Big Birdwatch 2020

What I liked about the Big Birdwatch activity was that I truly got to appreciate the biodiversity of my neighbourhood a lot more. While I did find identifying some of the birds quite challenging, I also quite enjoyed the mystery and the thrill of finally being able to identify what I’d seen (especially when I found out that the rose-ringed parakeet is considered an uncommon resident, because I actually see them a lot in my area!). One tip I would suggest is, of course, to be very patient! You can’t get wild birds to perch for you at a certain spot and in a certain pose, so patience is key.

I spotted a number of different species of birds while birdwatching from home, including the yellow-vented bulbul, oriental dollarbird and brown-throated sunbird.

Pictured above is the yellow-vented bulbul. It can be distinguished by its yellow vent (butt), which isn’t very visible here. Other distinguishing features include the dark brown “mohawk” on the top of its head and the black “goggles” surrounded by white rings.

  1. The yellow-vented bulbul is one of the most common birds in Singapore, aside of course from the famous (or infamous) javan myna.
  2. Chicks sometimes commit siblicide, pushing younger and weaker siblings out of the nest. Yikes!
  3. Yellow-vented bulbuls are known for their rich, bubbly songs which can often be heard in the early morning or late evening.
Pictured above is the oriental dollarbird. It can be identified by its blue plumage and bright-orange beak. In flight, the distinctive blue coin-shaped spot on each wing becomes visible, and that’s where it gets its name from.
  1. The oriental dollarbird is a type of roller, a group of birds which are so named because of the rolling behaviour they display during their courtship flight. They will perform a fast, shallow dive then fly back up and perform the same motion again (kind of like a roller coaster).
  2. Oriental dollarbirds can be found from Australia up to Japan and India.
  3. The oriental dollarbird’s modus operandi is similar to that of the bee-eater. It can often be observed perching alone in an obvious spot, waiting for flying insects to fly past. When it spots an insect zooming by, it leaves its perch and catches its prey mid-air before returning to the same perch to wait for its next victim.
Pictured above is the brown-throated sunbrid. This particular individual is a female.
  1. Male sunbirds come in a vast array of different colours, making them very easy to identify. Females, however, are often very dull in appearance, and have distinguishing features that are both few and very similar.
  2. The three most common sunbirds in Singapore are the olive-backed sunbird, brown-throated sunbird and crimson sunbird. The female brown-throated sunbird is the only one among these three that has a red iris; the other two species have a black iris.
  3. Sunbirds are often mistakenly identified as hummingbirds due to their small size and long, narrow beaks. However, hummingbirds can only be found naturally in the Americas.

One thought on “Big Birdwatch 2020

  1. Clear and engaging write-up – I enjoyed how your descriptions are relatable even for readers who might be new to identifying birds 🙂 Good work!


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