Tag Archives: White-bellied Woodpecker

Singapore Bird Report-February 2016

Northern Pintail M. David Li

The very rare winter visitor Northern Pintail, male, at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve ( Photo: David Li)

We had a great start for the month with the surprised arrival of a Northern Pintail, Anas acuta, at Sungei Buloh. Mendis Tan reported a duck flying over Sungei Buloh in the morning of the 3rd and his colleague David Li found it in the evening. The last record was more than 23 years ago.Link

On the 13th, Alfred Chia was driving along the PIE when he saw two large woodpeckers flying across to the Mount Pleasant area. They were our long lost White-bellied Woodpeckers, Dryocopus javensis, co-incidentally last seen at the same area.

We also had a great ending for the month with the sighting of two Cinnamon-headed Pigeons, Treron fulvicollis, at Tampines Eco Green by Terry Chen on the 24th. They were foraging on the red berries of the Salam tree. A great Ang Pow Lifer for most of us. There were fewer than ten confirmed records of this non-breeding visitor, the last was at Pulau Ubin in 2011. Link. The other rare sighting was an Oriental Darter, Anhinga melanogaster, reported by Nicholas Tan on 6th over at Gombak Forest.

Cinnamon Pigeon Terry Chen-001

Terry Chen’s photo of the Cinnamon-headed Pigeon turned the quiet Tampines Eco Green into a mecca for birders and photographers. 

Most of the action for February was centered again at Gardens by the Bay and the re-opened Kranji Marshes. The uncommon Common Moorhen, Gallinula chloropus, made a brief appearance at SBTB on 5th (Laurence Eu) followed by sightings of a Greater Coucal, Centropus sinensis, a forest edge species on the 8th ( Saravanan Krishnamurthy, Lim Ser Chai and Arman AF). The closest record was at Labrador and Mount Faber.

Greater Coucal Sara Krishnamurthy

A surprise find of a forest-edge Greater Coucal at the SBTB on first day of CNY. Photo. Saravanan Krishnamurthy.

Francis Yap photographed a Black-crowned Night Heron, Nycticorax nycticorax, flying over the Gardens on 16th ( Anish Banerjee reported seeing one over the Barrage last month). A far away shot of a female Japanese Sparrowhawk, Accipiter gularis, by Cindy Yeo on 20th caused a stir when it was thought to be an Eurasian Sparrowhawk. Most of these birds are new for the Gardens.


A Black-crowned Night Heron flying over the GBTB beautifully captured by Francis Yap.

Even though the core area of the Kranji Marshes were not accessible to the public, there were still plenty to see along the old NTL2 to the Raptor Tower. Lena Chow got the super sulking Lanceolated Warbler, Locustella lanceolata, near the tower on 5th. Wong Chung Cheong, Lawrence Cher and a few others got lucky with great photos of this uncommon warbler later on 13th at the same place.

Super sulker, Lanceolated Warbler at Kranji Marshes. 5th on left by Lena Chow and 13th on the right by Wong Chung Cheong. 

Sunda Scops Owl, Otus lempiji, was nearly run over along NTL2, but was spotted in time by Arjun Sai Krishnan on 8th. The open site next to the marshes attracted several shorebirds that prefer fresh water patches. A Long-toed Stint, Calidris subminuta, was reported by David Li on the 9th ( Adrian Silas Tay managed to photograph them on the 13th). Two Wood Sandpipers, Tringa glareola, were photographed there on 15th by Frankie Cheong. A female Yellow-rumped Flycatcher, Ficedula zanthopygia, was spotted by Koh Lian Heng on the 18th along NTL2 on its spring migration. We are happy to see the resident Blue-eared Kingfishers, Alcedo meninting, returning to the canal. Lawrence Cher photographed one on 27th.

Blue-eared Kingfisher L. Cher

The Blue-eared Kingfisher returned to its favourite hunting ground at Kranji. Photo: Lawrence Cher.

