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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: https://ebird.org/checklist/S73817810

Rufous Barn Swallows in Singapore?

TLDR;

  1. There are several records of Barn Swallows with rufous underparts in Singapore
  2. Relationships between the different Barn Swallow subspecies are still being explored – we are uncertain of which subspecies the rufous birds seen in Singapore belong to
  3. In the meantime, please share your sightings if you come across any of these rarer migrants!

Migratory birds are slowly streaming into Singapore as the Northern Hemisphere winter sets in. One of the commonest species that share the local aerospace with the resident swiftlets and Pacific Swallows Hirundo tahitica is the Barn Swallow H. rustica. The Barn Swallows are easily identifiable from their distinct clean white underparts but did you know that rufous Barn Swallows have been seen in Singapore before?

There have so far been at least three documented records of Barn Swallows with rufous underparts in Singapore, one at Punggol Barat on 3 April 2016, one at Neo Tiew on 21 December 2019 and another at Neo Tiew on 20 January 2020 (though possibly the same individual spotted a month earlier).

The usual Barn Swallows that visit Singapore during the wintering months are of the subspecies gutturalis (Chasen, 1923; Gibson-Hill, 1950) with clean white underparts along with a distinct black breast band (Figure 1). It is currently still unclear which subspecies these rufous Barn Swallows belong to, but what the local community can do in the meantime is to make sure that these records are properly documented while researchers continue to study their relationships!

Figure 1. Barn Swallow, subspecies gutturalis (taken by Keita Sin).

This article will become slightly technical from here onwards, but for those who have an interest in the biology of birds, read on!

Barn Swallow subspecies taxonomy is tricky; different authors have differing opinions on which subspecies are valid and the boundaries of their breeding ranges (Figure 2, Table 1). With regards to the subspecies that occur in Southeast Asia (and consequently Singapore), the International Ornithological Committee (IOC) recognises four subspecies, namely gutturalis, tytleri, mandschurica and saturata, while Birds of the World (BOTW) recognises gutturalis, tytleri and mandschurica too, but treats saturata as part of gutturalis instead. On the other hand, Dor et al. (2010) who has worked on Barn Swallow phylogeny lists two relevant subspecies, gutturalis and tytleri.

Figure 2. Range map of the different Barn Swallow subspecies.
Note. Reprinted from The Barn Swallow (p 21), by A. Turner, 2006, A&C Black Publishers Ltd. Copyright 2006 by Angela Turner.
Table 1. A summary of the differing treatments of the Barn Swallow subspecies according to authors.

Of the supposed four subspecies that might occur in Singapore, only one is described to have creamy white underparts (gutturalis), with the other three (tytleri, mandschurica and saturata) have some degree of rufous on the underparts (Table 2).

Table 2. Morphometrics and plumage description of relevant Barn Swallow subspecies.
Note. Adapted from The Barn Swallow (p 20), by A. Turner, 2006, A&C Black Publishers Ltd. Copyright 2006 by Angela Turner.

However, on top of the difficulty in distinguishing underpart colours (what is the difference between ochre, rufous and chestnut?), plumage can also vary with individuals and wear (Dickinson and Dekker, 2001). More significantly, there is likely to be interbreeding between different subspecies in intergrade zones within their breeding range (Dickinson and Dekker, 2001; Nazarenko, 2016; Turner, 2006). For instance, there are some interesting swallows that are within range of tytleri and/or where tytleri overlaps with other populations (such as gutturalis) that are not entirely white or rufous, and some examples are listed here: a) western Mongolia, mostly white underparts with rufous tinge; b) central Mongolia, underparts with faint rufous tinge; c) central Mongolia, pale rufous underparts d) northern Mongolia, white underparts with rufous vent. Compare these with birds found further north (that are presumably tytleri based on range) such as this and this that are clearly much more rufous in colour.

As the ornithological community continues to explore the answers to the relationships of the various Asian populations of Barn Swallows in their breeding ranges, the verdict on the “rufous” individuals in Singapore is still open to interpretation. However this doesn’t change the fact that they are quite rare locally, so please do share your sightings if you manage to spot or photograph any!

