Tag Archives: Large Hawk Cuckoo

Invasion of Cuckoos at Sentosa

By Thio Hui Bing.

On 24th December 2017, I went down to Sentosa to see for myself this interesting phenomenon, after friends shared that a particular tree was attracting several species of migrant cuckoos that are usually hard to see. The reason for the attraction was the outbreak of Tussock Moth caterpillars, a favorite food of the cuckoos. The fig tree, Ficus Superba was bare as it had just shed its leaves. The caterpillars were feeding on the new young shoots. It also exposed the nest of resident Crested Goshawks. I am amazed and wonder how the birds know that there is plenty of food here. Is it by experience, by chance while en-route during its migration, by sight or by scent?


The bare Ficus Superba sheds its leaves regularly. The new young shoots is less toxic for the caterpillars.

Many other birders also specially came to see this interesting gathering of cuckoos. It was a cloudy day even until noon. We managed to see the Large Hawk_Cuckoos, Indian Cuckoos and an Asian Emerald Cuckoo, a very rare non breeding visitor. This will be only our second sighting, the first record was in 2006 (Lim Kim Seng, Avifauna of Singapore).


The Tussock moth caterpillars are the reasons why so much cuckoo species are seen here.

Based on my observations that morning, the Large Hawk-Cuckoo and Indian Cuckoo were able to ‘live’ peacefully with the Crested Goshawks but stayed at a distance to the left and right of the tree. We waited for an hour or so, while the elusive escapee Chinese Hwamei kept us entertained with it’s melodious song until a small size bird flew in. We looked among the branches and finally saw the Asian Emerald Cuckoo. And boy,  are we excited! Though the bird was high up and mostly blocked by twigs and branches, camera shutters started to click non stop. The cuckoo was seen feeding on the caterpillars, hopped around a little but eventually stay perched for some time.

Javan Mynas and Black-naped Orioles were also observed flying to this tree on and off. The orioles does not seem to be afraid of the goshawks often coming close to them.

The goshawks were not happy with the presence of the other birds on the tree. They would scoop down and chase the cuckoos and other birds away, especially the Large-hawk Cuckoos. Many of the birders left happy with a rare Singapore “tick”.

The second half of the morning was spent waiting for the cuckoos to come back now that the goshawks were away.  The Large Hawk-Cuckoo was the first to come back followed by the Indian Cuckoo. Only the Large Hawk-Cuckoo were seen feeding on the caterpillars.


An adult and a juvenile Large Hawk-Cuckoo were among the cuckoos that were enjoying the caterpillar feast at the Ficus Superba.

A group of birders were trying to find the Chinese Hwamei in the thick undergrowth when they spotted the Asian Emerald Cuckoo on a nearby tree. Shutters started clicking once again.


A most unexpected appearance of the Asian Emerald Cuckoo, last seen in 2006, was a most welcome X’mas present for both birders and photographers here.

The cuckoo stayed there for a few minutes before being distracted by a high pitch call, most probably by the Crested Goshawk.  It then flew off to an higher tree branch. This ended my observation of cuckoos for the day. Sadly both the Chestnut-winged and Malaysian Hawk Cuckoos, that were seen yesterday,  did not showed up this morning.

(All photos by Thio Hui Bing)

Reference: Yong Ding Lim Kim Chuah and Lee Tiah Khee. A Naturalist’s Guide to the Birds of Singapore. John Beaufoy Publishing.


Asian Waterbirds Census 2016


Group photo of some of the volunteers from NSS, NParks and the public  at Sungei Buloh Wetand Reserve at the start of the 2016 Asian Waterbird Census, which is celebrating its 30th year and the IWC  its 50th year.  Photo: Lim Kim Keang.

The Bird Group kicked off the year with the Asian Waterbird Census (AWC) on 23 January 2016. This year is also the 50th anniversary of International Waterbird Census and the  30th anniversary for the Asian Waterbird Census. Eleven teams fanned across the island to coastal, wetland and marshy sites to count all the waterbirds there including kingfishers and raptors that depend on these habitats for food, shelter and nesting sites.

