Tag Archives: Straw-headed Bulbul

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.

18952969_366599827076145_2760013427058362826_n

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.

12719152_110571036012360_795115310772688573_o

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.

19468037_10210200877158221_1400617393495732755_o

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.

18359421_1365495490213061_6285802976707659074_o

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.

Straw-headed Bulbul Census at Ubin.

Straw-headed Bulbul Census at Pulau Ubin, 4 June 2017.
SHB Ted Ng
Pulau Ubin is without doubt the most important site for the Straw-headed Bulbuls. This photo of three birds taken at by Ted Ng at Hindhede NP will be hard to get elsewhere in the region. 
Few of the World’s endangered species have been more strongly associated with Singapore than the charismatic Straw-headed Bulbul. Wiped out from most of its Southeast Asian distribution by indiscriminate poaching, some of most significant populations of this largest of the world’s bulbuls have fortunately, found a safe home in Singapore. Pulau Ubin is without a doubt the most important site for the species.
 
To determine the size of its population on Pulau Ubin,  the Bird Group conducted a pan-island survey of the Straw-headed Bulbul in conjunction with Pesta Ubin. Led by an experienced leader, teams of 3-4 surveyors covered 9 different transects totalling over 18 km across Ubin. This was the first time a targeted survey of the Straw-headed Bulbul has be carried out in Singapore, and attracted over 35 volunteer surveyors, including a large contingent of enthusiastic students from the National University of Singapore and Yale-NUS College.
 
a3052375-45b2-4e3a-88fb-be2493774ecc
Yong Ding Li back to camera briefing the surveyors at Pulau Ubin on the census. Photo: Lim Kim Chuah.
Along each transect, the teams stopped to record Straw-headed Bulbuls at defined points for five minutes. At the end of each ‘point count’ teams moved at least 250 metres from the previous point before conducted the next count. Datasheets were provided so that all surveyors could record their observations immediately.
 
So how many Straw-headed Bulbuls are there on Ubin? In total, the teams reported 68 individuals within a band of 100 m from their counting transects. Because some parts of Ubin were not surveyed, we expect the actual population to be even larger. The organising team is currently conducted statistical analysis on the dataset to calculate the densities of the bulbuls of the island. Building on the pioneering studies on the species carried out by veteran birdwatchers Ho Hua Chew and Trixie Tan, this survey confirms that Ubin remains a critical stronghold for the Straw-headed Bulbul and needs to be well-protected from poachers by regular ranger patrols. 
 
Once again, we are grateful to all the survey leaders for leading the surveys along their transects. They include Lee Ee Ling, Lim Kim Chuah, Lim Kim Keang, Movin Nyanasengeran, Sandra Chia, Trixie Tan, Wong Chung Cheong and Yong Ding Li.  We also thank Robert Teo and Germaine Leng from the National Parks Board for supporting our work.
__________________________

Ding Li YONG
PhD Candidate
Fenner School of Environment and Society
Forestry Building, Linnaeus Way
The Australian National University

Canberra ACT 0200
Thanks to Ted Ng and Lim Kim Chuah for the use of the photos.

Singapore, the Global Stronghold of the Straw-headed Bulbul.

Annual bird census data reveals Singapore as the global stronghold of endangered songbird. 

Straw-headed Bulbul at Zoo

Wild populations of many bird species are in rapid decline across Southeast Asia as a result of unsustainable hunting for the pet-bird trade, especially in Indonesia. Sought by bird hobbyists for its powerful and rich song, the globally endangered Straw-headed Bulbul (Pycnonotus zeylanicus) is one of the world’s most threatened songbirds due to soaring demand for the pet trade.  Across much of Southeast Asia, the Straw-headed Bulbul has been relentlessly trapped from the wild to be later sold in the bird markets of Java, Kalimantan, Sumatra and Peninsular Malaysia. The species has now gone extinct from Thailand and most parts of Indonesia where it used to be found, including the whole island of Java. There are also no recent records from Sumatra.

In a recent study published in the journal Bird Conservation International led by members of the Nature Society (Singapore) Bird Group, wild populations of the Straw-headed Bulbul in Singapore was found to have steadily risen over the last 15 years, and may now be the largest in its entire distribution. Using data gathered from more than 15 years of the Annual Bird Census, the study found that populations on the island of Pulau Ubin have increased at nearly 4% per year. It is estimated that at least 110 individuals of the Straw-headed Bulbul now survives on Ubin, making the island a global stronghold for the species. On the other hand, trends in mainland Singapore were less clear, appearing to remain unchanged over the study period.

The population of the Straw-headed Bulbul in Singapore is estimated to be at least 202 individuals based on existing data. However this estimate is likely to be conservative since the Western Catchment area was not comprehensively surveyed. Moreover, new sites for the bulbul, including remnant pockets of woodland like Burgundy woods has been discovered very recently and these were not captured in the Annual Bird Census. Given that the global population of the species is now estimated at 600-1,700 individuals, Singapore may easily hold 12-34% of the world’s remaining wild Straw-headed Bulbuls.

To effectively conserve the Straw-headed Bulbul, there will be a need to conserve small pockets of woodland such as Bukit Brown and Khatib Bongsu outside the nature reserves. It is also hoped that the authorities will review plans to gazette at least some parts of Pulau Ubin as a nature reserve. Other biodiversity can be expected benefit from the conservation actions targeting the bulbul.

