Tag Archives: White-faced Plover

First Records of the Javan Plover in Singapore

First Records of the Javan Plover in Singapore

By Frankie Cheong & Lim Kim Seng

Figure #1: Javan Plover photographed at Pulau Tekong on 16th July 2021. Photo © Frankie Cheong. Note the flesh-coloured long legs, buff breast patch and eyestripe, and white supercilium extending beyond eye.

     I (FC) was going for my usual round exploring the reclaimed land on Pulau Tekong on the morning of 16th July 2021. My main reason for going to this area was to follow up on a Pied Stilt Himantopus leucocephalus to get a better look since it is a rare breeding visitor in Singapore only recorded at this location to date.

Upon reaching the area, I heard the call of a Pied Stilt, so I stopped my car and scanned the area. I was not able to find it. However, I did see three waders busy foraging about 20 to 30 m away.  I pointed my camera and looked through the view finder to try and see what they were. They are appeared to me to be Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus, a species known to be an uncommon winter visitor and passage migrant in Singapore (Lim 2009; Lim et al. 2020) so I just clicked a few shots for record purposes and continued to search for the stilt.

Once I had downloaded and processed my photographs, one of these plovers were identified as a “Kentish Plover” and subsequently shared online on a Facebook group. I was pleasantly surprised to received messages from Dave Bakewell and James Eaton were both saying that this could be something rarer than Kentish Plover. There was a mad rush to google and messages were flying. Later that day. James Eaton messaged me to confirm that this is a Javan Plover Charadrius javanicus, a species never before seen outside Indonesia and Timor Leste!

He wrote, the plumage is spot on for Javan (gingery breast sides and ear coverts) but it has a long, sleek appearance with quite long thin bill and very leggy typical of Javan”. I also sent a short report, with my photographs, to the Records Committee of the Nature Society (Singapore) Bird Group as this species was not on the official bird checklist for Singapore.

Subsequently, I went back to my archives because I remember seeing the same plovers some time ago at Pulau Tekong. Indeed, I have some badly taken photos on 20th June 2021! There were also three birds, one of which looked like a juvenile. I sent these photos to James Eaton and he concurred that this was a juvenile, which meant that breeding could be taken place for the first time here in Singapore and outside Indonesia and Timor Leste! So, not only was this a new species for Singapore, it was also a new breeding record for Singapore! In addition, this was also a new record for continental Southeast Asia! What a mega tick! The three birds were still there on 2nd August.

If accepted by the Records Committee, these will be the first records, and the first breeding record of the Javan Plover in Singapore, something unprecedented since a similar event when Savanna Nightjar Caprimulgus affinis turned up in 1988 (Lim 2009, Lim et al 2020).

Status and Range of Javan Plover

The Javan Plover is a monotypic resident shorebird found across Java, the Lesser Sundas, southern Sumatra (Lampung) Bangka and Belitung (Iqbal et al. 2013; Iqbal 2015, Eaton et al 2016). The species is locally common at a number of sites it is known from in Indonesia (e.g. Jakarta Bay). The species is essentially endemic to Indonesia and Timor-Leste until the Singapore records. The records from the south-east coast of Sumatra and Belitung are fairly recent (within the last decade) and suggests a northward trajectory of range expansion of the species. The species occurs in a variety of habitats ranging from beaches and shrimp ponds to coastal mudflats and wetlands, occasionally straying into semi-open scrubland. The Singapore records suggest a northward expansion of its range towards continental Southeast Asia, and the species may already be occurring undetected in the Riau Archipelago, e.g. on Bintan (Yong, D.L., Adha Putra, C. in litt.). The Javan Plover is rated as globally Near-Threatened in view of its small and declining range (BirdLife International 2021).

Identification of the Javan Plover

The Javan Plover is a small plover with sandy brown upperparts, white lores, white supercilium extending behind eye and white collar, buff-coloured eyestripe and breast patches. Its bill is long and black and its legs are long and flesh-coloured. Compared to Kentish Plover, it has a bigger head with a less sloping forehead, a slenderer body and distinctly longer legs. The Malaysian Plover Charadrius peroni is similar but is shorter-billed with distinctly mottled upperparts. The Swinhoe’s Plover Charadrius dealbatus can be differentiated from the other two plovers by its head shape (steep forehead), the broad, white supercilium extending almost to the collar, the absence of the dark patch on its lores (giving it a ‘white-faced’ appearance), its shorter bill and legs.