The members of the then Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch) held the first AWC in 1990 by joining regional bird organisations in the count coordinated by the International Wetland Bureau. Today this annual event coordinated Nature Society (Singapore) Bird Group in Singapore  is still going strong under Wetlands International after more than 25 years. Such censuses will help to monitor the trend of  migrating shorebirds and resident waterfowls all over Asia and provide an invaluable tool in alerting conservation organisations and agencies to take necessary actions of declining trends of a particular species or site.

Mandai Mudflats and Waders LKK 2016

Mandai Mudflats at low tide looking towards the Causeway. Whimbrel flock one of the shorebird species that feeds here. Photo Lim Kim Keang.

The sites covered by the teams were Lower Seletar Dam,  Mandai  Mudflats, Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserves (Route 1 and 2), Kranji Marshes, Kranji Dam, Pulau Ubin (Central and Chek Jawa), Lorong Halus, Pasir Ris and Khatib Bongsu.

It turned out to be a wet afternoon for many of the participants especially those sites  in the NW of Singapore and some of the counters had time-outs to wait out the heavy showers and strong wind. But overall, the shorebirds were not affected and continued to be active at the major feeding grounds.

Chek Java WF

Chek Java at low tide, looking towards Johor. Photo: Willie Foo.

The Mandai Mudflats as with previous census recorded the highest count of 1,619 shorebirds from 11 species with the Lesser Sand Plovers being the most numerous at 630 birds.  There were good counts of Common Redshanks (280), Pacific Golden Plovers (330) and Common Whimbrel (240) and Common Greenshanks (93). Other notable species were Rufous-necked Stints (15), Marsh Sandpipers (2) and Curlew Sandpipers (2). Both  Marsh and Curlew Sandpipers are rarely seen in Singapore in recent years. The latter is in sharp decline globally and need concerted effort to find the right solutions to arrest the trend.

AWC Mandai 2016

David Li (with cap) from Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserves with Lim Kim Keang, main co-ordinator for the AWC 2016 at Mandai Mudflats. Photo: SBWR

Over at Sungei Buloh it was egrets galore, all three migratory species were counted with the Little Egrets as expected topping at 75 birds. A single wintering Terek Sandpiper and  Grey-tailed Tattler were also picked out. Many of the migrating waterbirds were at the Mandai Mudflats as the favourable low tides provided extensive exposed mudflats for feeding.

Khatib Bonsu HHC

From left Jacky Soh, Jimmy Lee and Angus Lamont at the bund at Khatib Bonsu  helping with the count there. A pair of Red-wattled Lapwings appeared be nesting nearby.  Photo Ho Hua Chew.

Over at Chek Java, a flock of Great Crested Terns numbering 120 were counted. Other species of note were 26 Grey Plovers, 4 Bar-tailed Godwits and 2 Great-billed Herons.

Five species of Kingfishers including the rare Black-capped were recorded at Kranji Marshes. The resident Red-wattled Lapwings seem to have taken to the newly created mud banks there. A high count of 16 were recorded. Unfortunately there were no signs of the Black-backed Swamphens. We hope they will make a comeback soon.


Marcel Finley counting herons at Pekan Quarry at Pulau Ubin. A total of 31 Grey Herons were counted here. Photo Willie Foo.

At Lorong Halus ponds, the Little Grebe was a no show but there were 9 Pond Herons in their non breeding plumage. There were 40 Grey Herons and at least 31 active nests at Pasir Ris Park although counts of other waterbirds were as usual quite low.

Khatib Bonsu HHC.jpg2

One of the tidal ponds at Khatib Bonsu, a restricted area. Three Stork-billed Kingfishers and a Grey-headed Fish Eagle sighted. They need such ponds for survival. Photo Ho Hua Chew.

On behalf of Wetlands International  the Nature Society (Singapore)  wishes to thank  all the site leaders, NSS members , staff of Sungei Buloh Wetlands Reserves and volunteers  for helping out with this IWC 50 census. A full report will be published once all the data have been collated.

