Tag Archives: Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoo

Singapore Bird Report – June 2017

June may be a quieter month, but great to see so many postings on fledglings, rare and uncommon residents from across the island. We will try to cover some of the more interesting sightings including a few over stayers and unexpected locations of these sightings.

Yong Ding Li led a census for the Straw-headed Bulbul Pycnonotus zeylanicus at Pulau Ubin on the morning of 4th as part of this year’s Pesta Ubin Festival. They counted a total of 68 birds, confirming that Pulau Ubin has the highest density for this globally endangered species anywhere in the world.

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The newly fledged Grey-rumped Treeswift chick at Ang Mo Kio by Gerald KC Lim

Danny Khoo reported the successful fledging of the Grey-rumped Treeswift Hemiprocne longipennis chick at Ang Mo Kio park on 10th and the Red-crowned Barbet Megalaima rafflesii chick at the Mandai Track 7 on 16th. Great to see that this uncommon forest resident is doing fine. An adult White-headed Munia Lonchura maja was seen feeding three juveniles at a suburban estate at Mount Sinai on 15th by Gerald KC Lim. These may be released birds.

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White-headed Munia family photographed at a suburban estate by Gerald K.C. Lim

Aldwin Recinto chanced upon the lowly situated nest of the Yellow-bellied Prinia Prinia flaviventris at Lorong Halus on 17th. Two days later the chick fledged. A pair of over worked Common Ioras Aegithina tiphia were busy keeping up with the feeding of a Banded Bay Cuckoo Cacomantis sonnerati chick over at Jurong Eco Garden on 20th (Lee Chuin Ming).

Lee Chuin Ming

Common Iora feeding a Banded Bay Cuckoo chick that is more than twice its size. (Lee Chuin Ming)

Alan OwYong and Ted Ng photographed an Asian Red-eyed Bulbul Pycnontus brunneus feeding a juvenile at the White Mulberry tree at Dairy Farm NP on 26th. The eyes of the juvenile Red-eyed Bulbul is dark brown not red.

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Juvenile Asian Red-eyed Bulbul being fed by parent at Dairy Farm NP. Photo: Ted Ng

A cute looking juvenile Red-whiskered Bulbul Pycnonotus jocosus was nicely captured by Patricia Tiang over at Kent Ridge Park on 26th. This juvenile also don’t have the red ‘whiskers’.

RWB Patricia

Juvenile Red-whiskered Bulbul without any red ‘whiskers’ at Kent Ridge Park (Patricia Tiang)

The unwelcome breeding record came from the canal leading to Kranji Marshes where an adult Common Waxbill Estrilda astrild was feeding two youngs on 12th (Birding Dawn). This is the first record of these juveniles, which means that they have adapted to our weather. Our seed eaters will be impacted if they flourish.

Con Foley and friends sighted a lone straggler Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica flying over the Kranji Marshes on 3rd. They have been recorded as late as 11th June. The Black Bittern Dupetor flavicollis was photographed at the Gardens by the Bay on 5th (Francis Yap). Over at Pulau Tekong, Frankie Cheong reported that up to 20 Red-necked Stints, Calidris ruficollis some in breeding plumage were still around on 5th. The previous late date for this shorebird was 28th May. Staying in Tekong, two white and one dark morph Pacific Reef Egrets Egretta sacra were seen together on the 12th as well. Frankie Cheong’s photo below.

Most of our recent records of the Great-billed Heron Ardea sumatrana came from Chek Jawa and Sungei Buloh, great to receive a record from Christina See of one at Pulau Hantu on 14th. The Southern Islands have always been their stronghold.

The summer visitor Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoo Chrysococcyx basalis seen last month was spotted again by Fadzrun A. at the same grasslands at Seletar end on 5th. It was also photographed at the Mangrove Arboretun at Pulau Ubin by Joseph Lin from NParks on 15th (per Robert Teo’s report). As far as we know this is the first record for Pulau Ubin. 

Horsfield's Bronze Cuckoo Joseph Lin

Joseph Lin from NParks photo of a Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoo, a first for Pulau Ubin.

Staying in Ubin, the on-off Oriental Darter, Anhinga melanogaster a non-breeding visitor, was seen again at the Pekan Quarry at Pulau Ubin on 4th by Alfred Chia.

Rare residents reported this month include three House Sparrows Passer domesticus over at Jurong Island on 2nd (Low Choon How), a Chinese Hwamei Garrulax canorus at Sentosa on 3rd by CT Goh and Sandra Chia, a Black-headed Bulbul Pycnonotus atriceps seen at Jelutong Tower on 18th by Martin Kennewell. An uncommon White-rumped Shama Copsychus malabaricus  was recorded at Dairy Farm NP on 23rd by Alan OwYong.