Two species of wagtails were also making their stop over on their way north. A Forest Wagtail, Dendronanthus indicus, at SBWR on 2nd (James Tann), a Grey Wagtail, Motacilla cinerea, was at the Masjid Hang Jabat canal on the 3rd ( Marcus Ng), and another at Bishan Canal on 10th (Lim Jit Yin). Other stopover migrants of note were a Von Schrenck’s Bittern, Ixobrychus eurthythmus, reported at the Serangoon Ave 3 Condo on 10th by Joe Lim, Yellow-browed Warbler, Phylloscopus inornatus,at the BTNR summit on 14th (Lim Kim Chuah). Some of the pond herons are assuming their breeding plumage. A Chinese Pond Heron , Ardeola bacchus, was photographed by James Tann over at the Chinese Gardens on 17th, another at Seletar on the 20th by Zacc HD, a Large Hawk Cuckoo , Hierococcyx sparverioides, at Halus Farmway 3 (Lim Kim Keang), a Blue-winged Pitta, Pitta moluccenis, at Rifle Range Link on 26th (David Tan) and a Hogdson’s Hawk Cuckoo, Hierococcyx nisicolor, back to Bidadari on 26th photographed by Frankie Lim.

Residents were more active and vocal this month as most were out looking for a mate. Grey-rumped Treeswifts, Hemiprocne longipennis,were seen flying over the HDB heartland of Mei Chin Road on 3rd (Marcus Ng), and over Mount Faber on 18th (Alan OwYong). A calling Rusty-breasted Cuckoo, Cacomantis sepulcralis, at Mount Faber on 6th ( Alan OwYong) first for this location, a Violet Cuckoo, Chrysococcyx xanthorthynchus, back feeding on the caterpillars at the JEG on 12th ( Lawrence Cher), the rare Yellow-vented Flowerpecker, Dicaeum chrysorrheum, at the BTNR summit on 14th (Lim Kim Chuah), Thick-billed Pigeon, Treron curvirostra, new to TEG on 18th (Ananth Ramasamy), a Great-billed Heron, Ardea sumatrana, seen over at Siloso heads at Sentosa on 20th (Ang Hock Chuah) and later across at Belayer Creek 3 days later ( Wolfe Repass) and a Black-headed Bulbul, Pycnonotus atriceps, at the edge of Sime Forest on 23rd by Lawrence Cher.

Brahminy Starling FYap

Brahminy Starling at Punggol Barat, an escapee?  Photo: Francis Yap.

Just one non-breeding passserine visitor was reported this month. A Streaked Bulbul, Ixos malaccensis, on 14th at the summit at BTNR (Lim Kim Chuah). Francis Yap photographed a Brahminy Starling, Sturnus pagodarum, at Punggol Barat on the 8th. We had only one record of this out of range starling in 2008. It was listed under Category E for suspected released or escaped birds. This species was accepted into the Malaysian Checklist recently.

On the waders front, Grey Plovers, Pluvialis squatarola, were reported wintering at Pulau Semakau on 8th (Andy Dinesh) and more than 20 birds over at Seduku off P. Ubin on 11 reported by Daniel Ong. He also reported 4 Black-tailed Godwits, Limosa lomosa, one in breeding plumage at the same place and day.

Common Kestrel Joseph Tan

Hovering Common Kestrel over Punggol Barat. Photo: Joseph Tan.

Our resident raptors were busy again raising their offsprings this month. Both the Changeable Hawk Eagles, Nisaetus cirrhatus, and the Crested Goshawk, Accipiter trivirgatus, have been seen feeding their chicks in the southern part of Singapore. A male Common Kestrel, Falco tinnunculus, was seen hunting over Punggol Barat on 23rd (Joseph Tan) and two Crested Serpent Eagles, Spilornis cheela, seen at NTL2 on 24th (Nicholas Tan) and an old haunt at Goldhill Avenue on 28th by Low Choon How.


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. 

This report is compiled by Alan OwYong and edited by Tan Gim Cheong from the 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 David Li, Terry Chen, Lena Chow, Wong Chung Cheong, Joseph Tan, Francis Yap, Lawrence Cher and Saravanan Krishnamurthy for the use of their photos.

NTL2 – Neo Tiew Lane 2, SBWR – Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserves, JEG – Jurong Eco Gardens, BTNR – Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, PIE – Pan Island Expressway, SBTB– Satay by the Bay.


Threatened, Endangered, Going, Gone?

