eagle at Kent Ridge Park on 1st (Keita Sin) and a Jambu Fruit Dove, Ptilinopus jambu,  over at Jelutong Tower on 23rd (Nicholas Tan).

As for our uncommon residents, the sightings were quite diverse. A Pacific Reef Egret, Egretta sacra, was photographed at SBWR by Andrew Chow on 1st, Red-crowned Barbet, Megalaima rafflesii, at DFNP on 10th and 11th (Lim Kim Keang and Alan OwYong), another Lesser AdjutantLeptoptilos javanicus, a former resident was photographed by Francis Yap over at Poyan on 16th, Green Imperial Pigeon, Ducula aenea, at Loyang on 16th (Lim Kim Keang), a Blue-eared Kingfisher Alcedo meninting, was reported by Phay SC at Lower Peirce Boardwalk on 18th, two Great-billed Herons, Ardea sumatrana, at the fish farms at Johor Straits photographed by James Tann on 26th and a Cinnamon Bittern, Ixobrychus cinnamomeus, two Lesser Whistling Ducks, Dendrocygna javanica,at the Seletar Pond by Zacc HD and a male Violet Cuckoo, Chrysococcyx xanthorhynchus, feeding on a fig tree at Kent Ridge Park by Keita Sin on 30th.

7 April 2016 Halus

Lawrence Cher’s classic photo of a Common Iora feeding a newly fledged Banded Bay Cuckoo.7 April 2016 Lorong Halus

Lesser Coucal Terence Tan

Lesser Coucals nest in thick grasses close to the ground. A great open shot of parent and chick by Terence Tan from Bidadari on 20th April  2016

Several successful fledglings were reported this month. A male Common Iora, Aegithina tiphia,  was photographed feeding a Banded Bay Cuckoo, Cocomantis sonnerati, at Lorong Halus on 7th (Lawrence Cher), Malayan Pied Fantail, Rhipidura javanica at PRP on 30th (Seng Alvin), Lesser Coucal, Centropus bengalensis, at Bidadari on 20th (Terence Tan),  Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, Dicrurus paradiseus, at One-North on 17th and Buffy Fish Owl, Ketupu ketupu, at SBWR on 25th (both by Alan OwYong).

Red-necked Stinit Laurence Eu

Red-necked Stint a first for Marina Barrage. Photo: Laurence Eu.

Laurence Eu photographed a Red-necked Stint, Calidris ruficollis, at the Marina Barrage breakwaters on the 14th, a first for the site. He was back again on 25th and got this photo of a Common Sandpiper, Actitis hypoieucos, with a single black band on its leg. David Li checked with his Flyway Group and found that it was banded in Jogjakarta way back in 2008, our first evidence of a shorebird from the south making a stop over on way back north. A great find!

Common Sandpiper Laurence Eu

Common Sandpiper banded in Jogjakarta in 2008. Photo: Laurence Eu.


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

Yong Ding Li, Lim Kim Chuah and Lee Tiah Khee. A Naturalist’s Guide to the Birds of Singapore. 2013. John Beaufoy Publishing Limited. 

Craig Robson. A field Guide to the Birds of Thailand and South East Asia. 2000.

This report is compiled by Alan OwYong and edited by Tan Gim Cheong from selected postings in various facebook birding pages, bird forums and individual reports. Some were not verified. We wish to thank all the  contributors for their records. Many thanks to James Tann, Lee Tiah Khee, Koh Lian Heng, Lena Chow, Khong Yew, Lawrence Cher, Terence Tan and Laurence Eu for the use of their photos.

SBWR – Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, PRP – Pasir Ris Park, DFNP– Dairy Farm Nature Park.





Pelagic Survey on the Singapore Strait – 17 May 2015

Contributed by Alfred Chia.  The last pelagic bird survey trip for 2015 organised by the Bird Group was by itself a very special one. The Nature Society and the Bird Group was privileged and honoured to have Mr Tan Chuan Jin (Minister for Social & Family Development) and Mr Desmond Lee (Minister of State for National Development) graced the trip by their presence.