Report compiled from selected results from various site leaders with editorial help from Lim Kim Keang. Many thanks to Lim Kim Keang, Ho Hua Chew, Willie Foo and SBWR for the use of the photos. 


Singapore Bird Report – March 2015


An adult Malaysian Night Heron at the Jacob Ballas Children Garden by Craig Williams.

On the 2nd we have the third sighting of the Buff-rumped Woodpecker, Meiglyptes tristis, when Lim Kim Keang videoed one at Bidadari Cemetery. This is a non-breeding visitor that was seen twice at the Sime Forest before it was accepted into the 2003 Checklist. This has to be the standout bird of the month. Not to be outdone, Lim Kim Chuah managed to photograph a Pied Cuckoo, Clamator jacobinus, at Lorong Halus on 15th. This is the second record for the year for this non-migratory cuckoo in Singapore.  It has yet to be accepted into the Checklist as there were question marks on its origin after the first sighting. Kim Chuah also reported that Robert Teo told him that an Oriental Darter, Anhinga melanogaster, was seen at the Pekan Quarry at Pulau Ubin on the 31st. This Darter was first reported in August 2014 by Jean-Marc Chavette at another disused quarry at Gombak. According to Robert Teo, this Darter had been seen at the Ketam Quarry last November during Ubin Day. This species is now pending acceptance into the Checklist.

Large Hawk-Cuckoo

A juvenile Large Hawk Cuckoo at Bidadari by Francis Yap.

This March is noted for the returning of the migrant cuckoos, four species were recorded with the rare Large-hawk Cuckoo, Hierococcyx sparverioides, being the most sighted, which is quite a surprise. Bidadari Cemetery on 9th by Frankie Lim, Pasir Ris Park on 12th by Lim Kim Keang and Lorong Halus by Tan Eng Boo on the 18th. An Indian Cuckoo, Cuculus micropterus,  was photographed at Pasir Ris Park by Seng Alvin on 9th, Squared-tailed Drongo Cuckoo, Surniculus lugubris, at Bukit Timah NP by Seetoh Kin Meng on 4th and a Chestnut-winged Cuckoo, Clamator coromandus, at Seletar by Yong Yik Shih on 22nd. Resident Cuckoo species include a male Violet Cuckoo, Chrysococcyx xanthorhynchus, videoed singing at Wilton Close on 12th by Lucy Davis. We think that this is its mating call, the first time we got it on tape.

Yellow-browed Warbler by Surin Kumar.

An uncommon Yellow-browed Warbler captured by Surin Kumar at Kembangan.

Other migrants on the way back include the two rare Wagtails, Forest, Dendronanthus indicus, at Lower Pierce Boardwalk on the 4th by Lee Van Hien, White Wagtail, Motacilla alba, at Lorong Halus on 7th by Lim Kim Seng. Two warblers, Yellow-browed, Phylloscopus inornatus  on a fig tree at Kembangan photographed by Surin Kumar on 15th and two Eastern-crowned Warblers, Phylloscopus coronatus, at Sime Forest on 30th by Lim Kim Seng. A single uncommon Sand Martin, Riparia riparia, was seen hawking insects by Lim Kim Keang also at Halus on 15th. A Hooded Pitta, Pitta sordida  at Sime Forest on 25th by Francis Yap. Three Daurian Starlings, Sturnus sturninus was seen at Kent Ridge Park during ABC on 22nd by Alan OwYong. The adult Malaysian Night Heron, Gorsachius melanolophus, that was first reported last month returned to the Jacob Ballas Children Gardens on the 12th. Craig Williams was there to capture it.

Javan Pond Heron

A Javan Pond Heron is breeding plumage taken at Farmway 3 by Francis Yap.

The pond herons at the Farmway 3 drain have started to assume their summer plumages. Francis Yap photographed both the Javan and the Chinese Pond Herons, Ardeola speciosa and Ardeola bacchus, there on the 15th. We have only one record of a non-breeding visitor the Jambu Fruit Dove Ptilinopus jambu. A male was photographed by Diana Jackson at Bidadari on 17th.