The current Singapore Checklist published in 2013 has 385 species based on species classified under Category A: i.e. species recorded in an apparent wild state in Singapore in the last 50 years. If you go through this list you will find that many of our resident species have actually not been seen for quite some time. We fear that many of these ‘missing’ species may have died out in their last stronghold due to habitat loss and other factors associated with small populations (e.g. disease). The good news is that some of the species that we thought we have lost like the Buff-rumped Woodpecker and Barred Eagle Owl were spectacularly rediscovered in recent years, although this does not guarantee that their populations will persist in the long time. In this article, we highlight a number of species in Singapore’s checklist that have not been seen in the last decade and more.

Many of these ‘lost’ birds can still be found at the Panti Forest Reserve just across the Causeway in Johor, Malaysia. We are lucky to be able to showcase these eight species brilliantly documented by Con Foley at Panti Forest, and hope that they will be seen here again some day.

WoodpeckerWhitebellied Con Foley1. White-bellied Woodpecker. Dryocopus javensis

A large, rare woodpecker that is distinctive both in appearance and call, the White-bellied Woodpecker is also the second largest woodpecker in the Old World, after the Great Slaty Woodpecker. Like the possibly extinct Ivory-billed Woodpecker of North America, this is no doubt the Holy Grail of birdwatching in Singapore! The last confirmed record was from the Canopy Walkway at the Central Catchment Nature Reserve where one was heard on 24 July 2005, almost ten years ago. The last stronghold of the White-bellied Woodpecker was the Central Catchment Forest where most of the sightings were reported. One exceptional record was on 30 September 2001 when three males and one female were seen on a Terentang tree at the CCNR (Alfred Chia, Kenneth Kee & Alan OwYong). This is the largest single count for this woodpecker to date. Subsequent sightings involved a single male around the Sime Road area and MacRitchie Forest. Outside the Central Catchment, one bird was seen at the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve in the mid-1990s, and a stray individual was reported at the Mount Pleasant and Gymkhana areas in the early 2000s. There have also been unconfirmed records of single birds in remnant patches of woodlands in Tuas and Marina South. Large woodpeckers need large areas of relatively undisturbed forests to forage almost wherever they are found. We may have lost this woodpecker as a result of forest fragmentation and unless this is reversed the chances of this woodpecker returning to our forest is nil.

There was this note from Jon Chan of an unconfirmed sighting in 2013. He wrote: “Found out one of my buddies, Gabriel Kang, fellow Sunburnbrother and spotter, found a White Bellied Woodpecker at Rifle Range Rd on 6 Feb ’13 at 11.15am’. He heard the call first, suspected something amiss, stopped the car, and It flew past him on the road. Described it as crow-size but with a woodpecker’s behaviour. “

PigeonLittlegreenmale Com Foley

2. Little Green Pigeon. Treton olax

The Little Green Pigeon is the rarest of four green pigeons known from Singapore. Surprisingly this species was considered to be common in the 1960s by birdwatchers from the Royal Air Force Ornithological Society (Tweedy 1970, RAFOS 1968). Most of the recent records were from 1986 to 1990 when either singles or two birds were seen at Pulau Tekong and Upper Seletar, Upper Peirce, and Nee Soon in the Central Catchment Forests (SINAV). But sightings dwindled to only two records in the mid-2000s, a male on 17 October 2004 (SINAV 4.5) and a female reported two days later at the Jelutong Tower during the Bird Race that year. So far, we have no sightings of this species for more than a decade. Hopefully a stray from Johor will make it to our forests in the coming years since green pigeons are known to disperse widely for fruiting trees. Birdwatchers are encouraged to keep a lookout for this species at fruiting figs in and around the Central Catchment.

CuckooshrikeLesserfemale Con Foley

3. Lesser CuckooshrikeCoracina fimbriata

This very rare resident has only been recorded in Pulau Ubin and Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. Unfortunately, the forests there is unlikely to sustain its survival in Singapore.  Recent records from Bukit Timah was a male seen on October 1986 (BGNB Spet/Oct 1986) with the last record of a female at the same location on 4th January 1998 (K.S. Lim, SINAV 12.1). (Lim Kim Seng reported another female flying over Jelutong Towers on 14 October 2013). A report of a purported Lesser Cuckooshrike accompanied by a photograph in 2014, turned out to be the Black-winged Cuckooshrike (a species not in our checklist). The 2013 sighting gave hope of a comeback but we may have to accept that this species is now most likely extinct in Singapore.