Studies on the long-term population trends of birds in Singapore would not be possible without the citizen science surveys carried out by the Nature Society and supported by a large team of volunteers since 1986. These surveys include the Mid-year, Fall, and most importantly, the Annual Bird Censuses. Additionally, there are also dedicated censuses focused on monitoring raptor migration and parrots in urban areas. During these censuses, as many as 50 volunteers may be surveying birds across the country concurrently. Over the last two decades, these censuses have allowed us to track population trends of threatened species such as the globally endangered Straw-headed Bulbul.”

By Yong Ding Li.

Destination Singapore: A Birder’s Gateway to the Jungles of Southeast Asia – Part 1

Every year, the varied habitats of Southeast Asia draw scores of international birdwatchers to the region in search of its avian jewels. Over a fifth of the world’s birds occurs in this region, from pittas and trogons in the lush rainforests of Indonesia to rare wintering waders on the coasts of Thailand, and any aspiring global birdwatcher is likely to require several visits to the region to do it justice to Southeast Asia’s incredible birdlife.

The island nation of Singapore, with its world-renowned airport and excellent infrastructure, is widely regarded as the gateway to Southeast Asia. However, what many birders don’t realise is that apart from being a transit hub to exotic destinations around the region, Singapore is in itself an excellent birding destination, home to a both resident and migratory birds which are often very tricky to observe in other countries in the region. Trying to see some of these species in other parts of tropical Asia would often involve visits to remote national parks and which would require lengthy journeys over rugged terrain. In this instalment, we profile three globally threatened and near-threatened resident bird species which are commonly encountered in Singapore, but otherwise difficult to observe elsewhere.

Straw-headed Bulbul Con Foley We start the ball rolling with the globally threatened Straw-headed Bulbul, one of the largest and most distinctive bulbuls in Southeast Asia and unfortunately, also perhaps the most threatened. This bulbul was once common throughout much of Southeast Asia, but its beautiful song has made it highly sought after in the cage bird trade. Consequently populations have crashed throughout the region, particularly in Indonesia and Thailand.

The bulbul inhabits secondary forests along the interface between water and land, and can be found in a range of habitats from riverine forests to mangroves. In Singapore, the Straw-headed Bulbul has also adapted well to wooded public parks and is readily encountered in suitable habitat across the island. Thankfully, many local sites supporting good numbers of this species are also well-used recreational spaces that are regularly patrolled by rangers, which appear to deter would-be poachers from trapping these iconic birds. Some of the best places to observe this magnificent songster is the Bukit Batok Nature Park, and the island of Pulau Ubin.

Another regular avian feature of Singapore’s wooded landscape is the globally Near-threatened Grey-headed Fish-Eagle. This distinctive raptor generally inhabits forested rivers and lakes and although widespread throughout Southeast Asia and the Indian Subcontinent, is locally distributed and in decline due to habitat loss and pollution across many of the region’s large rivers.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Grey-headed Fish-eagle at Guilin Nature Park. Photo Alan OwYong

However, just as with the aforementioned species, this bird appears to have adapted to urban water bodies in Singapore, and the ample supply of large non-native fish introduced by irresponsible pet owners inhabiting them. Interestingly, this species is now regularly encountered at many urban green spaces throughout Singapore including the Singapore Botanic Gardens and breeds regularly on the hills around Little Guilin Park. The continuing expansion of this eagle into urban Singapore offers a unique case study into how introduced species have the potential to benefit the very predators which consume them.

Last but not least, we have the globally Near-threatened Chestnut-bellied Malkoha, Singapore’s only surviving member of this distinctive group. Despite being a member of the cuckoo family, malkohas do not lay their eggs in the nests of other birds but instead construct nests and raise their own chicks. Many malkohas inhabit the rainforests of Southeast Asia and are consequently threatened by habitat loss, and this species is no exception. Outside of Singapore, this species is infrequently encountered in mangroves, rainforest and secondary growth throughout Peninsular Malaysia, Sumatra and Borneo.

000000020036
Chestnut-bellied Malkoha at Mandai Orchid Gardens Photo: Alan OwYong.

In Singapore, however, the species is not regularly encountered in mangroves but instead is fairly common in our forest reserves and adjacent areas of secondary growth and even well-wooded parks. Many international birders visiting Singapore include this in their lists of must-see birds during their sojourn on the island.

So the next time you visit Singapore on a birding trip, take some time to explore the country as well! You just might end up adding some lifers to your list which you otherwise might not have seen. For the local birdwatchers, do take the time to appreciate our feathered friends who share the island with us; there is more to Singapore’s birds than just crows and mynas!

This article is written and edited by our guest contributors Albert Low and Yong Ding Li. They are both highly travelled birdwatchers from Singapore, and are among the top Asian birders, ranked by number of bird species seen in Asia. Photo Credits: Con Foley, Alan OwYong & Francis Yap.

 

Photo Gallery of the birds featured:

Part 2 of the series
Part 3 of the series

This article is written and edited by our guest contributor Albert Low with help from Yong Ding Li. They are both highly travelled birdwatchers from Singapore, and are among the top Asian birders, ranked by number of bird species seen in Asia. Photo Credits: Con Foley, Alan OwYong & Francis Yap.