Other interesting resident species reported were Abbott’s Babbler Malacocincla abbotii at Kranji Marshes on 3rd by Con Foley and friends and another Abbott’s Babbler at Chek Jawa on 17th by Atish Banerjee. A forest Greater Coucal Centropus sinensis at Pasir Ris Park on 4th by Lim Kim Seng and a Chestnut-winged Babbler Stachyris erythroptera heard calling at the Lakeview Estate on 18th by Marcel Finlay. He had seen three birds last month along the Petai Trail. It looks like the Red-wattled Lapwings Vanellus indicus are doing well at the Kranji Marshes. Martin Kennewell counted 27 of them there on 17th.

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A Greater Coucal photographed at Pasir Ris Park by Lim Kim Seng. 

A few resident species were reported in unexpected locations this month. A Spotted Wood Owl Strix seloputo was seen twice at the Varsity Condo at Pasir Panjang  on 7th and 16th by Gan Cheong Wei. He also reported a leafbird there on 17th. Unfortunately it was not identified. The seldom visited Admiralty Park at Woodlands was the home of a pair of Red-legged Crakes, Rallina fasciata spotted by Alan OwYong on 8th. Lioe Kim Swee reported seeing two unidentified crakes there in 2015.  A roosting Savanna Nightjar Caprimulgus affinis was photographed by Seng Alvin at Tampines Eco Green on 21st.

Seng Alvin

Nicely camouflaged Savanna Nightjar at Tampines Eco Green by Seng Alvin,

Good to hear that the Lesser Whistling Duck Dendrocygna javanica returning to the Lorong Halus ponds on 26th even though it was just one bird (Martin Kennewell). Our previous record was in 2013 (Ho Hua Chew). Lena Chow was excited to find the Blue-eared Kingfisher Alcedo meninting at the Dairy Farm NP on 26th. Lim Kim Chuah said that he had seen it along one of the streams there before. Another sign of this forest kingfisher spreading. Many thanks for all your records.

References:

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, individual reports and extracts from ebirds by Martin Kennewell. This compilation is not a complete list of birds recorded for the month and not all the records were verified. We wish to thank all the contributors for their records. Many thanks to  Gerald KC Lim, Lee Chuin Ming, Ted Ng, Patricia Tiang, Frankie Cheong, Joseph Lin, Lim Kim Seng and Seng Alvin for the the use of their photos. Please notify alan.owyong@gmail.com if you find errors in these records.

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Singapore Bird Report-May 2017

May turned out to be pretty interesting month. Martin Kennewell was birding at the Hindhede Quarry on the 15th evening when he scoped a resting Pheasant-tailed Jacana  Hydrophasianus chirurgus.  This rare winter visitor must have been forced down by a thunderstorm earlier. This is one day earlier than the last recorded departure date. Francis Yap timed his visit to Seletar Grasslands to perfection when he found the Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoo Chrysococcyx basalis, a summer migrant from Australia, perched among the scrubs on 27th. Lim Kim Keang saw it again the next day.  For an encore Francis photographed one of the few surviving Lesser Green Leafbirds Chloropsis cyanopogon, a male  from Jelutong Tower on 17th. This is the rarest of our three leafbird species.

Lesser Green Leafbird FYap

A rare photograph of a Lesser Green Leafbird taken from Jelutong Tower by Francis Yap

Sharindar Singh and his friend Ramesh Nadarajan reported a Mangrove Blue Flycatcher Cyornis rufigastra at Lorong Halus on 13th. If accepted this rare resident will be our fifth mainland record. Their stronghold is at Pulau Tekong although we have been getting periodic records from Chek Jawa at Pulau Ubin. Tony Greer was on his way to Batam when he saw a shearwater flying alongside his ferry near Sister’s Island. Unfortunately the gloomy weather hampered the identification.

Bulwer's Petrel Jiasheng

On the 6th, a third Bulwer’s Petrel Bulweria bulwerii was reported at the Straits of Singapore, a multi-national stretch of water, south of the Eastern Anchorage (pers com with Lau Jiasheng).

Left: Lau Jiasheng’s photo of Bulwer’s Petrel taken at the Straits of Singapore.

There were a host of over-stayers this month. Topping the list was a Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis photographed on 13th by Piyong and Looi Ang Soh Hoon. Siew Mun heard it calling a week earlier. This is 40 days later than the previous late date of 3rd April.

CK Soh Hoon

This Common Kingfisher was in no hurry to fly back. Photographed at Chinese Gardens by Looi Ang Soh Hoon. The deeper blue color almost had it misidentified.