Notable resident species reported were a Yellow-crested Cockatoo, Cacatua sulphurea at the Singapore Botanic Gardens on 1st by Robin Tan, a Sunda Scops Owl Otus lempiji and a Brown Hawk-Owl, Ninox scutulata, on 4th by Shunda Lee at the MacRitchie Boardwalk. A Little Spiderhunter, Arachnothera longirostra, at the Durian Loop on the 7th and the Chestnut-bellied Malkoha, Phaenicophaeus sumatranus, at Kent Ridge Park on 22nd both by Alan OwYong and a Cinnamon Bittern Ixobrychus cinnamoneus at Lorong Halus on 28th by Francis Yap.

Spotted Wood OwlCinnamon Bittern

The Pasir Ris Park young Spotted Wood Owlet and a Cinnamon Bittern from Halus by Francis Yap.

Breeding and post breeding records were evident with the sightings of an adult and juvenile Crested Goshawks, Accipiter trivirgatus, at Pasir Ris Park by Aldwin Recinto on 6th. Pasir Ris Park was also the breeding ground for our Spotted Wood Owls, Strix selopotu, where a pair of young was attracting hordes of photographers. The parents of a pair of Laced Woodpeckers, Picus vittatus, at the same park had to be happy with the successful fledging of its youngs. A pair of Changeable Hawk Eagles, Nisaetus cirrhatus,  was also preparing for a family at Mount Faber. Laurence Eu found a pair of Rufous-tailed Tailorbirds, Orthotomus sericeus building a nest at the Singapore Zoo on 4th.

Migrant raptor species reported were a Jerdon’s Baza, Aviceda jerdoni over at Halus on 1st by Lim Kim Keang, a Chinese Sparrowhawk, Accipiter soloensis, at Pasir Ris Park on 12th by Alan Ng, a hunting Peregrine Falcon, falco peregrinus, over at One-north Park on 13th by Alan OwYong and an adult female Japanese Sparrowhawk, Accipiter gularis, over at Punggol Barat on 24th by Joseph Tan.

There is only one reported casualty for the month. A juvenile Crested Goshawk, Accipiter trivirgatus crashed into a HDB block at the Bukit Timah area on the 20th, from David Tan.

Reference: The Avifauna of Singapore. Lim Kim Seng. 2009. Edited by Francis Yap. The above records are taken from the various bird FB groups. pages, reports and forums.  Many thanks for your postings. Thanks to Francis Yap, Craig Williams and Surin Kumar for the use of your photos.

When do the Hawk Cuckoos visit Singapore? By Alan OwYong and Yong Ding Li.


Large Hawk Cuckoo 

Hawk Cuckoos are so named due to their resemblance to Accipiter hawks. We have three species of Hawk Cuckoos visiting our woodlands. Two species, namely the Large and Hodgson’s Hawk Cuckoos are migrants while one, the Malaysian Hawk Cuckoo is a non-breeding visitor after the split by King (2002). There is no evidence for the occurrence of the Northern Hawk Cuckoo, although it may occur here as a rare vagrant.

Malaysian Hawk Cuckoo

Malaysian Hawk Cuckoo

The Malaysian Hawk Cuckoo Hierococcyx fugax is aptly named after the split as it is a resident of Peninsular Malaysia, Sumatra and Borneo. Due to our proximity to Peninsular Malaysia, we have records of this cuckoo in Singapore from June to April, inferred from old records of “Hodgson’s Hawk Cuckoos” during the period which migratory Hodgson’s Hawk Cuckoo are not suppose to occur. It is quite obvious to find them here at mid year due to post breeding dispersal. Last year the first arrivals were on 22nd August at Bishan Park (discovered by Christina See) followed by another on 24th September at Jurong Lake (Lim Kim Keang). Two late stayers were recorded on 9th March at SICC and 13th April at Bidadari. In 2013, the first three records were in August, 24th at Upper Pierce ( Bill Heng), 26th at Venus Loop (Lim Kim Seng) and 28th at Bidadari ( Tan Wee Eng).

Hodgson's Hawk Cuckoo

Hodgson’s Hawk Cuckoo.

