Bird List Revision for January 2021

The latest revision of the Singapore Bird List is now derived from IOC World Bird List Version 11.1. The downloadable list (in Excel format) is available HERE.

The following are the major changes:

  1. Addition: Common Swift – First record of a single bird on 9 October 2020 at Jelutong Tower, Central Catchment Nature Reserve. Second record of a single bird on 27 October 2020 at Henderson Waves.
  2. Addition: Hair-crested Drongo: – First record of a single bird seen at Changi Business Park on 26 November 2019.
  3. Taxonomic change: Resequence Family Anatidae (Ducks, Geese, Swans) to come before Family Phasianidae (Pheasants & Allies) in accordance to standard sequencing protocol adopted elsewhere.

Pelagic Bird Trip at the Singapore Strait – 20 September 2020

This year, the pandemic has generally been a restrictive affair for birding. During spring migration, our pelagic trips were cancelled as tighter restrictions meant most of us were working from home, and recreational activities were generally prohibited.

Since then, as the COVID-19 pandemic has been somewhat under control in Singapore, certain restrictions were eased. It is now possible to go out for recreational activities in a group of five, if proper precautions are taken. Cross border travel is still generally not possible without significant penalty.

On 20 September, 2020, a group of five bird photographers decided to take a boat trip along the Singapore Strait without sailing through international waters. As usual we chartered our boat from Alex of Summit Marine System.

The plan was to travel towards Pulau Tekong from Sentosa and then make a loop back. We thought it’ll be good to have a closer look at Pulau Tekong as we have not seen it  up close from the sea before. The journey started just before 8am and lasted six and a half hours.

Pulau Tekong
Reclamation work on Pulau Tekong.

Birding was generally quieter closer to the coast compared to our normal pelagic route. We noticed generally less commercial shipping activities. Some recreational fishing boats were sighted along the Changi-Pulau Ubin stretch. The sea was generally calm and cloud cover over the majority of the trip made for easier birding , especially in the late morning and early afternoon.

Pulau Sekudu aka Frog Island off Pulau Ubin

More importantly birding wise, to our relief, we did see some migratory seabirds along the way. Chief among them were good numbers of Aleutian Terns that seems to make the Singapore Strait one of their minor wintering ground.

Aleutian Tern
Aleutian Tern at Singapore Strait.

Swinhoe’s Storm Petrels also made their appearances although we probably missed their main group this time around, or perhaps they were mainly flying further outwards towards international waters.

Swinhoe's Storm Petrel
Swinhoe’s Storm Petrel at Singapore Strait

Another significant migratory bird species seen were a few White-winged Terns seen inland at Pulau Tekong and at the buoys situated between Pulau Tekong and mainland Singapore.

White-winged Tern and Black-naped Terns
A single White-winged Tern on the right and two Black-naped Terns perched on a buoy.

Other terns species seen include the usual Little Terns, Black-naped Terns and Greater Crested Terns.

Little Tern
Little Tern at Singapore Strait. This is a more coastal species.
Black-naped Tern
Black-naped Tern at the waters between Singapore and Pulau Tekong.
Greater Crested Tern
A distant Greater Crested Tern at Singapore Strait.

Since it’s a new route, we’re still figuring out how best to optimise future trips. The restriction on the number of people per boat also meant the charges are more expensive, requiring more commitment to participate in such trips.

Brahminy KIte
A pair of Brahminy Kites at Sisters’ Islands. Last birds of the trip.

Checklist for the birds seen is available here:

Bird List Revision for August 2020

The latest revision of the Singapore Bird List is now derived from IOC World Bird List Version 10.2. The downloadable list (in Excel format) is available HERE.

The following are the major changes:

  1. Addition: Shikra: – A single juvenile bird reported flying pass at Jelutong Tower on 21 November 2019 represent the first confirmed record for this very rare vagrant in Singapore.
  2. Addition: White-bellied Erpornis – A single bird was seen at Bukit Timah summit on 16 June 2020. This is Singapore’s first confirmed sighting of this very rare non-breeding visitor.
  3. Addition: White-faced Plover – Subspecies dealbatus of Kentish Plover has been elevated to full species and named White-faced Plover in accordance to IOC Bird List version 10.2.
  4. English Name change: Red Collared Dove – Red Turtle Dove’s English Name has been changed to Red Collared Dove in accordance to IOC Bird List version 10.2.
  5. Taxonomic change: Slaty-breasted Rail‘s scientific name changed to Lewinia striata.
  6. Taxonomic change: Baillon’s Crake‘s scientific name changed to Zapornia pusilla.
  7. Taxonomic change: Ruddy-breasted Crake‘s scientific name changed to Zapornia fusca.
  8. Taxonomic change: Band-bellied Crake‘s scientific name changed to Zapornia paykullii.
  9. Taxonomic change: White-browed Crake‘s scientific name changed to Poliolimnas cinereus.
  10. Taxonomic change: Black-and-white Bulbul‘s scientific name changed to Microtarsus melanoleucos.
  11. Taxonomic change: Black-headed Bulbul‘s scientific name changed to Brachypodius melanocephalos.
  12. Taxonomic change: Black-crested Bulbul‘s scientific name changed to Rubigula flaviventris.
  13. Taxonomic change: Chestnut-winged Babbler‘s scientific name changed to Cyanoderma erythropterum.
  14. Taxonomic change: Pin-striped Tit-Babbler‘s scientific name changed to Mixornis gularis.
  15. Taxonomic change: Short-tailed Babbler‘s scientific name changed to Pellorneum malaccense.
  16. Taxonomic change: White-chested Babbler‘s scientific name changed to Pellorneum rostratum.

Bird List Revision for March 2020

This is the latest revision of the Singapore Bird List dated 14 March 2020. The downloadable list (in Excel format) is available HERE.

The following are the major changes:

  1. Addition: White-cheeked Starling: – A single bird first reported at Picadilly, Seletar on 16 January 2020, which represent the first confirmed record for this very rare vagrant in Singapore.
  2. Addition: Brahminy Starling – Six past records of this species have been recorded in Singapore; on February 2008 (Marina East), October 2008 (Marina East), December 2003 (Bidadari), February 2016 (Punggol Barat), September 2016 (Gardens by the Bay) and January 2020 (Jurong Lake Gardens). A recently published paper (Soe Naing et al 2016) has indicated that this species is now a somewhat regular winter vagrant to Southeast Asia.
  3. Addition: Chinese Blackbird – A single Chinese Blackbird was seen and photographed at Jurong Lake Gardens on 11 February 2020. This is the most southernly sighting of this migratory bird.
  4. Addition: Oriental Turtle Dove – A single Oriental Turtle Dove was seen and photographed at Sisters’ Island on 28 November 2018 during an island survey. Details of this sighting only emerged recently.
  5. Deletion: Richard’s Pipit has now been deleted from the checklist. Upon further investigation and request for identification from pipit bird experts, the photos taken for that sighting is insufficient to positively identify the  bird as this species. However it is possible that it may be a very rare vagrant. The chase continues for this species.
  6. Other changes: The Malay names of many species have been updated in accordance to the latest revision by Mr Tou Jing Yi.

Bird List Revision for January 2020

The latest revision of the Singapore Bird List is now derived from IOC World Bird List Version 10.1. The downloadable list (in Excel format) is available HERE.

The following are the major changes:

  1. Addition: Taiga Flycatcher: – A single bird first reported at Singapore Botanical Gardens on 1 December 2019 represent the first confirmed record for this very rare vagrant.
  2. Replacement: Japanese Tit – The Japanese Tit replaces the misidentified Cinereous Tit from the previous record and sighting at Tuas South. Further sightings of 2 birds at Pasir Ris Park also on 1 December 2019, together with past sighting of this species at Chinese Garden on October 2011 further support its inclusion into the list.
  3. Taxonomic change: Eurasian Whimbrel – Whimbrel is now split into Eurasian Whimbrel and Hudsonian Whimbrel, and Eurasian Whimbrel is the expected species in the region.
  4. Taxonomic change: Black Bittern‘s scientific name changed to Ixobrychus flavicollis.
  5. Taxonomic change: Green Broadbill‘s family name changed to Calyptomenidae.

The sightings of the Blue Whistling Thrush at Fort Canning Park on 7 December 2019, and the White-cheeked Starling at Picadilly, Seletar on 16 January 2020 has been noted. No decision has been made on their inclusion into the list at present.

Bird List revision for November 2019

The third revision of the Singapore Bird List for 2019 is now available at our website. There are now 408 birds recorded in our list. The downloadable list (in Excel format) is available HERE.

There are four new species added in this revision.

Pied Stilt
2 stilts were first observed on 16 July 2019 at Pulau Tekong. Subsequent observations revealed a total of 4 adult Pied Stilts, together with 4 immatures. Nesting was observed with subsequent hatching of a further 3 chicks. Birds were observed at the location until 23 August 2019 when they subsequently disappeared. The closest location to Singapore for Pied Stilts prior to the discovery is in southern Sumatra.

