Prepared by the Singapore Bird Records Committee
The latest update of our checklist, version 2023-2, has been published. It can be accessed at our Downloads page.
Since our last checklist update in February 2023, the Records Committee has considered and voted on over 50 records of rare and scarce birds in Singapore. We would like to thank all the observers who submitted their records, and these votes are published on our Recent Decisions page with our Live Checklist tracking additions and deletions to the checklist on a live basis.
This article includes the updates to our checklist since our last revision. Our checklist is based on the International Ornithological Committee (IOC) taxonomy, the latest version being IOC 13.1 – the same version as the previous checklist update, so there are no taxonomic changes in this revision. This revision instead focuses on changes to the local statuses for several species in the checklist, as well as updates to our Review List, which includes species which our Records Committee compiles records for.
This edition of the checklist is version 2023-2, and can be downloaded at our Downloads page. Note that this downloadable checklist is a “snapshot” of the checklist as of June 2023, and may differ from our live checklists available on this site and our Records Committee site. For example, you may have noticed the below additions to the checklist already appearing on our live checklists by late last year – when they were finalised by our Records Committee – even though they are only reflected in our downloadable checklist in this official update.
There are now 427 species in the Singapore Bird Checklist with the changes in this revision.
Added to checklist
White-crowned Hornbill Berenicornis comatus [Record 10513]: One bird at Chek Jawa first recorded in Apr 2023 placed this species in Category A. Our recent article discusses our rationale for the inclusion as a wild bird.
Also considered for inclusion but not added to checklist
Stripe-throated Bulbul Pycnonotus finlaysoni [Record 10491, Record 10527]: A recent sighting at Chek Jawa and a separate record last year at Upper Seletar Reservoir Park were both considered possible escapees. Details are summarized in our article.
Removed from checklist
Wandering Whistling Duck Dendrocygna arcuata: The last sightings of this species in Singapore were over five years ago, so it certainly no longer has a self-sustaining breeding population in Singapore. Applying our new categorization system for introduced species in Singapore, described below, this species is removed.
Streaked Weaver Ploceus manyar: Like the previous species, has not been recorded in over five years. Applying our new categorization system for introduced species in Singapore, described below, this species is removed.
Updates to categorization for introduced species
Previously, introduced species with self-sustaining populations (i.e. Javan Myna and House Crow) were removed from the checklist after 10 years of absence; for example, Crested Myna and Black-winged Starling were removed in this way. Going forward, we will remove introduced species once it is reasonably clear that they no longer have self-sustaining local breeding populations, essentially removing the 10-year cutoff. This has led to the removals of Streaked Weaver and Wandering Whistling Duck, and Chinese Hwamei is another one to watch.
|Category||Old definition||New definition|
|C (self-sustaining population)||Species that have been introduced by man and have established to form self-sustaining, breeding populations.||Species that are most likely to have originated from captivity, with self-sustaining breeding populations.|
|B2 (formerly had self-sustaining population)||Species previously placed in Category C but last recorded more than 10 years ago.||Species that are most likely to have originated from captivity, formerly placed in Category C, but no longer have self-sustaining breeding populations.|
|E1 (no self-sustaining population)||Species that are most likely to have originated from captivity, with breeding populations, if any, thought to not be self-sustaining.|
A full set of information on our checklist’s Categories can be found in our About Us page.
Review List changes
Brown-backed Needletail: added to Review List. The first confirmed record of Hirundapus giganteus indicus – the migratory race – in Singapore, coupled with the increasingly prominent scarcity of this species (especially when compared to the large number of Silver-backed and White-throated Needletails since 2016) prompted the uplisting of this species.
Common Moorhen: removed from Review List. Breeding efforts in multiple places in Singapore prompted the downlisting of this species.
Javan Pond Heron: removed. Increased observer effort in the birding community has revealed that this species is not as rare as previously thought. Consistent records of multiple birds at various locations over the past few seasons prompted the downlisting of this species.
Rufous-bellied Eagle: removed. Multiple records over the past few seasons prompted the downlisting of this species. The SBRC is quite suspicious that this bird might actually be breeding in Singapore given the presence of adults and juveniles through summer in the Singapore Quarry area.
Oriental Scops Owl: removed. Increased observer effort over the past few years (in some sense) has revealed that this species is a frequent victim of building collisions in Singapore, and is certainly not as rare as previously thought (>10 crashed just in the 2022/2023 season). Given that we are noticing the same trend for the Northern Boobook, it could possibly be downlisted in the near future too.
Siberian Thrush: removed. Increased sightings of this species over the past few seasons prompted the downlisting of this species.
The Review List will be updated on 30 June.
Local status/category changes
- Red Junglefowl: Resident/Introduced to Resident. Introduced birds are not truly Red Junglefowl, but rather a domestic breed. Accordingly, categorization is updated from Cat A/Cat C to Cat A only.
- Asian Koel: Resident/Visitor to Resident. Historically recorded as a visitor or migrant, although it is presently unclear if the species continues to make migratory movements as it is recorded frequently throughout the year.
- Thick-billed Green Pigeon: Resident/Visitor to Resident.
