BFF Big Birdwatch (26th April)

As someone who is kind of interested in birds, observing birds from my house window is not something that is totally unfamiliar. However, because of this experience, I also know that the few trees that are outside my house were not going to yield many species, so for this assignment, I decided to go for a run around my neighbourhood to add some species to my list (so that it isn’t so sad).

Disclaimer: my bird ID skills are not really that great, so there may be some mistakes here and there. Sorry!

Morning run findings:

SpeciesSeenHeard
Asian Glossy StarlingOne flock (around 20 individuals)
3 individuals
Many
Black-naped Oriole011
Javan Myna 118
Rock Dove40
Spotted Dove02
Zebra Dove01
Red-breasted ParakeetAround 7Many
Swiftlets 80

Because I was running, not photos were taken, and I did not have the time to stop and locate the individual birds so many of them were just heard. For this morning’s run, I did not run my usual route at the park connector which would have yielded more species, because it was too crowded. #socialdistancing (Some birds I have seen along the park connector: White-bellied Sea Eagle, Brahiminy Kite, Common Flameback, Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker, White-throated Kingfisher.) So I chose to run around the more empty HDB estates, which is why many of the birds here are the loudest, biggest and most abundant birds one can probably find in a typical Singaporean neighbourhood.

Next up, was bird-watching at my window! (also used as my cool down activity after the run)

Window watching findings:

SpeciesSeenHeard
Javan Myna5Many
(one of the) Sunbirds
>they all sound the same to me
0 (too small)1
Rock Pigeon20
Spotted Dove13
Zebra Dove04
Asian Glossy Starling2Many
Yellow-vented Bulbul6 (may have been the same individuals though)2
Pink-necked Green Pigeon71
Black-naped Oriole11
(Bonus) Painted Jezebel40

For my window bird-watching experience, I did not manage to get many photographs because

  1. The birds were too far away for my poor phone camera
  2. The birds were hiding in the trees
  3. The birds were either really fast fly-byes or skittish

However, I did manage to get some photos:

As you can see, my window watching experience was actually more fruitful than my jog, which was kind of surprising because I really thought that staying put at my place would limit the diversity of birds I observe, but that turned out to not be true! I guess slowing down to carefully observe one’s surroundings is a better method to find our feathered friends.

Now, a feature on the only birds that were kind enough to stay motionless for my photos: the Pink-necked Green Pigeon (Treron vernans)

Spot the pigeon!

This very common resident bird inhabits many areas of Singapore and can very commonly be found in our neighbourhoods as well as forests. However, due to their green plumage, it can be hard to spot them, especially since they are arboreal and rarely go fly down to the ground. Do look out for their pink and orange necks which stand out among the trees! Only males have the colourful necks, however, and females are just a drab of green (like many of the other females in the animal kingdom) but still pretty nonetheless!

This cute little pigeon is not the only colourful pigeon that can be found in Singapore! There are actually many other cool (and less common) pigeons around!

These other pigeons are:

  • Cinnamon-headed Green Pigeon (Treron fulvicollis)
    • This pigeon is a very rare non-breeding visitor to Singapore.
    • The males can be differentiated with the more common PGNP by its cinnamon-coloured head and maroon wings; while the females can be told apart by the yellowish thighs on the CHGP.
    • This species is said to inhabit coastal areas and mangroves; the last few sightings recorded in Singapore are in Pulau Ubin and Tampines Eco Green.
  • Thick-billed Green Pigeon (Treron curvirostra)
    • This pigeon is an uncommon resident in Singapore.
    • The most distinctive feature of this species is its broad green eyering and the red base of its bill.
    • This species confines itself to wooded areas and has been spotted near our Bukit Timah and Central Catchment Nature Reserves. Dairy Farm Nature Park is also a favourite place to spot this bird.
  • Little Green Pigeon (Treron olax)
    • Like the CHGP, this species is also a very rare non-breeding visitor.
    • The LGP is smaller than its other cousins listed above and can be differentiated by its bluish-grey head.
    • Also preferring to stick to forests, this species was last spotted in the Central Catchment Area.