Disclaimer: The authors of this short article (Dillen and Keita) have not been involved in any of the Barn Swallow studies. We dove into this topic confused and emerged out of it even more confused – please let us know if there are any errors!

References:

Chasen, F. N. (1923). An introduction to the birds of Singapore island. Singapore Naturalist, 2, 87-111.

Dickinson, E. C., & Dekker, R. W. R. J. (2001). Systematic notes on Asian birds. 13. Preliminary review of the Hirundinidae. Zoologische Verhandelingen, 25, 127-144.

Dor, R., Safran, R. J., Sheldon, F. H., Winkler, D. W., & Lovette, I. J. (2010). Phylogeny of the genus Hirundo and the Barn Swallow subspecies complex. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 56, 409-418.

Gibson-Hill, C.A. (1950). A checklist of the birds of Singapore island. Bulletin of the Raffles Museum, 21, 132-183.

Nazarenko A.A., Pavlenko M.V., Kryukov A.P. (2016). Introgressija genov populjacii Hirundo rustica tytleri v populjaciju H. r. gutturalis na jugo-zapade Ussuriĭskogo kraja (na primere Vladivostoka): otgoloski bylyh i tekushhih istoriko-biogeograficheskih sobytiĭ [Introgression of the genes of the Hirundo rustica tytleri population in the H. r. gutturalis population in the south-west of the Ussuri region (upon the example of Vladivostok): echoes of past and current historical-biogeographical events]. Russkiĭ ornitologicheskiĭ zhurnal25, 523-536.

Turner, A. (2006). The barn swallow. T&AD Poyser.

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.

What bird is this, and why?

TLDR;

When posting a photo on social media to ask for ID help

    1. Crop and brighten/darken the photos sufficiently so that the bird can be properly seen
    2. Edit the colours accurately to reflect what you saw in the field
    3. Post multiple angles so that different features of the bird can be seen
    4. Provide information about where and when the photo was taken
    5. Make a guess!

When helping someone with ID

    1. Instead of just saying a species name, elaborate on why you identified it as such – provide key distinguishing features or comparisons with (or to rule out) similar looking birds.

There are more than 10,000 species of birds worldwide, and of which more than 400 can potentially be found within the political boundaries of Singapore. Some species look more or less the same throughout the year, while others can look very different depending on their sex, age and whether or not they are in their breeding plumage. With so many possible combinations of shapes and colours, it can be a seemingly daunting process, especially for new birders, to learn how to identify the feathered animals in the field. The rapid increase in photography and social media usage among the local birding community has made this learning process much easier, and this post aims to improve everyone’s birding journey by providing some tips on how to ask for and help with species identification. These tips are applicable both on social media and in the field, as well as beyond Singapore.

Asking for help with identification

Editing photographs for identification purposes

Everyone has their own style and preferences when pursuing the art of photography. However, when it comes to using photos to identify birds, you should edit your photos to show as much of the key features of the bird as possible, as accurately as possible. Leave your artistic license behind for after the bird is identified!

    1. Crop the photos to show the key features

Social media platforms like Facebook and Whatsapp tend to reduce the quality of the uploaded images, which makes zooming into a photo a difficult and sometimes futile process when attempting to identify a small bird in a big picture. Crop your images sufficiently so that the key features of the birds can be seen.

White-throated Needletail_31-10-17_Singapore_SMALL
Dot-in-the-sky Bird?

    1. Brighten the photos sufficiently

Pictures taken in backlit conditions often suffer from underexposure such that the features of the birds cannot be seen properly. In such cases, try to increase the exposure and shadows to (attempt to) salvage the images. If available, edit from RAW files for better results.

White-throated Needletail_31-10-17_Singapore_DARK
Looks like a Needletail, but still can’t tell what it is…

White-throated Needletail_31-10-17_Singapore
Ah, this is a White-throated Needletail! (Henderson Waves, 31 October 2017)

    1. Keep the colours accurate

Some species are much easier to identify in the field than in pictures because of the subtle colour differences in their plumages. Try your best to edit your photos so that they reflect the information your eyes captured in real life. Having a properly calibrated monitor helps with this.