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Another over stayer was this Chestnut-winged Cuckoo Clamator Coromandus that crashed into the W Residences at Sentosa Cove on 2nd (Photo right provided by Sarah Chin). This is about week later than the previous late date. Richard White had been monitoring the Hooded Pitta Pitta sordida at the SBG. It was still around on the 13th. Yong Ding Li saw it there 2 days later. The previous late date was on 3rd May 2016 from Compass Vale Sec. School. An Intermediate Egret Egretta intermedia was reported by Adrian Silas Tay at Seletar Grasslands on 27th over staying by a day. Over at Pulau Tekong, a late Chinese Egret Egretta eulophotes in breeding plumage was seen by Frankie Cheong on the same day.

As expected, we had a good number of breeding records this month. James Tann and Alan OwYong photographed a Lesser Coucal Centropus bengalensis carrying dead leaves to its nest at Chua Chu Kang grasslands on 1st. Wong Chung Cheong reported the nesting of the Grey-rumped Treeswifts Hemiprocne longipennis on a Angsana Tree at Ang Mo Kio on 7th. The next day Yong Ding Li also reported the nesting of the same species at Kay Siang Road. On 10 May, Lim Kim Keang came across a pair of Red-crowned Barbets Megalaima rafflesii going into a tree hole at Upper Seletar Reservoir. Over at the Chinese Gardens a pair of Coppersmith Barbets Megalaima haemacephala were feeding their chicks inside a nest hole in a Red Coral tree while a pair of Common Tailorbirds Orthotomus sutorius were going in and out of their nest by the lakeside (Piyong on 13th). Yeo Seng Beng reported a Red-legged Crake Rallina fasciata passing nesting material to its mate at Hindhede Park on 17th. This would be the first nesting record for this secretive crake but unfortunately the nest cannot be found the next day. Atish Banerjee found a nest of a Olive-winged Bulbul Pycnonotus plumosus at Dairy Farm NP on 18 May. Another Common Tailorbird nest with 2 chicks was found at the SBG on the 28th by Tan Gim Cheong and both parents were busy bringing insects to feed them. Most chicks reported above have fledged by now. Seng Alvin photographed a juvenile Rusty-breasted Cuckoo Cacomantis sepulcralis at Tampines Eco Green on 25th. Earlier on the 5th, Aldwin Recinto had an adult Rusty-breasted Cuckoo as well at Pasir Ris Park.

Rusty-breasted Cuckoo Seng Alvin

A juvenile Rusty-breasted Cuckoo photographed at Tampines Eco Green by Seng Alvin.

Most of the migrant reports were from Kranji Marshes. Watercocks Gallicrex cinerea (four on 20th), Blue-winged Pitta Pitta moluccensis, Oriental Reed Warbler Acrocephalus orientalis on 6th and a Brown Shrike Lanis cristatus on 7th were reported by Martin Kennewell. Adrian Silas Tay had another Watercock at Seletar Grasslands on 27th as well. This species have been known to stay up to mid June. Another Blue-winged Pitta was also reported at Pasir Ris Park on 20th by Aldwin Recinto. Will we have another nesting of this Pitta this season? A known late stayer, the Black Bittern Dupetor flavicollis was seen on the last day of the month at Satay by the Bay by Ian Reid. We can expected this bittern to be staying there for a few more weeks.

Notable residents for the month: A female Violet Cuckoo Chrysococcyx xanthorthynchus was reported on 4th by Joe Lim from NParks at Butterfly Hill at Pulau Ubin and a Malaysian Hawk Cuckoo Hierococcyx fugax at SBG by Laurence Eu.
White-headed Munia Pary Sivaraman

Pary Sivaraman reported ten White-headed Munias Lonchura maja (Pary’s Photo left) at Kranji Marshes on 7th. The numbers for this munia has dropped drastically over the years. Another uncommon munia, the introduced Javan Munia Lonchura leucogastroides was photographed at Lor. Halus by Aldwin Recinto on 30th.

 

The rare forest Blue-eared Kingfisher Alcedo meninting seemed to be spreading which is good news. The latest location was at the Bukit Batok Quarry seen by Phyoe Aung Wai on 19th. Earlier on the 15th Martin Kennewell spotted another Blue-eared Kingfisher at the Hindhede Quarry. The third record for the month was at the Kranji Marshes where Wong Chung Cheong saw one on the canal railing on 27th. This is still one of the best location to see this resident kingfisher.

BEKF Gerals Chua

A very expressive shot of the Blue-eared Kingfisher taken at Kranji Marshes by Gerals Chua.

A fruits of the White Mulberry tree at Dairy Farm NP attracted many of our resident furgivorous species like the Asian Fairy Bluebirds Irena puella, Greater Green Leafbird Chloropsis sonnerati, Blue-winged Leafbird C. cochinchinensis, Cream-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus simplex, Asian Red-eyed Bulbul P. brunneus and Orange-bellied Flowerpeckers Dicaeum trigonostigma .