Recommendations for future fieldwork

More fieldwork needs to be conducted in coastal (wetland) habitats around Singapore and its offshore islets as well as southern Peninsular Malaysia and the Riau Archipelago to determine if the Javan Plover has established a presence further northward as the Singapore records would suggest. There are known areas of coastal wetlands used by shorebirds in the northern and western coastline of Bintan (Yong, D.L. in litt.) and these sites should be further surveyed for their shorebird communities.


I would like to thank Dave Bakewell and James Eaton for helpful comments on my photographs on Facebook. Thanks also go to Alan OwYong and Yong Ding Li for the use of his photograph of Kentish Plover and White-faced Plover, as well as input on the species from the region from Yong Ding Li and Chairunas Adha Putra.

Figure #2. Javan Plover photographed at Pulau Tekong on 16th July 2021. Photo © Frankie Cheong.

Figure #3. Javan Plover photographed at Pulau Tekong on 16th July 2021. Photo © Frankie Cheong.

Figure # 4 & 5. Javan Plovers photographed at Pulau Tekong on 20th June 2021. Photos © Frankie Cheong.

Figure # 6 & 7. Javan Plover photographed at Pulau Tekong on 20th June 2021. Photos © Frankie Cheong.


BirdLife International (2021) Species factsheet: Charadrius javanicus. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 31/07/2021.  

Eaton, J.A., van Balen, B., Brickle, N.W. & Rheindt, F.E. (2016). Birds of the Indonesian Archipelago. Greater Sundas and Wallacea. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.

Iqbal, M. 2015. Javan Plover Charadrius javanicus on Belitung Island, a new site for Sumatra (Indonesia). Wader Study 122(2): 160–161.

Iqbal, M., Taufiqurrahman, I., Gilfedder, M. & Baskoro, K. 2013. Field identification of Javan Plover Charadrius javanicus. Wader Study Group Bull. 120(2): 96–101.

Lim, K.S. (2009). The avifauna of Singapore. Nature Society (Singapore), Singapore.

Lim, K.S., Yong, D.L. & Lim, K.C. (2020). A field guide to the birds of Malaysia and Singapore. John Beaufoy, Oxford.

Figure # 8. Kentish Plover at Marina East on 31st January 2021. Photo © Alan OwYong.

Figure #10. White-faced Plover at Marina Barrage by Yong Ding Li.

White-faced and Kentish Plovers- a side by side comparison.

By Alan OwYong and Yong Ding Li.

Dave Bakewell and Peter Kennerley first alerted us to a distinct looking Charadrius plover in their 2008 paper titled “Malaysia’s Mystery Plover” after studying them at Tuas, Singapore in winter of 1993-1994 and in Penang in 2006-2007. This led to a comprehensive study of the plover in question, in collaboration with Philip Round in 2008. They then coined the name “White-faced Plover” for its predominately white looking face.

Following the publication of the article, birders in China started searching for them along the coast. In 2011, a China-based birder Brian Ivon Jones stumbled a breeding population on China’s southern coast. 270 birds were counted at two sandy beaches at Dahu, Haifeng in Guangdong Province.

Further research found that renown British ornithologist Robert Swinhoe had described the form in 1870 based on a specimen collected from Taiwan and had it named Aegialites dealbatus. This was treated as a subspecies of the Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus.

So it was more of a rediscovery and the bonus was that it was accepted by the IOC as a new species following the name given by Bakewell and Kennerley, White-faced Plover, Charadrius dealbatus after the split. Numerous studies have been conducted by researchers thereafter to better understand is taxonomic relationship with other similar plovers.

The granite seawall by Marina East Drive where all the three Charadrius Plovers can be found.

On the 31 January 2021, all three Charadrius plovers were present at the seawall along Marina East Drive. There were a few pairs of Malaysian Plovers, several Kentish and at least one male White-faced Plover moulting into breeding plumage.

Both the Kentish and White-faced Plovers were seen mixing together and came close to each other for these photos. With these we are able to compare them better side by side.

Male Kentish (back) and White-faced Plovers.

At first glance, both plovers look similiar. But the first thing you will notice are the lores or rather the absence of the black loral patch for the White-faced. The patch behind the eyes are also visibly darker for the Kentish. Another useful feature for birders to take note of is the black breast typical of the Malaysian and Kentish Plovers, this feature is less pronounced in the White-faced. The black band across the crown is further back on the White-faced Plover, giving it the appearance of a much whiter forehead and an overall paler face. Lastly the Kentish Plover has a darker brown upperparts compared to the lighter, ‘milky tea’ color for the White-faced.

