The Nature Society (Singapore) Bird Group, represented by Alan OwYong and Dr. Yong Ding Li, was live on 938 radio’s Singapore Today program on 24 May 2021 to discuss the Oriental Honey Buzzard, which appeared in the HDB heartlands at Bedok, exciting residents and netizens.
A Bedok resident looked out of her 5th floor window and saw a large bird perched on top of a tree. She shared a photo of the raptor (bird of prey) on Facebook, and netizens suggested various identifications such as White-bellied Sea Eagle, Changeable Hawk-Eagle, Oriental Honey Buzzard, and even eliciting comments such as Godzilla! Maybe there is some semblance to the mystic creature as the raptor has a long neck and held an upright posture.
These are the abridged responses to the radio hosts numerous queries:
“What is it, and did it just arrive?” – Alan clarified that the raptor was an Oriental Honey Buzzard, a migratory species from the north that arrives during the autumn to spend the winter here, in this part of the world.
“Are they common and where do they come from?” – Dr. Yong shared that the Oriental Honey Buzzard is a common migratory raptor to Singapore and they come from north Asia, breeding in the temperate forests of China, the Korean Peninsula, and Japan. Satellite-tracked birds from Japan show that they migrate through China, Southeast Asia, with many passing through Singapore to Indonesia, but some birds also spend the winter in Singapore.
“It’s a buzzard, but it’s also an eagle right?” – Dr. Yong shared that ‘raptor’ is a broad term that refers to eagles, hawks, buzzards, goshawks, and other birds of prey.
“Would they pose a threat to our birds here?” – Alan commented that the Oriental Honey Buzzards feed on the larvae of bees, wasps, and hornets and that they do not pose a threat to other wildlife. Dr. Yong added that these raptors are part of our ecosystem.
“Does the public have to be careful around them?” – Alan said that the Oriental Honey Buzzards do not pose a threat to people. On the other hand, these raptors are often harassed by crows. Dr. Yong added that should someone be lucky enough to witness the Oriental Honey Buzzard feeding at a bee hive or hornet nest, that they should keep clear, as the insects may attack anything that they perceive to be a threat to their hive/nest.
“Has migration patterns of raptors to Singapore changed?” Dr. Yong responded that there is no clear trend of change for raptors but that for many migratory birds other than raptors, there has been a decline. These declines may be due to the loss of habitat in other places along their migration route. Nevertheless, it would be good to keep an eye out for migratory birds as we would like to know more about what’s going on and how best to help them.