Cinereous Tit
A single bird was seen at Tuas South on 5 November 2019 in the morning. The nearest population is in Kuala Selangor, Malaysia and Sumatra, Indonesia.

Fairy Pitta
A juvenile was seen and photographed near Dillenia Hut on 8 November 2019. Wintering population has been reported in Borneo.

Daurian Redstart
A male was photographed twice at Singapore Botanical Gardens’ Eco Lake area on 12 November 2019. This represent the third record for the species. Previous record of a female at Satay by the Bay in 2013 and a male at a private residence along Cashew Rd in 2014 were taken into consideration in accepting this record into the list.

The other change in this revision is a major revamp of Malay bird names as per communication with Mr. Tou Jing Yi.

Update 21 November 2019: Minor corrections for Malay bird names

Bird List Revision for May 2019

A minor revision to the checklist to cover changes and corrections to the Malay names of bird species. The changes are as follows (new Malay names in bracket):

Red Junglefowl (Ayam-Hutan Biasa)
Malaysian Plover (Rapang Pantai Melayu)
Oriental Plover (Rapang Padang Asia Timur)
Whimbrel (Kendi Gajah)
Little Curlew (Kendi Kerdil Asia)
Far Eastern Curlew (Kendi Besar Timur)
Eurasian Curlew (Kendi Besar Biasa)
Bar-tailed Godwit (Kedidi-Raja Ekor Belang)
Black-tailed Godwit (Kedidi-Raja Ekor Hitam)
Temminck’s Stint (Kedidi-Kerdil Ekor Panjang)
Sanderling (Kedidi Tiga Jari)
Little Stint (Kedidi-Kerdil Perang)
Eurasian Woodcock (Berkik-Besar Erasia)
Common Snipe (Berkik Kipas Erasia)
Swinhoe’s Snipe (Berkik Siberia Selatan)
Spotted Redshank (Kedidi Kaki Merah Hitam)
Common Redshank (Kedidi Kaki Merah Biasa)
Grey-rumped Treeswift (Layang-layang Berjambul Pinggul Pudar)
Whiskered Treeswift (Layang-layang Berjambul Kecil)
Beach Stone-curlew (Kedidi-Malam Besar Pantai)
Parasitic Jaeger (Camar-Lanun Paruh Lampai)
Malayan Night Heron (Pucung-Harimau Ubun Hitam)
Jerdon’s Baza (Helang-Gerigi Perang)
Black Baza (Helang-Gerigi Hitam)
Short-toed Snake-Eagle (Helang-Ular Utara)
Grey-faced Buzzard (Helang-Rintik Utara)
Eastern Marsh Harrier (Helang-Sawah Biasa)
Brahminy Kite (Helang-Tembikar Merah)
Booted Eagle (Helang Junam Kecil)
Imperial Eagle (Helang Tengkuk Kuning Biasa)
Amur Falcon (Rajawali Kaki Merah Timur)
Eurasian Hobby (Rajawali Tongkeng Merah Utara)
Oriental Hobby (Rajawali Api Asia)
Pheasant-tailed Jacana (Burung-Teratai Ekor Panjang)
Lesser Adjutant (Burung-Botak Kecil)

We will like to thank Mr Tou Jing Yi for the updated list.

The link below is for the Excel version of the Singapore Bird List
Singapore Bird List 2019 Revision 2

Bird List Revision for March 2019

The latest revision of the Singapore Bird List is now derived from IOC World Bird List Version 9.1.

Changes are as follow:

  1. Addition: Black-headed Bunting – A single bird seen at Kranji Marsh/Neo Tiew Harvest Lane on 18th November 2018 (Martin Kennewell and friends). There are doubts about the condition of tail feathers, but the occurrence of other Black-headed Buntings during the same period including at least four on Mantanani Island off Sabah, Malaysia, one in Itbayat Island, Philippines and a couple in Thailand – makes for a compelling case that it’s a genuine vagrant. A search in the various bird shops did not yield any bunting species for sale.
  2. Replacement: Swinhoe’s White-eye takes the place of Oriental White-eye due to new revision on white-eyes taxonomy. (Lim, B.T.M., Sadanandan, K.R., Dingle, C. et al. J Ornithol (2019) 160: 1. Molecular evidence suggests radical revision of species limits in the great speciator white-eye genus Zosterops)
  3. Taxonomic change: Spoon-billed Sandpiper‘s scientific name changed to Calidris pygmaea
  4. Language revision: Chinese names of the following birds have been revised: Common Moorhen, Square-tailed Drongo-Cuckoo, Eastern Barn Owl, Plume-toed Swiftlet, Blue-winged Pitta, Buff-vented Bulbul and Black-crested Bulbul

The downloadable list (in Excel format) is available HERE.