Side profile of the female Kentish Plover ( left ) and the male White-faced Plover (back).

This side profile photo shows that the two plover species are of about the same size with a slightly rounder body for the Kentish. The flanks of the Kentish has more white than the White-faced. The legs of the Kentish do look darker but the length is hard to judge. The most contrasting feature is the shape of the head. The White-faced has a steeper forehead compared to the sloping forehead of the Kentish Plover, giving it a more “dome-shaped” look.

This White-faced Plover has been accepted into the International Ornithological Congress’s checklist after the split, and has now been added into the 2021 Nature Society (Singapore)’s Birds of Singapore Checklist.


Bakewell, D.N. & Kennerley, P.R. (2007). Malaysia’s Mystery Plovers. Available at http://www.surfbirds.com/Features/plovers1108/malayplovers.html

Kennerley, P.R., Bakewell, D.N., & Round, P.D. (2008). Rediscovery of a long-lost Charadrius plover from South-East Asia. Forktail24, 63-79.

Swinhoe’s ( White-faced Plovers)-Birdingbeijing.com

Sadanandan, K. R., Küpper, C., Low, G. W., Yao, C. T., Li, Y., Xu, T., … & Wu, S. (2019). Population divergence and gene flow in two East Asian shorebirds on the verge of speciation. Scientific reports, 9(1), 1-9.

Lim, K. S. (2009). The Avifauna of Singapore. Nature Society (Singapore). Singapore.

Birds Records Committee Report ( Jan 2021)

By Lim Kim Seng.

Chairman, Nature Society (Singapore) Bird Group Records Committee.

The Records Committee continues to receive records of new bird species to the Singapore List and rarities. This report updates the findings of the period, November 2019 – December 2020.

New Species

Nine new bird species were added to the Singapore List, bringing the total number of species to 407. These included three firsts – Common Swift, White-bellied Erpornis and Hair-crested Drongo – that had been recorded in the period under review. In addition, six species that had been previously categorized under Categories B or D had been re-reviewed by the committee and found to fit Category A. 

Common Swift Apus apus

An individual seen and photographed flying over Jelutong Tower on 9 Oct 2019 by Richard White, Francis Yap and Martin Kennewell was the first record for Singapore. Amazingly, this was followed by a second record from Henderson Waves on 27 Oct 2020 seen by Keita Sin, Tan Gim Cheong and Deborah Friets. The subspecies recorded is pekinensis which breeds in Northeast China and Transbaikalia, winters in Africa and have recently been seen in Thailand.

Common Swift Apus apus at Jelutong Tower, 9 Oct 2020. Photo by Francis Yap.

Orange-breasted Green Pigeon Treron bicincta

A male photographed at Chinese Garden on 22 Dec 2007 by Jonathan Cheah and Jimmy Chew is the only record for Singapore (Lim 2009). Previously assigned to Category D.

White-faced Plover Charadrius dealbatus

This is a taxonomic split accepted by IOC. The first Singapore records were up to four birds at Tuas from late Oct 1994 to Mar 1994 by Peter Kennerley (Lim 2009). Subsequent records were received from Changi and Marina East. Previously treated as a distinct subspecies of Kentish Plover C. alexandrinus.

White-faced Plover, Charadrius dealbatus, a taxonomic split accepted by IOC,
Photo taken at Marina East Drive by Alan OwYong.

Pied Kingfisher Ceryle rudis

A bird seen at Punggol on 18 Sep 1994 by Alfred Chia, Kenneth Kee, Lim Kim Chuah, Lim Kim Keang, Lim Kim Seng and Alan Owyong was the first record for Singapore (Lim 2009). This species was recently seen in southern Johor, Malaysia during the northern winter. It was previously assigned to Category D.

Crimson-winged Woodpecker Picus puniceus

Up to two birds seen at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve between 5 Nov 2001 and 16 Feb 2008 by Todd Birzer, Reuben Braddock, Andrew Chow, Lim Kim Seng and Yong Ding Li were our first records since 1970 (Lim 2009). Another record from Singapore Botanic Gardens on 16 Oct 2004 could not be confirmed. This species was previously assigned to Category B.

Green Broadbill Calyptomena viridis

1 photographed at East Coast Park by Seetoh Yew Wai on 27 Nov 2014 and another at Pulau Ubin by Keita Sin on 25 Dec 2014 were our first records since 1970 (Lim 2009). Previously assigned to Category B.