The migratory Hodgson’s Hawk Cuckoo Hierococcyx nisiolor from subtropical Asia is a rare winter visitor and passage migrant to Singapore. It also winters in Peninsular Malaysia, Sumatra and Borneo. We normally get to see them by middle of November, with some individuals staying up to March. Interestingly we get more juvenile birds than full adults. Last year, the three earliest records were all in November, the first on 8th at Bidadari (Aldwin Recinto) followed by one on 15th at SBWR (Lim Kim Keang) and lastly on 22nd at Tuas ( Lim Kim Seng & Alan OwYong). However in 2013 we had two very early records both in October. The 14th October sighting at Bidadari by Leslie Fung and Vincent Ng set a new early date by more than a month. This was followed by another sighting on 19th October at Kranji Marshes by Lim Kim Seng. The November sighting was on 14th at Bidadari by Henry Koh and Leslie Fung.

The larger ranged Large Hawk Cuckoo Hierococcyx sparverioides was not recorded in Singapore until 23th February 1984 at Ulu Sembawang by Lim Kim Seng. (MBR 1894-1985 LKS pers obs). Past records suggest first arrivals by the earlier half of November. Last year we registered the first sighting only on the 15th December at Bidadari (Frankie Lim & Alan OwYong). In 2013 the first record was on 10th December at Bidadari (Zacc HD). Both the Large and Hodgson’s Hawk Cuckoos’ status as a rare winter visitor and passage migrant may have to be reviewed due to the increased frequency of sightings in the past years.

All three Hawk Cuckoos spent a considerable part of theirtime feeding at Bidadari as seen from the sighting records, and may be show high site-fidelity. When Bidadari gives way to housing development later this year, we will have to look harder elsewhere to find these Hawk Cuckoos to monitor their status and study them.

(Note: These records were taken from postings in varies birding and personal facebook pages and internet forums. There may be other postings that we missed which may give early arrival dates.)


Yong Ding Li 2008 Hodgson’s Hawk Cuckoo, A Birder’s Headache.

The Avifauna of Singapore. Lim Kim Seng 2009

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

A Photo Guide to the ID of Malaysian & Hodgson’s Hawk Cuckoo. Con Foley.

Singapore Bird Report – December 2014

Oriental Scops Owl at BidaGrey Nightjar Bidadari

Oriental Scops Owl on a one day stop over on 15th while the Grey Nightjar stayed for a week at Bidadari.

December 2014 had to be the month of the Thrushes. Four species, two Zootheras/Geokichla, one Turdus and a Monticola were seen at various parts of the island. The uncommon winter visitor Orange-headed Thrush stayed for a day (14th) at Bidadari (FL), while the rare PM Siberian Thrush made a brief appearance at Dairy Farm NP on 30th (CF), much to the disappointment to many of the photographers. This was made up by up to four Eyebrowed Thrushes seen feeding on the False Curry Leaf and Ficus trees at Dairy Farm NP for the rest of the month (AOY). They were first seen on 5th at Tuas South (LKK). There were two sightings of the Blue Rock Thrush (CT), a very rare passage migrant, both on top of high rise Condominiums (Pinnacle at Duxton on 15th and Ascentia Sky on 30th). Both were females, recorded by Chloe Tan researching on high rise gardens. Since Bukit Timah Hill was closed, we were not able to check for the White-throated Rock Thrush for a full house.

Eye-browed Thrush at Dairy Farm

The Eyebrowed Thrush was the main attraction at Dairy Farm NP 

The biggest surprise for December was the sighting of a Scaly-breasted Bulbul at Dairy Farm NP on the last day (LKK). This bulbul has not been recorded in Singapore before. It is a locally common resident in central Peninsula Malaysia, The Records Committee will have to decide on its status and where it come from.

Large Hawk Cuckoo at Bida by Francis Yap

The Large Hawk Cuckoo is now more frequently seen than before during migration. Photo by Francis Yap taken at Bidadari.