Bird List Revision for November 2018

The fourth revision of the Singapore Bird List for 2018 is now available at our website. The downloadable list (in Excel format) is available HERE.

There are two new species added in this revision.

Large Woodshrike
A female Large Woodshrike was seen at Jelutong Tower on the morning of 22 October 2018. This species was reported as a former resident of Singapore until at least the 1940s in the Bukit Timah area. There were additional unconfirmed records in 1970 from Changi, unfortunately without supporting evidence. It is highly likely the species have been extirpated in Singapore for a long time, and the newly recorded bird is a non-breeding visitor to the island. Perhaps it is a post-breeding dispersant or a wandering bird.

Large Woodshrike at Jelutong Tower. Photo credit: Francis Yap

Eurasian Skylark
A lone juvenile Eurasian Skylark was seen along the bund of Pandan Reservoir on 3 November 2018. Just a day before, a similar juvenile was recorded at Mantatani Island in Sabah, Malaysia.

Its inclusion to the Singapore list is not a given though. Various species of larks are sold and bought in Singapore. Although there is currently no evidence of juvenile Eurasian Skylarks being offered for sale, the possibility cannot be ruled out. However, the concurrent sighting in Mantatani does strengthen the case of the bird being a genuine vagrant. Furthermore, the seen bird’s feathers seemed to exhibit no abnormal wear which would indicate captivity. On balance, the evidence suggest that particular skylark is a good candidate for inclusion to the list.

Eurasian Skylark at Pandan Reservoir. Photo credit: Francis Yap

Other changes in the Singapore Bird List in accordance with IOC World Bird List version 8.2 are as follows:

  1. Lesser Cuckooshrike has been reassigned to genus Lalage following Jønsson et al, 2010.
  2. Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler has been reassigned to genus Helopsaltes following Alström et al, 2018.
  3. Moved Black-winged Flycatcher-shrike and Large Woodshrike to Family Vangidae.
  4. Resequenced Campephagidae (Cuckooshrikes) and Phylloscopidae (Leaf Warblers and allies) families.

First breeding record of the Barred Eagle-Owl in Singapore Island

The Barred Eagle-Owl (Bubo sumatranus) is a relatively small eagle-owl that is found from southern Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and southwards to Indonesia. Its natural habitat is subtropical or tropical moist lowland rainforests. It has also been reported in secondary growth, abandoned orchards, oil palm plantations and wooded gardens, showing its adaptability towards human encroachments. According to Wells, the Malaysian owls are in fact relatively unafraid of people.

In Singapore, it is considered a rare resident species with breeding records only at Pulau Ubin (Ubin Island).

In the main island of Singapore it was once considered an uncommon bird, but believed to have been extirpated since the mid 1920s. It was only in October 1996 that one owl was seen and heard at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. Subsequently, sporadic sightings were also recorded at MacRitchie Reservoir and Nee Soon Swampforest. Recent sightings were at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve in 2015 and 2016.

On 24th May, 2018, Peter Ding reported a pre-dawn sighting of an adult owl on a tree along the path to Singapore Quarry, next to Fuyong Estate. This was relatively near from what was believed to be its usual haunt at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. Subsequent follow up search did not manage to locate this owl. However on 7th August, 2018, Peter Ding again sighted and recorded a video of what appeared to be a juvenile Barred Eagle-Owl calling for its parents at the same area. So the search was on again to locate the juvenile and its parents. The other interesting detail to follow up was to confirm the sexual dimorphism in this species as previously documented in Johor by Con Foley et al. Finally with that established, to hopefully determine the sex of the juvenile owl. In order to accomplish all these, clear photos were needed.

At the time of discovery, the juvenile owl was estimated to be 8-10 months old, if the breeding cycle for this family was the same as the Johor birds. It was likely that the juvenile will soon disperse and the adults will start another breeding cycle towards the end of the year. Time was running out to locate it.

Thankfully based on information from Peter, the activity and location of the juvenile were somewhat predictable, and the owl was seen and photographed on 8th, 9th, 15th, 16th and 17th August 2018.