After a quick introduction by me to our guests on why we are conducting these surveys, bird migrations and what we might expect to see on the trip, we departed from the jetty at One Degree 15 Marina Club at 6.30am for our usual immigration clearance at the waters off Sisters’ Islands. After a quick clearance, we set sail.

By now, the sun was trying it’s best to peek out from below the horizon. The kaleidoscope of lighting and colours that was unfolding itself needed no prompting as many scrambled for their cameras. Soon, everyone was busy snapping away at the awe and colours that Nature was presenting itself before us.


As it was mid-May, we were expecting a good haul of sea-birds since past survey records indicated as such. It was however not meant to be. Birds were few and far between and we went through long stretches without encountering any, except for the occasional few swiftlets. Even the ubiquitous crested terns, encountered in good numbers in earlier trips in late April and early May, made a disappearing act on us.

Soon, the first Swinhoe’s Storm Petrel came into view, and then the second, and third. But they were quite a distance away and flying against the direction that they should be taking on their northward migration! Disorientated perhaps? A couple of Black-naped Terns made their appearance too.

Then at 7.50am, someone pointed to a largish black bird that was flying low over the water. This was even farther than the petrels! What made it worse was that it was flying away from us and although large, appeared only as a speck when viewed through the binoculars. The ever reliable Tiah Khee was quick to manage a distance shot of the bird. After processing the picture, it was confirmed, with its long wings and a deeply forked tail, to be a frigatebird of some sort. The picture below will thus remain the only evidence of the frigatebird which we will not be able to identify to species status.


Plodding on further, we reached our landmark “yellow buoy”. To exemplified how bad it was a day, the buoy only harboured a single Lesser Crested Tern. Other birds seen included seven Bridled Terns.


En-route, our hungry crew finished every morsel of the fragrant and delicious fried chicken wings that MOS Desmond had so kindly brought along to share with us. He let in that his wife had specially woken up at 4am to cook it! Thank you very much Desmond and Mrs Lee!

On our way back, we took a somewhat different route by coasting closer to mainland Singapore. This afforded a better view of our coastline, buildings and structures. Our trip was extended to take in the Southern Islands. We sailed pass Pulau Bukom, Pulau Jong, Pulau Semakau, Pulau Hantu, Pulau Salu, Pulau Sudong, Pulau Pawai, Pulau Senang and Raffles Lighthouse before making our way back to the mainland.

Here, we saw Little Terns, a colony of about 10 nesting Grey Herons near Bukom, a light-morph Changeable Hawk Eagle being harassed by 2 House Crows at Pulau Jong, Brahminy Kites at Hantu and Semakau and 4 white-phase Pacific Reef Egrets as well as a dark-phase bird.

Pulau Jong


After an exhausting 10-hour trip, we finally returned to One Degree 15 Marina Club – spent and sticky but satisfied nevertheless.

The Nature Society and the Bird Group would like to once again thank both ministers for joining us in the pelagic bird survey. You have made the trip more enjoyable and lively with your cheerful banter, sharings and interest.


List of birds seen
Swinhoe’s Storm Petrel: 12
Black-naped Tern: 3
Bridled Tern: 7
Lesser Crested Tern: 10
Little Tern: 6 (2 Bukom, 2 Pawai, 2 Raffles Lighthouse)
UnIDed frigatebird: 1
UnIDed swiftlets: 32
Changeable Hawk Eagle: 1 (Pulau Jong)
Pink-necked Green Pigeon: 4 (Pulau Jong)
Grey Heron: 10 (at nest near Bukom)
Pacific Reef Egret: 12 (10 white & 2 dark morph)
Brahminy Kite: 6
White-bellied Sea Eagle: 1 immature

Author: Alfred Chia on behalf of Nature Society (Singapore) and the Bird Group

Pelagic Survey on the Singapore Strait – 26 April 2015

The NSS Bird Group went on another pelagic survey in the early morning of 26 April 2015. Our route was almost the same as in previous survey, along the Singapore Strait.