Green Broadbill Calyptomena viridis, at East Coast Park on 27 Nov 2014. Photo by See Toh Yew Wai.

White-bellied Erpornis Erponis zantholeuca

One seen and heard at the summit of Bukit Timah on 16 Jun 2020 by Richard White was the first record for Singapore. Martin Kennewell who arrived later was able to capture some excellent photos of the individual.

White-bellied Erpornis, Erpornis zantholeuca at Bukit Tiamh NR on 16 Jun 2020. Photo by Martin Kennewell.

Hair-crested Drongo Dicrurus hottentottus

An individual videoed at Changi Business Park on 26 Nov 2019 by T Ramesh and Steven Cheong was misidentified as a Crow-billed Drongo. Excellent detective work by Frank Rheindt proved that it was actually the subspecies brevirostris of Hair-crested Drongo, which is the migratory subspecies that breeds in China and northern Vietnam and winters in subtropical Southeast Asia and – this once – also in Sundaic Southeast Asia.

Hair-crested Drongo, Dicrurus hottentottus, at Changi Business Park on 26 Nov 2020. Video grab by T. Ramesh

Velvet-fronted Nuthatch Sitta frontalis

An individual seen at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve on 14 Jul 1996 by Lim Kim Chuah was our first record of this lowland Sundaic forest species. It was subsequently seen by other observers and last seen on 6 Jul 1999 (Lim 2009). Previously assigned to Category D.

Updates to the Checklist

In addition to the new species, the Records Committee have also been reviewing the checklist with a view to producing a checklist that is up-to-date, accurate and user-friendly.

One minor change was to use the term “Vagrant” instead of “Accidental” to describe the status of birds that do not breed in the Thai-Malay Peninsula region but occasionally stray into Singapore. An example would be Booted Warbler. Vagrants are denoted by “V” in the checklist.  

Perhaps the most important change was to Categories A and C. The committee decided to apply a 30-year timeframe instead of the traditional 50 years. The rationale for this is to better reflect the presence of extant breeders and to exclude extinct species in Singapore. Therefore, the cut-off for Categories A and C would be January 1st 1991. Any record that pre-dates 1991 would be transferred to Category B.

These are the species that have been removed from categories A and C due to the absence of records for the last thirty years:

English NameScientific NameRemarks
Eurasian TealAnas creccaReassigned to Category B
Christmas FrigatebirdFregata andrewsiReassigned to Category B
Hen HarrierCircus cyaneusReassigned to Category B
Eurasian WoodcockScolopax rusticolaReassigned to Category B
DunlinCalidris alpinaReassigned to Category B
Roseate TernSterna dougalliiReassigned to Category B
Black-thighed FalconetMicrohierax fringillariusReassigned to Category B
Plain SunbirdAnthreptes simplexReassigned to Category B
White-capped MuniaLonchura ferruginosaRemoved from Category C
Java SparrowLonchura oryzivoraRemoved from Category C
Yellow-breasted BuntingEmberiza aureolaReassigned to Category B

The committee has also taken the opportunity to review a number of records that were deemed to lack conclusive evidence of occurrence. As a result, the following species have been removed from the checklist proper:

English NameScientific NameRemarks
Blyth’s Hawk-EagleNisaetus albonigerRemoved from Category A
Western Marsh HarrierCircus aeruginosusRemoved from Category A
Oriental HobbyFalco severusRemoved from Category A
Richard’s PipitAnthus richardiRemoved from Category A

Another action was with regards to the occurrence of seabirds within Singapore territorial waters. As both the Straits of Johor and Singapore Straits are shared with Malaysia and Indonesia respectively, there is a need to ascertain that birds seen are inside Singapore territory. Therefore, seabird records were scrutinized to confirm that they were all seen in and not outside Singapore by referring to the GPS coordinates for these records. Records outside Singapore territorial waters or without verifiable GPS data are therefore categorized under Annex 1.    

The following species have been assigned to Annex 1:

English NameScientific NameRemarks
Lesser Black-backed GullLarus fuscusAssigned to Annex 1
Pomarine SkuaStercorarius pomarinusAssigned to Annex 1
Bulwer’s PetrelBulweria bulwerii Assigned to Annex 1


We would like to thanks the following observers for submitting their records for review and for the use of their photographs in this report:  Steven Cheong, Deborah Friets, Martin Kennewell, T. Ramesh, Tan Gim Cheong, Richard White, Francis Yap, See Toh Yew Wai and Alan OwYong. Finally, thanks are also due to my fellow committee members for their expertise in the deliberation process:  Alfred Chia, Kenneth Kee, Benjamin Lee, Lim Kim Chuah, Lim Kim Keang, Movin Nyanasengeran, Dillen Ng, Alan Owyong, Frank Rheindt, Keita Sin, Tan Gim Cheong and Yong Ding Li.