Orange-belled Flowerpecker Ted Ng

A lovely open photo of a male Orange-bellied Flowerpecker feasting on the white mulberry at Dairy Farm Nature Park. Photo: Ted Ng

Other species reported from Dairy Farm were Van Hasselt’s Sunbirds Leptocoma brasiliana on 10th by James Tann, Drongo Cuckoo Surniculus lugubris on 11th by Terence Tan, Chestnut-bellied Malkoha Phaenicophaeus sumatranus on 13th by James Tann, and Plaintive Cuckoo Cacomantis merulinus on 23rd by Alan OwYong.

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Strong legs needed by the Van Hasselt’s Sunbird to get to the nectar of a tapioca flower. Taken at Dairy Farm Nature Park by Alan OwYong

Notable residents for the month were two House Swifts Apus nipalensis along the AYE near Clementi by Kristie Yeong on 11th, Green Imperial Pigeon Ducula aenea at Pasir Ris Park on 15th by Seng Alvin, another Violet Cuckoo at Hindhede NP on 16th by Andrew Chow, three more Chestnut-bellied Malkohas at Bukit Batok NP on 20th by James Tann, Black-crested Bulbul Pycnonotus flaviventris feeding on the figs at the summit Bukit Timah Hill on 20th (Ted Ng), the uncommon Rufous-tailed Tailorbird Orthotomus sericeus at Windsor Park on 24th by Veronica Foo and up to 12 Blue-crowned Hanging Parrots Loriculus galgulus over the Satay by the Bay on 27th by Atish Banerjee. A good numbers record of this nationally threatened parrot.

BCB Chuin Ming Lee

Some leg work needed to get this Black-crested Bulbul at the summit of Bukit Timah Hill. Photo: Lee Chuin Ming.

Resident wetland species reported included a Slaty-breasted Rail Gallirallus striatus at Tampines Eco Garden on 25th by Seng Alvin, a Cinnamon Bittern Ixobrychus cinnamomeus at Kranji Marshes on 27th by Martin Kennewell and Kozi Ichiyama and a pair of Greater Painted Snipes Rostratula benghalensis at Seletar Grasslands by Adrian Silas Tay on the same day.  The Great-billed Herons Ardea sumatrana were seen returning to SBWR with three birds sighted by Martin Kennewell on the 27th.

SBG: Singapore Botanic Gardens; SBWR: Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve; AYE: Ayer Rajah Expressway:

References:

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, individual reports and extracts from ebirds by Martin Kennewell. This compilation is not a complete list of birds recorded for the month and not all the records were verified. We wish to thank all the contributors for their records. Many thanks to Francis Yap, Lau Jiasheng, Looi Ang Soh Hoon, Sarah Chin, Pary Sivaraman, Gerals Chua, Ted Ng, Alan OwYong and Lee Chuin Ming for the the use of their photos. Please notify alan.owyong@gmail.com if you find errors in these records.

 

An old record of the Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoo.

Contributed by Frankie Cheong. 4th June 2015.

HBC Frankie Cheong 30 May 08

Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoo taken at Pulau Tekong on 30th May 2008.

One of the perks of my job is access to the restricted birding haven of Pulau Tekong. This and Pulau Ubin in the north of Singapore is the home of many of our rare resident species not found on the mainland, like the Black-naped Monach and occasional rare migrants.

On the 30th May 2008, at the reclaimed land of the island facing Changi, I came across  small cuckoo perched low among the scrubs. It had the appearance of a Little Bronze Cuckoo. I manage to get a photo or two.

Then about a month later on the 24th and 25th of June, I came across another very similar cuckoo around the same vicinity. This time I had the side views and partial frontal shots. But it did not look to be the same as the May bird.

HBC 24 May 2015 HBC Frankie Cheong 25 June 08

Horsfield’s  Bronze Cuckoo. 24th and 25th June 2008.

The identification came from NPSS members after I posted the photos there. I also received a confirmation from Lim Kim Seng who used of it in his article. It was the rare migrant from Australia, the Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoo, that many birders and photographers were looking for.

The May photo showed the dark eye strip and a tinge of rufous on the outer tail, while the June birds has the dark forehead, striped throat and incomplete underpart barrings, all features of the Horsfield’s. I was happy to reconnect with this cuckoo few days ago at Punggol Barat where a few of them were “wintering’ there.

The Horsfields’ have landed in Singapore

Just a few days ago, we republished Lim Kim Seng’s article on the Identification, Status and Distribution of Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoo in Singapore. Our prime motivation was to alert fellow birders of its impending arrival, and to provide guidance on the identification of this seldom seen nor photographed cuckoo.