If you are mind boggled by all these similar-looking and cute pigeons, don’t worry! I always just assume that what I see is the PGNP, seeing as the others are not really common and stick to forested areas instead of the heartlands. But I hope you have a greater appreciation of pigeons in Singapore after reading this sharing, like I have while researching them. There is more than meets the eye in terms of pigeons in Singapore, although the most common ones are still the one that frequent our hawker centres (Rock Pigeon).

Shoutout to more cool pigeons not mentioned: the Pied Imperial Pigeon (cool and white), the Jambu Fruit Dove (very blur-looking), the Mountain Imperial Pigeon (something I will never get to see), the Green Imperial Pigeon (looks like a jade sculpture in my opinion) and the Common Emerald Dove (another cool shiny pigeon)

Secondly, I will feature what is arguably the most common bird in Singapore, the Javan Myna (Acridotheres javanicus).

This bird is probably the bird that comes to most Singaporean’s minds when the word “bird” is mentioned. It is so common, there is probably one outside your window right now. Introduced as pet birds in the 1920s, this bird has overtaken many other birds (such as the native and once abundant Common Myna and the Oriental Magpie Robin) and emerged as one of the most abundant birds in Singapore. These loud, aggressive birds now frequent our neighbourhoods and hawker centres, and are regarded as pests in Singapore. There have actually been many attempts at controlling its population here, but I find this suggestion the most funny: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/environment/the-javan-mynah-todays-pest-tomorrows-food (TLDR: we eat the mynas. Maybe the supermarket shelves can be less empty now.)

Ironically, this myna is regarded as ‘Vunerable’ by the IUCN due to its declining population in its native Java, where many are trapped for the pet trade. (I think having a Javan Myna as a pet in Singapore would be unthinkable.) Meanwhile, the bird has established itself throughout the Malay peninsula and continues to spread, harming native populations just like how it did in Singapore. This exemplifies the problem of invasive species, something that Singapore, as an international trading hub, is not a stranger to. (Especially if people continue to release their pets into the wild!) Invasive species like the Javan Myna in Singapore has led to the decline of many local species, unable to compete with their rivals for food and territory.

The Javan Myna is known for its sleek black body and yellow beak. Due to its abundance, many people (including myself) may actually mistake other birds for it! These birds are:

  • Common Myna (Acridotheres tristis)
    • Once common in Singapore, these birds have been beaten by their Javan neighbours and is now considered an uncommon resident. (I personally disagree with this classification; I feel they are still quite common)
    • They can be differentiated by their browner plumages, as well as the yellow eyering
    • This bird is actually an invasive species elsewhere around the world, and is considered by the IUCN as one of the world’s top invasive species.
  • Common Hill Myna (Gracula religiosa)
    • Another uncommon resident of Singapore
    • This bird resembles the Javan Myna but is actually much bigger, and has a bright orange beak and yellow nape (the back of the neck where you would put sunblock if you were a bird)
    • It also sounds like a laser gun.

In conclusion: Singapore is home to many interesting birds (temporary home for some), and we should always take time to slow down and appreciate the nature around us, especially birds. Bird watching has always been one of humanity’s favourite hobbies, and is also starting to gain attention in Singapore. (Regular crowds of birders gathered around rare birds is a testament to this — just ask the Barn Owl that was in Toa Payoh recently.) As Singapore continues developing, we will continue take more and more out of nature (RIP Bidadari), and conflicts between nature and human needs will continue to arise. We humans are part of a global ecosystem, and have already altered it too much for our own good. A lack of respect for nature has led us to become an invasive species ourselves. An appreciation of nature is crucial as we manage these conflicts. And the best way to do this, is to start outside in our very own neighbourhood, for we are lucky to live in a biophilic city like Singapore where a huge diversity of life can be found, as I’m sure everyone who took the time to slow down, will find out. 🙂

Photo references:

One thought on “BFF Big Birdwatch (26th April)

  1. Good work in documenting the species you found, both from home and around your estate. Thank you also for sharing about other similar species that can be found in Singapore – hopefully we can try spotting them in nature areas, after the Circuit Breaker period 🙂 Well done!

    Like

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