Lim, K.S. (2009). The avifauna of Singapore. Nature Society (Singapore), Singapore.

Personal Observations of the Plovers at Marina East Drive.

By Dr. Pary Sivaraman.

These are my own personal observations on the 17th and 18th January 2018 at Marina East Drive. Similar observations on both dates and I was the only birder on both dates.

There was a group of about 10 to 12 Swinhoe’s or White faced Plovers, ssp. dealbatus. Some were in breeding plumage. Just beside them but as a separate group there were about 15 to 16 Kentish Plovers, Charadrius alexandrinus. Some were in breeding plumage. On the first date, the Kentish Plovers were closer to me. On the second date the White faced Plovers were closer to me.


Kentish Plover in breeding plumage.

The groups tolerated a certain distance between me and them.
When I moved closer they would start walking a few feet.
If I continued, they would fly but interestingly the group closer to me would fly off first.
On the first date, the Kentish Plovers flew off first but the White faced Plovers moved a couple steps further from me and stayed.

On the second date, the White faced Plovers behaved similarly. They were closer and flew off first. The Kentish Plovers didn’t fly off but moved a couple of steps further from me and stayed.


Swinhoe’s or White-faced Plover in breeding plumage.

I thought it was interesting since the White faced Plovers or Kentish Plovers seemed to stick together as a group. I must emphasize I didn’t move too quickly to them. I presume if I did all of them would have flown away.

I have attached the photos of the Kentish and White faced Plovers in breeding plumage.
I have taken more photos for my own understanding how the birds.

Identifying the Smaller Charadrius Plovers.

Compiled by Alan OwYong and Yong Ding Li.

2016-03-05 18.36.48

Granite seawall next to the Marina Barrage where the plovers are spending the winter.

We were fortunate that Loke Peng Fai found some Kentish, Charadrius alexandrinusand Malaysian Plovers, Charadrius peronii, at the granite embankment next to the Marina Barrage on 24 Oct 2015 now that the access to Changi Cove was restricted. Not only that, a distinctive subspecies of the Kentish Plover were also spending the winter there together with a few Lesser Sand Plovers, Charadrius mongolus,. These are the Swinhoe’s or White-faced Plovers (ssp. dealbatus). This gives us an great opportunity to study them in different plumages close up as they can be rather difficult to identify as a result of their superficially similar plumage patterns.

Let’s start with our resident Malaysian Plovers first.

Malaysian Plovers are more sandy in appearance, and show more mottling on the upperpart. They also have paler legs and more extensive breast band. Both male and female have a white collar. The male has a black breast band while the female has a rufous band both extending over the neck. (Male left, Female right)


The Kentish Plovers also have the same white collars as the Malaysian. But they are duller brown with plainer and more uniform upperparts. The legs are darker and the breast band is also less extensive than that of the Malaysian Plover. Unlike the Malaysia Plover, the black breast band of the male does not extend fully around the neck.(Male left, Female right).

White-faced Plover

White-faced or Swinhoe’s Plover (spp. dealbatus)

The Swinhoe’s or White-faced Plovers is a rather distinct looking subspecies (ssp. dealbatus) of the Kentish Plover. It has a similar white collar and uniformly brown upperparts as the Kentish. But the breast band is often hardly noticeable and the broader white lores and brow gives it a white looking face.

Kentish and Lesser Plovers

Kentish and Lesser Plovers

The Lesser Sand Plover (behind) is 2 cm larger than the Kentish ( front) as can be seen from this photo. The key difference is the lack of a white collar for the Lesser Sand Plovers.

Kentish Plover Juvenile

Which Plover is this?

Now that you are clear about the different features of the four small plovers, can you tell which plover is this? Better still can you tell the sex and age as well?

Reference: A field Guide to the Waterbirds of Asia. Wild Birds Society of Japan 1993.

Further reading on the spp dealbatus. “The Rediscovery of a Long-lost Charadrius Plover from South East Asia. Peter Kennerly, Dave Bakewell and Philip Round” at http://www.thaibirding.com/ornithology/lostplover.htm