Underparts of the juvenile Barred Eagle-Owl.
Upperparts of the juvenile Barred Eagle-Owl.

In the above photos from 16th August, the juvenile owl is clearly seen to have almost finished moulting into adult-like feathers and features. Only part of the head and ear tufts remain whitish compared to the adults. Also notice that it’s clutching a bunch of leaves and acting like its a prey. The previous day, it was seen attempting to hunt next to a house.

The juvenile on the left (based on facial and ear-tufts colour) and the adult male Barred Eagle-Owls. At this stage, the juvenile is almost full-sized.

In the above photo from the morning of 17th August, the juvenile can be seen with blood-smeared talons, so feeding was just completed, although it’s uncertain whether the food was self-caught or given by the adult. The juvenile was calling before it was found so it’s likely it was looking for its parents. At night, the juvenile was seen flying off with a snake, and again the adult was nearby.

While all these were happening, the adult male had been spotted occasionally in the late evenings coming out of its daytime roost and flying off to the nearby trees to preen and prepare itself before starting its hunt at night. This presented another photo opportunity.

The adult male Barred Eagle-Owl at a perch in the evening. This is a relaxed pose.
The adult male Barred Eagle-Owl on high alert, due to the calls of a family of Racket-tailed Drongos. Notice the elongated body and raised ear tufts.

A video of the adult make in fading light, showing its activity before nightfall. By the end of the video, it was hard to see the bird but it’s in fact becoming more active.

Let’s move on to the identification of the adult male and female owls. It is known that Barred Eagle-Owls pair up and mate for life. So it should be possible to get both of them together in one photo to compare their size and appearance. One can speculate that if they are busy with caring for the juvenile, the chances of them being together side by side should be slimmer. It’s a busy time after all, having to feed a growing owl and teaching it how to fend for itself. On the other hand, if somehow the juvenile has just dispersed, the mating season should start again soon and the adults may spend more couple time together with displays of affection to reaffirm their bond.

Display of affection of the adults Barred Eagle-Owls.
It is the female that initiate the display.
Remnants of feathers from a very recent kill on the talons of the owl. Photobombed by a planthopper.

The two photos below should help to answer the question of the sexual dimorphism of this species.

Front profile of the adult Barred Eagle-Owls. The female on the left and the male is on the right.
Another photo of the pair of adult Barred Eagle-Owls. The male has blood-stained upper mandible.

The differences in appearance between the adult male and female are in broad alignment with what was described in Con’s article. They are summarised below:

Female Male
Larger in size Smaller in size
Distinctly darker face disc Absence of or less distinct face disc
Rufous-brown upper breast patch Less contrasty brown upper breast patch
Spotty and short dark barring on lower belly and breast Thicker more continuous barring on lower belly and breast

This leaves us the question of the sex of the juvenile. A side by side composite photo of the three owls is shown below.

Composite photo of the juvenile, adult female and adult male of Barred Eagle-Owls.

It is clear that the juvenile more closely resemble the adult male in appearance.

As to its whereabouts, it has not been seen for more than 2 weeks as this article is being prepared. Wells mentioned that a juvenile that fledged in April was still with parents in August, but had left by the next breeding attempt in November. The related Eurasian Eagle-Owl (Bubo bubo) juveniles leave their parents between mid-August and mid-November. Settlement places were on average, 46 km away from their birth place. If the same dispersal pattern and distance can be observed in the Barred Eagle-Owls, this would explain the initial arrival of this species from Johor and their subsequent breeding in Singapore. Barred Eagle-Owls are long-lived birds. Wells reported one or a pair at the same location in Kuala Lumpur for a minimum of 14 years. Lets hope the adults stay on and repopulate Singapore with more of their progeny.

Image Gallery


  1. Wells, D.R., 2007, The Birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsula: Vol. 1 – Non-passerines, ISBN 10: 0713674644 ISBN 13: 9780713674644
  2. Wang Luan Keng, Christopher J. Hails, April 2007, An Annotated Checklist of the Birds of Singapore
  3. Con Foley, Lau Weng Thor, Lau Jia Sheng, Tan Kok Hui, BirdingASIA, Number 19, June 2013, Breeding Barred Eagle Owl Bubo sumatranus sumatranus in Johor, Malaysia
  4. Aebischer, A., Nyffeler, P. & Arlettaz, R. J Ornithol (2010) 151: 1. Wide-range dispersal in juvenile Eagle Owls (Bubo bubo) across the European Alps calls for transnational conservation programmes