Much to everyone’s surprise and delight, two photographs of the cuckoo (both taken a few days prior to the posting of the article) appeared the same night and the following morning. First by Albert Tan for a bird from Tuas South and then another from Eric Tan for a bird from Punggol End. Thanks Albert and Eric for both your prompt sharing! The following two days, birders fanned out to actively find the birds. To our initial dismay, both the birds were not seen again at the places photographed.

Horsefield's Bronze Cuckoos. Left is the bird discovered by Albert Tan at Tuas South. Right is the bird discovered by Eric Tan at Punngol End

Horsefield’s Bronze Cuckoos. Left is the bird discovered by Albert Tan at Tuas South. Right is the bird discovered by Eric Tan at Punngol End

However, news soon spread that Sue Huang saw this species at Punggol Barat (where the Pin-tailed Whydahs were spotted) in the morning of 30th May. After a series of message passing from friends, I hurried to the place in the afternoon. Amidst alternating rain and scorching sun, I managed to find one bird. I was elated, and started informing friends and those who had helped me track the bird’s locality. It took some time for the birders to stream in. In the meantime, the bird I saw soon disappeared. I was faced with the embarrassment of telling arriving birders that I lost sight of this much desired bird. There was at least 20 minutes of frantic search with no results.

The cuckoo in the rain. The first bird I located at Punggol Barat. Note the pale eyes, which denote female of the species.

The cuckoo in the rain. The first bird I located at Punggol Barat. Note the pale eyes, which denote female of the species.

So I did the counter-intuitive thing, which was to look for the bird at the opposite side of the field from where it last landed. I figured that since the arriving birders were actively searching for that elusive bird, I should at least entertain the thought that there may be more than one bird present. Luck was on my side, and I soon spotted another bird perching far away, much to my relief and the delight of those present. As it soon flew away too, we followed it best we could through the thick mimosa bushes. As we did, two other birds were soon seen as well. As more birders arrived and fanned out the search area, we collectively saw 10 birds that evening. These were a mixture of adults and juveniles.

Two Horsfield's Bronze Cuckoos perching next to each other. They seem social enough to fly off together too.

Two Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoos perching next to each other. They seem social enough to fly off together too.

From what we have gathered, the cuckoos like to perch low on the mimosa plants and will dive down and even walk on the ground looking for caterpillars. Their behaviour is quite unlike the similar looking Little Bronze Cuckoos that like to pick caterpillars and jump about on tree branches. We also noticed that a few like to fly together as a pair or in threes. The significance of this is yet unknown.

The cuckoo has been observed catching caterpillars from the ground as well as from the leaves of the mimosa. The red to dark brown eyes indicate adult male.

The cuckoo has been observed catching caterpillars from the ground as well as from the leaves of the mimosa. The red to dark brown eyes indicate adult male.

After the initial evening of cuckoo spotting, Vincent Lao reported that he had seen the bird species on May 10 and provided photographic evidence. So this pushes back the early arrival date as well as extending its longest stay in Singapore. The presence of at least 10 cuckoos also meant that this was the largest flock of Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoos recorded in Singapore so far.

As this post is rushed out to inform birders of this remarkable event, please pardon the lack of more concrete data. We hope to monitor the cuckoos stay in Singapore and get more behavioural and habitat requirement information. Most of the birds sighted in the past disappeared after a week of stay. Perhaps this flock will be different. As usual, if you do spot this species in other places (look out for coastal areas), please let us know about the locality and time of sighting. For identification purposes, please refer to the article by Lim Kim Seng again.

Photo Gallery

Notes on the Identification, Status and Distribution of Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoo in Singapore

A reproduction of an article by Lim Kim Seng, originally published in Singapore Avifauna Volume 22 No 7, July 2008.

Notes on the Identification, Status and Distribution of Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoo Chrysococcyx basalis in Singapore

By Lim Kim Seng

Introduction

The Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoo Chrysococcyx basalis is a scarce, somewhat enigmatic species in Singapore. Few Singapore birders have seen this bird. The picture is blurred by confusion with the commoner Little Bronze Cuckoo C. minutillus especially in its immature plumage. This article highlights some tips on its identification, its status and distribution in Singapore and suggestions on how to find this elusive bird during the austral winter.