- Pied Imperial Pigeon: Resident/Visitor/Introduced to Visitor/Introduced.
- Grey-headed Swamphen: Resident to Former resident/Visitor. There is no recent evidence suggesting this species continues to persist as a breeding resident in Singapore.
- White-breasted Waterhen: Resident/Migrant to Resident. Historically recorded as a visitor or migrant, although it is presently unclear if the species continues to make migratory movements as it is recorded frequently throughout the year.
- Pied Stilt: Resident/Migrant to Resident. We opted to update this species as a Resident considering the breeding records in Pulau Tekong. However, we note that birds that show up on the main island of Singapore are, based on present knowledge, most likely to be Visitors. The true nature of the birds that occur in Singapore is much more nuanced than the categorical assignment of this species.
- Gull-billed Tern: Migrant to Visitor. This species seems to be present in suitable habitat at nearly all latitudes year-round, not necessarily entirely consistent with migratory behavior.
- Little Tern: Resident/Migrant to Resident. It is almost impossible to determine what the true status of this species in Singapore is, although it breeds locally and is recorded less frequently in the winter months.
- Christmas Frigatebird: Vagrant to Visitor. The frigatebirds and boobies have a tropical distribution, so they are more accurately classified as visitors and not vagrants.
- Lesser Frigatebird: Vagrant to Visitor.
- Masked Booby: Vagrant to Visitor.
- Red-footed Booby: Vagrant to Visitor.
- Brown Booby: Vagrant to Visitor.
- Striated Heron: Resident/Migrant to Resident. Historically recorded as a visitor or migrant, although it is presently unclear if the species continues to make migratory movements as it is recorded frequently throughout the year.
- Eastern Cattle Egret: Migrant/Introduced to Migrant. Although in the past recorded as free-ranging birds from Jurong Bird Park, it is unclear if introduced populations persist. Categorization is updated from Cat A/Cat C to Cat A only.
- Crested Serpent Eagle: Resident/Visitor to Resident. There are no confirmed records of visiting birds from further north in the peninsula, and it seems more prudent to consider this species as only a resident bird.
- Rufous-bellied Eagle: Visitor to Visitor/Migrant. Appears regularly on migration during the months of October and November; northern populations are also known to migrate southwards in the winter.
- Brown Wood Owl: Resident to Former resident/Visitor. This species has no recent local breeding records. (A previous version of this article erroneously stated that this species has no local breeding records. There was a nesting record on Pulau Ubin in 2010–2011. Thanks to Jared Tan for pointing this out.)
- Mangrove Whistler: Resident/Visitor to Resident. Although recent sightings have been suggested as visitors, the possibility that they originated from known local populations such as the Southern Islands or Pulau Tekong cannot be discounted.
- Ashy Drongo: Migrant to Visitor/Migrant. The nigrescens race (dark-type birds) is resident in Peninsular Malaysia and has been recorded as a visitor.
- Black-naped Monarch: Resident/Visitor to Resident.
- Blyth’s Paradise Flycatcher: Migrant to Visitor/Migrant. Also a resident in Peninsular Malaysia, with dispersive movements.
- Common Myna: Resident/Introduced to Resident. Categorization is updated from Cat A/Cat C to Cat A.
- Chinese Blue Flycatcher: Migrant to Vagrant. Recorded very infrequently in Singapore – less than annually.
When discussing the above list we considered if Ruby-cheeked Sunbird should be updated from Visitor to Resident due to breeding attempts at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve in 2022. However, given that the breeding attempts were unsuccessful, we are keeping it as a Visitor for the time being.
A number of species which are currently classified as visitors were also updated to reflect their former resident status. The primary reason for this update is to reflect their history of their local extirpation in Singapore, while at the same time emphasizing that present-day sightings are primarily birds straying across from the region, mostly Johor.
- Whiskered Treeswift: Visitor to Former resident/Visitor.
- Silver-rumped Spinetail: Visitor to Former resident/Visitor.
- Little Green Pigeon: Visitor to Former resident/Visitor.
- White-bellied Woodpecker: Visitor to Former resident/Visitor.
- Buff-rumped Woodpecker: Visitor to Former resident/Visitor.
- Black-thighed Falconet: Visitor to Former resident/Visitor.
- Black-and-red Broadbill: Visitor to Former resident/Visitor.
- Large Woodshrike: Visitor to Former resident/Visitor.
- Scarlet Minivet: Visitor to Former resident/Visitor.
- Lesser Cuckooshrike: Visitor to Former resident/Visitor.
- Thick-billed Spiderhunter: Visitor to Former resident/Visitor.
- Yellow-eared Spiderhunter: Visitor to Former resident/Visitor.
Finally, we want to take this opportunity to thank Francis Yap, who is departing the Records Committee, for his contributions thus far especially in setting up our Database. We are also very happy to announce that Yip Jen Wei has joined our Records Committee and look forward to progressing as a team with him. Additionally, Raghav Narayanswamy will be assuming the Vice-chair role, and we thank Sandra Chia for her efforts over the past 1.5 years.
As always, please feel free to let us know if there are any errors or questions.