Quite a number of birds and bird species showed up compared to the previous trip.

Swinhoe's Storm Petrel
(Swinhoe’s Storm Petrel skimming just above the sea)

The first significant sighting was a lone Swinhoe’s Storm Petrel which showed up early crossing the strait from west to east, just after 7am.

Next we reached the familiar yellow buoy. This time around we saw around 30 resting Lesser Crested Terns, some in breeding plumage.

Yellow Buoy
(The yellow buoy with Lesser Crested Tern)

Lesser Crested Tern
(Lesser Crested Terns – closer view)

We saw our first Aleutian Tern around 8:30am flying from west to east, not far after the yellow buoy. This was the first of three Aleutian Terns seen in this trip.

Aleutian Tern
(Adult Aleutian Tern in breeding plumage)

Things quietened down substantially and it was not until 9:50am that we saw another bird, this time a Greater Crested Tern (Swift Tern)

Greater Crested Tern
(Greater Crested Tern – notice the yellow bill compared to the Lesser)

It took another hour before the next highlight of the trip. A flock of 36 White-winged Terns were feeding next to anchored ships, among them a few breeding plumaged birds with black heads and underparts were seen. There was a flurry of activity and we managed to see them picking up jellyfish on more than one occasion (see Gallery at the end of the article). We also noticed another Aleutian Tern flying by around the same area.

White-winged Tern
(A breeding plumaged White-winged Tern)

Our most exciting moment however happened when a tiny speck of a far away bird was spotted by Colin Poole. Even from a great distance, it appeared big. So the boat gave chase and as it drew closer we recognised it as a frigatebird. It turns out to be a juvenile frigatebird that is either a Christmas Island Frigatebbird or a Lesser Frigatebird. As the juvenile plumage is hard to identify conclusively, we will hand over the finding to the Records Committee to deliberate. (See Update at the bottom of the article)

(A juvenile Frigatebird appearing closer after a long chase)

After the excitement, the return journey was relatively quiet. Activity picked up after we saw another Aleutian Tern at around 1:40pm followed quickly by a Bridled Tern and another rarity, an adult Parasitic Jaeger (Arctic Skua) trailed by a Swinhoe’s Storm Petrel and lastly, another Bridled Tern. They were all travelling from west to east.

Parasitic Jaeger
(A distant Parasitic Jaeger montage)

All in all it was a fruitful trip. Our final count include:
White-winged Tern (36)
Lesser Crested Tern (35)
Greater Crested Tern (1)
Aleutian Tern (3)
Bridled Tern (2)
Little Tern (2)
Swinhoe’s Storm Petrel (2)
Frigatebird spp (1)
Parasitic Jaeger (1)
Grey Heron (3)
Swiftlets spp (10)

group photo
(Group photo L-R Jane Rogers, See Toh Yew Wai, Alan OwYong, Lim Kim Keang, Albert Low, Colin Poole, Francis Yap, Yong Yik Shih, Lawrence Cher. Not shown: Con Foley the photographer)

Photo Gallery

Update from David James, an expert on frigatebirds (1 May 2015)
Your initial diagnosis is correct, Lesser Frigatebird.
Firstly, the proportions are wrong for CI Frigatebird, the bill, neck and tail are not long enough and the base of the wing is does not broaden obviously close to the body.
The belly patch is too small, with black already reaching the base of the legs. It shows what I described in my 2014 article as a triangular belly patch with the the front corners stretched out as axillary spurs. That description can be problematic as the ‘triangle’ shape appears to vary depending on the viewing angle. In Francis’s FY7D382 it looks nothing like a triangle, but in Con’s shot with the bird preening ‘triangle’ is a good description. The belly of frigatebirds is a complex 3 dimensional surface, not usually noticed in other birds. The spurs are also a bit too short and narrow for a juvenile CIF.