Identification

Adult: Dull bronze-green above edged broadly with whitish on flight feathers. Crown is dull dark brown grading to bronze-green on mantle and back. Wings are mostly bronze green. Upper tail is dull dark green with basal two-thirds of outermost tail feather rufous. Sides of head whitish showing bold dark brownish eyestripe. Supercilium is whitish and slightly indistinct in front of eye and clear behind. Has short dark moustache extending from gape. Throat, whitish streaked buff. Below, white with broad dull green bars on breast, sides and flanks. Bars are thin and joined on breast but are longest on sides and very short on flanks and under tail coverts. Centre of breast and belly unbarred. Thighs white barred dark brown. Undertail and undertail coverts, white with dark bars. Bill, black. Feet, grey. Eyes, dark brown. Eyering, grey.

Immature: Buffy brown to blackish brown upperparts and whitish to pale buff underparts. Underparts barring are either missing or a smudged buffy brown, very short and confined to sides and flanks. Flight feathers edged whitish. Eyestripe brown. Eyebrow whitish but indistinct. Also shows short moustachial streak behind gape. Bill, black. Feet, grey. Eye, black.

Confusion Species: This species is separated from adult Little Bronze Cuckoo C. minutillus by lack of white on forehead, duller upperparts, incomplete barring on underparts and extensive rufous on outermost tail feathers. It is distinguished from immature Little Bronze Cuckoo by its dark forehead, browner upperparts and the presence of a bold eyestripe. It also differs from females of Asian Emerald C. maculatus and Violet Cuckoo C. xanthorhynchus by the lack of rufous or chestnut on its crown and also the lack of complete barring on its underparts (Robson 2000).

CHARACTERISTICS LITTLE HORSFIELD’S
FOREHEAD WHITE DARK
CROWN GREEN DARK BROWN
EYESTRIPE ABSENT OR INDISTINCT DARK & DOWNCURVED
THROAT WHITISH BARRED DARK WHITISH STREAKED BUFF
WINGS NO FRINGING ON WINGS SHOW PROMINENT WHITISH FRINGING
UPPERPARTS BROWN WITH BRONZE SHEEN (DULLER IN IMMATURE) DULL BROWN WITH GREEN GLOSS (BUFFY BROWN IN IMMATURE)
UNDERPARTS BARRING COMPLETE OR NEAR COMPLETE (MISSING OR BROKEN IN IMMATURE) BROKEN BARRING (MISSING OR FAINT IN IMMATURE)
OUTERTAIL DARK GREEN RUFOUS

Table #1: Field marks of Little and Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoos

Status and Distribution in Southeast Asia

The Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoo breeds in Australia and migrates north to New Guinea, Wallacea, Java, Borneo and South Sumatra. It has also been recorded from Christmas Island (Robson 2000, Wells 1997). In Southeast Asia, it has been recorded only in Singapore (Robson 2000) until one bird was seen in Peninsular Malaysia recently. An adult photographed in mangrove in Sitiawan, Perak in July 2005 pushes its wintering range northwards by at least 500 kilometres (Recent Reports, Suara Enggang, July-August 2005).

It is not considered globally threatened (BirdLife International 2000).

Status and Distribution in Singapore

The Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoo is a rare passage migrant and winter visitor in Singapore (Lim, 2007; Lim & Gardner 1997). Most birds appear to be on passage with the longest stay at any location being 7 days.

To date, there are ten acceptable records for Singapore contra del Hoyo et al (1996) which mentioned only one record. Two records came from the east, one from the north-east, one from the west, three from the south, one on an island south of Singapore, one unknown labeled “Singapore” and the last from the northwest (Figure 1). 40% of the records were of immature birds contra Robson (2000) who reported that juveniles do not occur in the region.

It is likely that the cuckoo is overlooked as the apparent influx of four different birds between June and July 2008 show.

All known records (including two listed in Wells 1999 without any details) are listed below:

  • An adult female collected in Singapore on 19 July 1879 (Gibson-Hill 1950).
  • An adult bird photographed at Changi Beach on 17 August 1986 (Wells 1990, 1999).
  • An adult bird seen on Sentosa Island on 20 August 1990 (Recent Reports, Singapore Avifauna 4:3).
  • A record in 1991. No other details available (Wells 1999).
  • A record in 1993. No other details available (Wells 1999).
  • An adult photographed at Marina City Park on 23 May 2005 (Figures 2-4; Recent Reports, Singapore Avifauna 19:2).
  • An immature, seen and photographed at Marina City Park on 4-12 June 2005 (Recent Reports, Singapore Avifauna 19:2)
  • An immature seen and photographed at Choa Chu Kang Cemetery on 9 July 2005 (Figure 5; Con Foley in litt.)
  • An immature seen and photographed at Marina East on 8 June 2008 (Figures 6 & 7; Mike Hooper in litt.)
  • An immature seen and photographed in an unnamed location in northeastern Singapore on 25 June 2008 (Figure 9, Frankie Cheong in litt.)
  • An adult seen and photographed in Changi Beach Park on 13-15 July 2008 (Figure 9; Doreen Ang pers. comm.)
  • An adult photographed in flight in coastal vegetation at Kranji on 18 July 2008 (Figure 10, TK Lee in litt.)