BabblerMoustached Con Foley

4. Moustached Babbler. Malacopteron magnirostre

Our rarest babbler ‘came back to life’ when ornithologist Chris J. Hails from the Parks and Recreation Department (the predecessor of today’s National Parks Board) found a remnant population at the Seletar Catchment in 1983.  A census in 1986 found six birds in two locations within the Central Catchment forests. Lim Kim Chuah also reported seeing a pair of Moustached Babblers with two youngs, proving that the birds successfully bred. Breeding was recorded in 1984 and 1986. However their numbers appear to have declined thereafter, with only one bird sighted in 1987 and this became our second last record (SINAV 1.6). The last record was in June 1994, when one bird was sighted at the MacRitchie Catchment (K.S. Lim 1988). Subsequent surveys did not produce any sightings and we think that this babbler may already have gone extinct.

.SunbirdPlainmale Con Foley

5. Plain Sunbird. Anthreptes simplex.

The Plain Sunbird lives up to its name with its drab olive-green plumage, which makes it very similar to female sunbirds of other species if poorly seen. We have only one acceptable record of a male seen at Senoko on 25 January 1986 by Lim Kim Seng (BGB 2. Lim, K.S. 1989e). The last sighting of the Plain Sunbird was an unconfirmed record from Rifle Range Road in 2006 by Yong Ding Li and Ong Kiem Sian. Plain Sunbirds may have been overlooked in the past and dismissed as a female of other sunbirds but birdwatchers looking for this species should note that the males with their bluish patch above its bill are very distinctive.

SpiderhunterThick-billed Con Foley

6. Thick-billed Spiderhunter. Arachnothera crassirostris.

We had given up on this rare Spiderhunter and thought that it has gone extinct until one was seen again along Island Club Road in November 1989 (SINAV 3.11; Lim K.S. 1989j), almost 70 years after the last sighting. There were three more records after this, a) 23 October 2005 at Jelutong Towers during the Bird Race (SINAV 19.4), b) 2 birds at Nee Soon on 11 March 2006 by Albert Low and, c) an individual at Sime Road on October 2007.  There was another report by at Sime Forest by James Heng after the 2007 record but this was not confirmed. Due to these recent records, there is hope that a small population may still persist undetected in the Central Catchment Forest.

.MinivetScarlet Con Foley

7. Scarlet Minivet. Pericrocotus flammeus

Most of our records for this minivet were from the Bukit Timah Nature Reserves. The first record was in 1986 and the last in September 2001 by Yong Ding Li and Ong Kiem Sian at the Rock path. Out of a total of some 30 records, the largest number seen involved four birds. Alan OwYong recorded a pair on 3 December 1994 during a survey along Jungle Fall trail. There were only two records outside Bukit Timah, with a few unconfirmed sightings along the Sime Road area. In the 2000 Bird Race, a female was seen at MacRitchie forest by many groups, shortly after a White-bellied Woodpecker showed up! Being a vocal canopy feeder that occasionally join mixed flocks with bluebirds, Blue-winged Leafbirds and Chestnut-bellied Malkoha (Yong D.L. in litt.) based on observations at Bukit Timah, Scarlet Minivets should be easily seen if they are still around.

.FalconetBlackthighed Con Foley

8 Black-thighed Falconet. Microhierax fringillarius

The last stronghold of the Black-thighed Falconet was in Ulu Sembawang where four sightings were reported between 1979 and 1986, all by Lim Kim Seng. They disappeared when the forest there was disturbed and eventually developed. The last record was an adult at Sime Road Forest on 7 October 1990. There were four more records from 1992 to 2005 from Sime Road, Loyang and Bukit Batok Nature Park by various observers but unfortunately most of these records could not be confirmed. The best place for this raptor to show up may actually be in Pulau Ubin or Tekong, since falconets are still reasonably common in parts of Malaysia, occurring even in logged forests.

All records were taken from The Avifauna of Singapore. Lim Kim Seng 2009, Vanishing Birds of Singapore Lim Kim Seng 1992 and Yong Ding Li’s article in Nature Watch Vol 7 No 1. 1999. Many thanks to Con Foley for the use of these hard-to-get photographs from his extensive Panti Forest Collection and Yong Ding Li for editing the draft and adding in several unpublished records.