The early excitement was provided by a one day wonder in the form of a rare migrating Oriental Scops Owl at Bidadari on the 15th (LC). Only those who turned up that afternoon were rewarded. On the same day, a juvenile Large Hawk Cuckoo arrived at Bidadari (FL) followed by a non-breeding visiting Malayan Hawk Cuckoo on 21st (LC). Also at Bidadari, a returning Grey Nightjar was seen roosting there on the 7th (HF). It stayed for a week. Another Grey Nighthjar was reported at Pasir Ris Park on the 10th (JC)

Due to the exceptionally wet weather, some parts of Punggol Barat were flooded. As expected the fresh water waders were quick to take advantage. Four Long-toed Stints and Little Ringed Plovers (DL,LJS,TKH) were seen on the 15th. By the 25th, the Little Ringed Plovers numbers had increased to 15 with more than 150 Yellow Wagtails feeding on the side (LKK, AOY).  We had reports of a few hundred of these wagtails roosting there. The uncommon winter visitor Red-throated Pipits and scarce resident Red-turtle Doves were also present (LKK). On the 27th a lone Common Kestrel (AOY) and a Chinese Sparrowhawk (JL) were seen hunting across the open areas. The Common Kestrel is the first for Punggol.

Malayan Night Heron

Malayan Night Heron. Tuas South has four sighting of this rare migrant this season. Photo by Francis Yap.

Other water birds include a Von Shrenck’s Bittern at Pasir Ris Park on the 5th (LE), a Black Bittern at Bidadari on the 10th (CTL), a dead female Watercock picked up at Jervios Hill on the 12th (DT) and a uncommon Malayan Night Heron at Tuas South on the 31st (LKS).

Both the Streaked and Cinereous Bulbuls were still showing up mostly at Dairy Farm with one Streaked Bulbul reported at Ubin on 8th (GZH). Up to four Jambu Fruit Doves were seen feeding on the False Curry Leaf Tree at Dairy Farm first seen on the 10th (DA). They were all immature or juveniles.

Barn Owl at Tuas by Lawrence Cher

Not often you will get to see an owl at its day time roost. Barn Owl at Tuas South by Lawrence Cher.

On the home front, a Barn Owl was using the roadside trees at Tuas South as its day roost. It was first observed on the 6th. A Tweeddale Oriental Honey Buzzard (SA) which mimics a Blyth’s Hawk Eagle was photographed at Pasir Ris Park on 18th followed by a Crest Goshawk on 24th (JWW)). This is a first for the Pasir Ris.

Voilet Cuckoo at JEG by Francis Yap

We are very fortunate that this Violet Cuckoo returned to Jurong Eco Gardens to feed again. Photo by Francis Yap.

Other notables include a calling Green-backed Flycatcher at Bukit Kalang Ranger’s Station on 10th (AL). Greater Green Leafbird at Dairy Farm on 28th (TJL) and Square-tailed Drongo Cuckoo at Bidadari on 7th (AOY). The much sought-after Violet and Chestnut-winged Cuckoos returned to feed on the caterpillars at Jurong Eco Gardens on the 24th. Those who missed out on these uncommon cuckoos earlier got their second chance.

Reference: The Avifauna of Singapore Lim Kim Seng 2009.  Edited by Francis Yap. Bird crashed records are from David Tan. All other records were taken from postings in the various facebook, bird forums and individual facebook pages belonging to Francis Yap (FY), Seng Alvin (SA),, See Toh Yew Wai (STYW), Lim Kim Seng (LKS), Lim Kim Keang (LKK), Lau Jiasheng (LJS), Lawrence Cher (LC), Low Choon How (LCH), Chung Yi Fei (CYF), Danny Lau (DL), Tan Kok Hui (TKH),  Jimmy Lee (JL), Laurence Eu, Horst Flotow (HF),Goh Zhao Han (GZH), Doreen Ang (DA), Jon Chan (JC), Albert Low, CT Lim (CTL) Frankie Lim (FL), Chloe Tan (CT), Jim Wei Woo(TWW), Tan Ju Lin (TJL) Con Foley (CF) and Alan OwYong (AOY). Many thanks for your records..