Habitat Preference

Wells (1999) reported that the Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoo occurs in open, sandy ground, specifically near areas of the seashore creeper, Sea Morning Glory Ipomoea pres-caprae, in beach scrub habitat and only once in Acacia woodland. However, del Hoyo et al 1996 listed its habitat as open woodland, mulga, scrub, spinifex, coastal saltmarsh in arid and semi-arid areas. Robson (2000) also listed its habitat as secondary growth, open woodland, coastal scrub, mangroves and lowlands. Recent observations in Singapore show that its habitat selection is much wider than coastal scrub and Acacia woodlands as it also frequents open parkland, second growth and open woodlands. There appears to be a preference for coastal sites with all records within a kilometer from the sea. The sole anomalous record (mangrove) came from Malaysia but Robson (2000) mentioned this as one of its habitats.

Finding the Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoo in Singapore

Finding the Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoo would entail a mixture, in liberal doses, of luck and effort. Based on past records, the best time to find the Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoo in Singapore is between 23 May and 20 August, a period of nearly three months. Of ten records with details available, one was in May, three in June, four in July, two in August. Therefore the best time to focus finding this bird would be in June and July, with last ditch efforts in the month of August. This would not be too difficult as June-July is typically the quietest time of the year for the Singapore birder with migrant activity near non-existent. Habitats to focus on are the extensive coastline of Singapore, in particular sandy and reclaimed shores where coastal scrub occurs. Adjacent habitats of mangroves, second growth, casuarinas and even parkland should also be explored as it seems to forage in all types of coastal vegetation. The sites listed above should be the first points of investigation but it shouldn’t stop here. In all probability, it may even be an uncommon passage migrant winter visitor but lack of exploration in coastlines along Singapore means many birds remain undetected. Attention should also be focused on the bird’s feeding habits. It looks for insect prey, typically caterpillars, and tends to forage on the ground or in low vegetation (below two metres). Good luck!

Conclusion

It is hoped that information provided in this article on the identification, status and occurrence of the Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoo would spur observer efforts within Singapore and even nearby Peninsular Malaysia for a poorly known species, the only known austral migrant of the area.

Acknowledgements

I would like to thank Doreen Ang for informing me of the Changi sighting and sharing her observations of the Changi bird. Thanks go to Frankie Cheong, Con Foley, Mike Hooper, Paul Huang, Ivor Lee, Lee Tiah Khee and Lim Kim Chuah for providing the pictures that accompany this article and for sharing their observations as well.

References

  1. BirdLife International (2000). Threatened birds of the World. BirdLife International, Cambridge and Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  2. del Hoyo, J., Christie, A. & Saragatal, J. eds. (1997). Handbook of the Birds of the World: Volume 4: Sandgrouse to Cuckoos. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  3. Gibson-Hill, C.A. (1950). A Checklist of the Birds of Singapore Island. Bull. Raffles Mus. No. 20.
  4. Lim, K.S. (2007, 2nd edition). Pocket Checklist of the Birds of the Republic of Singapore. Nature Society (Singapore), Singapore.
  5. Lim, K.S. & Gardner, D.G. (1997). Birds: An Illustrated Field Guide to the Birds of Singapore. Sun Tree Publishing, Singapore.
  6. Robson, C. (2000). A field guide to the birds of Southeast Asia. New Holland, London.
  7. Wells, D.R. (1990). Malayan Bird Report: 1986-87. Malayan Nature Journal 43:3.
  8. Wells, D.R. (1999). The Birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsula, Volume 1: Non-passerines. Academic Press, London.
Figure #1 Map of Singapore showing locations of Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoo Sightings

Figure #1 Map of Singapore showing locations of Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoo Sightings

Figure #2 Adult Horsfield’s Bronze-cuckoo Chrysococcyx basalis feeding on a caterpillar of Catopsilia pomona at Marina City Park in May 2005 (© Paul Huang). The bold eyestripe, decurved eyebrow, whitish fringes to flight feathers and rufous on its outermost tail feather show well in this photo.

Figure #2 Adult Horsfield’s Bronze-cuckoo Chrysococcyx basalis feeding on a caterpillar of Catopsilia pomona at Marina City Park in May 2005 (© Paul Huang). The bold eyestripe, decurved eyebrow, whitish fringes to flight feathers and rufous on its outermost tail feather show well in this photo.

Figure #3 Adult Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoo Chrysococcyx basalis at Marina City Park, May 2005 (© Paul Huang). Note the dark forehead, prominent decurved eyestripe and whitish fringes on wings.