Brown-Streaked Flycatcher 2_15-08-17_Singapore_GREY
What happened to the picture? What colour is this?

Brown-Streaked Flycatcher 2_15-08-17_Singapore_CORRECTED
The colours seem much warmer than the Asian Brown Flycatcher. Looks like a potential Brown-streaked! But I’d like to look at the upperparts to be 100% sure…

    1. Provide several angles if possible

The key identification features of some birds might not always be visible in a single photo, so having multiple photos from different angles would be helpful. Sometimes, seemingly trivial features such as the rump and primary projection (the length of the birds’ wings when folded) can be important characteristics as well.

Brown-Streaked Flycatcher_15-08-17_Singapore
Same bird as before. Brownish fringes to the wings and coverts rules out the Asian Brown Flycatcher – this is a Brown-streaked!

Where and when did you see it?

The local birding community has seen a lot of drama and politics unfold regarding who told who, who did not tell who, why did you not tell me immediately, and so on. THIS SECTION IS NOT REFERRING TO THAT!!

When identifying a bird, it makes most sense to start from the most probable candidate and slowly eliminate the possible options before considering the rarest case (and not the other way round). The location and month that a bird was photographed can make a big difference in this mental process, and in some cases, providing such information can reveal some important ornithological records.

Let’s say I post this photograph on a birding group focusing on Singapore’s birds to ask for the identification, with no information at all except “ID pls”

Grey-cheeked Green Pigeon_02-08-19_Indonesia_Bali
ID pls

Most people would probably identify it as a Thick-billed Green Pigeon, which is wrong! The photograph was actually taken in August 2019 in Bali, Indonesia, where there are no wild Thick-billed Green Pigeons. This bird is in fact a Grey-cheeked Green Pigeon (distinguished from Thick-billed by, among other features, the bluish bill base instead of red). There have been cases of people asking for identification with no information – not even country – which can make it very difficult to narrow down the possible species.

Now let’s consider this Pitta instead.

Blue-winged Pitta_19-07-20_Singapore
Blue-winged or Mangrove Pitta?

This photograph was taken In Pulau Ubin in the month of July, which is outside of the migration season, so the most likely candidate is the Mangrove Pitta. But wait, something is odd…the bill seems small and more importantly the chin is black instead of white. This is actually a Blue-winged Pitta! The fact that this bird was seen in July suggests that they might be breeding on Pulau Ubin again and that helps improve our understanding on the breeding ecology of these birds.

Make a guess!

“ID pls” is a super convenient phrase that takes less than a second to type, but you can do much better than that! There are many field guides and online platforms (*cough* singaporebirds.com) where you can try to identify the birds first. It’s perfectly alright to be wrong, but you will be able to learn more if you post your picture with a guess, and if possible, with reasons why you think so.

Helping with identification

Don’t just give a name, provide reasons when giving IDs!

When I just started birding, I was unable to tell the difference between Asian Glossy Starlings and Greater Racket-tailed Drongos. Both birds have red eyes and glossy bluish-green plumage. To make things even more confusing, some Greater Racket-tailed Drongos lack the long tail streamers. I stared at many pictures online but was still unable to tell the birds apart.

I did not have social media back then, but suppose I posted this image on Facebook.

Asian Glossy Starling_29-01-14_Singapore
One of my first few photographs as a birder. Greater Racket-tailed Drongo or Asian Glossy Starling?

Even if everyone who bothered to help out a newbie replied “obviously an Asian Glossy Starling lol”, I would still have felt uneasy accepting the identification because a much bigger aspect of my question – why? – would still have been left unanswered.

When giving ID help, try to provide reasons for why you think the bird is species A instead of species B. Again, it’s perfectly alright to be wrong! Our brains are so accustomed to identifying the birds instantaneously that it sometimes becomes difficult to pin-point the exact reasons why we think the way we do. Finding out a little bit more about the field marks of the birds, both when perched and in flight, can help improve description skills and make you a better birder.

Acknowledgements

I was heavily inspired by this article by Tony Leukering in writing this short piece and am also extremely grateful to Elize Ng, Dillen Ng and Goh Cheng Teng for helping to improve the work.

Happy birding!

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.