Figure #3 Adult Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoo Chrysococcyx basalis at Marina City Park, May 2005 (© Paul Huang). Note the dark forehead, prominent decurved eyestripe and whitish fringes on wings.

Figure #4 Adult Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoo Chrysococcyx basalis at Marina City Park, May 2005 (© Ivor Lee). Note the streaked throat, broken bars from sides to under tail coverts and pale fringes to flight feathers.

Figure #4 Adult Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoo Chrysococcyx basalis at Marina City Park, May 2005 (© Ivor Lee). Note the streaked throat, broken bars from sides to under tail coverts and pale fringes to flight feathers.

Figure #5A Immature Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoo Chrysococcyx basalis at Choa Chu Kang Cemetery, July 2005 (© Con Foley). Note the dark eyestripe and brown wash on throat and upper breast.

Figure #5A Immature Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoo Chrysococcyx basalis at Choa Chu Kang Cemetery, July 2005 (© Con Foley). Note the dark eyestripe and brown wash on throat and upper breast.

Figure #5B Immature Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoo Chrysococcyx basalis on the ground at Marina East, June 2008 (© Mike Hooper). Note its distinct eyestripe, pale area behind eye, indistinct whitish fringes to wings, plain brown upperparts and rufous on bases of the two outermost tail feathers.

Figure #5B Immature Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoo Chrysococcyx basalis on the ground at Marina East, June 2008 (© Mike Hooper). Note its distinct eyestripe, pale area behind eye, indistinct whitish fringes to wings, plain brown upperparts and rufous on bases of the two outermost tail feathers.

Figure #6 Immature Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoo Chrysococcyx basalis feeding on unidentified prey at Marina East, June 2008 (© Mike Hooper). Note the clear eyestripe and eyebrow, dark eyering and rufous on outer tail.

Figure #6 Immature Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoo Chrysococcyx basalis feeding on unidentified prey at Marina East, June 2008 (© Mike Hooper). Note the clear eyestripe and eyebrow, dark eyering and rufous on outer tail.

Figure #7 Immature Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoo Chrysococcyx basalis at an unnamed spot in north-eastern Singapore, June 2008 (© Frankie Cheong). Note the rather blackish toned upperparts, dark forehead, broad whitish fringes to wings, and dark-streaked throat.

Figure #7 Immature Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoo Chrysococcyx basalis at an unnamed spot in north-eastern Singapore, June 2008 (© Frankie Cheong). Note the rather blackish toned upperparts, dark forehead, broad whitish fringes to wings, and dark-streaked throat.

Figure #8 Adult Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoo Chrysococcyx basalis at Changi Beach Park, July 2008 (© Lim Kim Chuah). Note the rather blotched bronze and green upperparts.

Figure #8 Adult Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoo Chrysococcyx basalis at Changi Beach Park, July 2008 (© Lim Kim Chuah). Note the rather blotched bronze and green upperparts.

Figure #9 Adult Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoo Chrysococcyx basalis at Kranji Coast, July 2008 (© Lee Tiah Khee). Note the clear eyestripe and eyebrow, black barred white wing coverts and broad white band at base of flight feathers.

Figure #9 Adult Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoo Chrysococcyx basalis at Kranji Coast, July 2008 (© Lee Tiah Khee). Note the clear eyestripe and eyebrow, black barred white wing coverts and broad white band at base of flight feathers.

Figure #10 Immature Little Bronze Cuckoo Chrysococcyx minutillus at Marina City Park, May 2005 (© Paul Huang). Note the lack of eyestripe and underparts barring, and the lack of pale fringes to flight feathers.

Figure #10 Immature Little Bronze Cuckoo Chrysococcyx minutillus at Marina City Park, May 2005 (© Paul Huang). Note the lack of eyestripe and underparts barring, and the lack of pale fringes to flight feathers.

Figure #11A Adult male Little Bronze Cuckoo Chrysococcyx minutillus in Singapore (© Lee Tiah Khee). Note the more extensive bars on throat, across sides of head and underparts and lack of pale fringing to wings.

Figure #11A Adult male Little Bronze Cuckoo Chrysococcyx minutillus in Singapore (© Lee Tiah Khee). Note the more extensive bars on throat, across sides of head and underparts and lack of pale fringing to wings.

Figure #11B Adult male Little Bronze Cuckoo Chrysococcyx minutillus in Singapore (© Lee Tiah Khee). Note the more extensive bars on throat, across sides of head and underparts, whitish forehead and lack of a defined eyestripe.

Figure #11B Adult male Little Bronze Cuckoo Chrysococcyx minutillus in Singapore (© Lee Tiah Khee). Note the more extensive bars on throat, across sides of head and underparts, whitish forehead and lack of a defined eyestripe.