Bird List Revision for June 2018

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

There is one new species added in this revision, the Great Slaty Woodpecker. Previously considered to be extirpated from Singapore, with 2 unconfirmed sightings at Changi in the 1970s. A female woodpecker was photographed at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve on 1 May 2018. The woodpecker was seen again feeding near the summit from 4-6 May 2018. A female (probably the same bird) was photographed at Central Catchment forest (along the pipeline trail) from 11-12 May 2018.

A white-rumped storm-petrel was also observed and photographed at a distance on a pelagic survey on 12 May along Singapore Strait. It is likely to be a Wilson’s Storm Petrel, but because of the distance involved, a conclusive ID cannot be obtained without totally ruling out other white-rumped storm-petrels. Hence the decision to withhold the inclusion of this species into our checklist until further sightings are reported.

Bird List Revision for January 2018

The latest revision of the Singapore Bird List is now derived from IOC World Bird List Version 8.1.

Changes are as follow:

  1. Addition: Little Stint– Two birds at Chek Jawa, Pulau Ubin on 21 September 2017 by NParks (David Li, Jacky Soh and Fadhli Ahmad)
  2. Addition: Verditer Flycatcher – A single bird photographed by George Presanis at Dairy Farm Nature Park on 9 October 2017 is the first confirmed record of the species.
  3. Addition: Booted Warbler– Single bird at Kranji Marsh reported on 10 December 2017 by Martin Kennewell and Richard Carden. An earlier sighting on 4 December 2017 of an unidentified warbler by Muhd Fadhil of NParks was subsequently confirmed to be the same bird.
  4. Taxonomic change: The local subspecies of the “purple swamphen” complex (subspecies viridis) is now treated as a subspecies of Grey-headed Swamphen instead of Black-backed Swamphen.
  5. Taxonomic change: Crow-billed Drongo‘s scientific name is now changed to Dicrurus annectens.

The latest list can be found HERE.

Bird List Revision for August 2017

We are pleased to publish the latest revision of the Singapore Bird List to include taxonomic changes based on the latest IOC World Bird List version 7.3.

The changes are:

  1. Replacing Glossy Swiftlet with Plume-toed Swiftlet due to split of the Glossy Swiftlet species complex (Rheindt et al. 2017)
  2. Change of genus name for Garganey and Northern Shoveler from Anas to Spatula (Gonzalez et al. 2009)
  3. Change of genus name for Gadwall and Eurasian Wigeon from Anas to Mareca (Gonzalez et al. 2009)
  4. Family Scolopacidae (sandpipers and snipes) resequenced to follow Gibson and Baker (2012)

The latest list in Excel format can be found HERE.

Bird List Revision for June 2017

We have revised our Singapore Bird List with the following changes:

The changes are:

  1. Addition: Ruby-cheeked Sunbird – 2005 record from Martin Kennewell
  2. Addition: Green Broadbill – 2014 records from Pulau Ubin (Keita Sin) and East Coast Park (See Toh Yew Wai)
  3. Deletion: Western Marsh Harrier
  4. Taxonomic change – Himalayan Cuckoo from Oriental Cuckoo

The downloadable bird list in Microsoft Excel format has also been revised for clarity, printability and accuracy.

A brief sampling of regional bird checklists indicate error rates ranging from 0.9% to as high as 5.5% (sampling English Names and Scientific Names only). A high proportion are typo errors, followed by outdated taxonomy for Scientific Names. To avoid such issues, we have minimised manual typing and linked our list directly to the latest IOC list for every records.

The latest list can be found HERE.

Minor checklist revision for April 2017

There have been some minor English Name as well as Scientific Name changes to be in sync with the IOC World Bird List version 7.2 published in April 22 2017.

The English Name changes are are:

  • Blyth’s Paradise Flycatcher from Oriental Paradise Flycatcher.
  • Rufous-bellied Eagle from Rufous-bellied Hawk-Eagle.

 

The Scientific Name changes are:

  • Ruff from Philomachus pugnax to Calidris pugnax
  • Broad-billed Sandpiper from Limicola falcinellus to Calidris falcinellus
  • Spoon-billed Sandpiper from Eurynorhynchus pygmea to Calidris pygmea
  • Buff-vented Bulbul from Iole olivacea to Iole crypta

The Singapore Bird Checklist is downloadable in Excel format here:
Singapore Bird Checklist-2017-Rev-03

First checklist revision for year 2017

We have made some additions as well as deletions to our checklist based on recent sightings or the lack of them.

The new additions are:

  • Jacobin Cuckoo which was sighted in December 2013 and on subsequent season in 2014, both at Lorong Halus Wetland.
  • Black Hornbill with a subadult male sighting in July 2015 at Pulau Ubin, followed by ongoing sightings of a female also at Pulau Ubin.
  • Bulwer’s Petrel sighting at Singapore Strait on a pelagic trip organized by photographers on 12 November 2016.

The following bird species were deleted from the list:

  • Black-winged Starling
  • Crested Myna
  • White-capped Munia
  • Java Sparrow

All four were introduced species that went feral but subsequently extirpated. Our reasoning is that there is no possibility of re-introduction from neighbouring region since they are introduced species. Any new sighting will have to be new introduction/escapees.

The following species have name changes due to taxonomic revisions:

  • Eastern Barn Owl, Tyto javanica, formerly Western Barn Owl as the subspecies javanica in the Malay Peninsula is now clumped with their Australasian brethren.
  • Pomarine Jaeger renamed from Pomarine Skua for consistency as their genetic relationship to Catharacta skuas requires confirmation.

Lastly, thanks to the effort of Tou Jing Yi, the complete Malay name for all the bird species in the checklist is now included. The Chinese name for the birds have also been updated to reflect changes since the last revision.

The Singapore Bird Checklist is downloadable in Excel format here:
Singapore Bird Checklist-2017-Rev-01

Local extinctions of Singapore birds

There is an interesting paper recently published in the prestigious journal Conservation Biology by members of two National University of Singapore (NUS) labs titled “A robust non-parametric method for quantifying undetected extinctions” that came to our attention.

In it, they presented a novel method of estimating undetected extinction, i.e. the type of extinction events that may have taken place without humans taking note of them. They applied this new method to all 195 breeding bird species ever recorded in Singapore over the last 200 years. Of this number, 58 (~30%) are known to have gone extinct. They project probably another ~10 species have gone extinct without ever being discovered, thereby providing a more realistic extinction rate at ~33%.

The extinction of one-third of our resident bird species over the years represent a significant loss of our biodiversity. The authors also project based on the data from Singapore, an additional 14-16% loss of bird species in the region by the year 2100 with current deforestation rate. Some of our favorite birds are already extinct in Singapore. More will join their ranks without further conservation efforts, and it won’t be long before they are gone for good in the region as well.

One of the interesting side product of this new study is a new, extensively vetted list of all breeding birds ever recorded in Singapore based on thorough literature reviews going back to the 1800s. Reproduced with permission at the bottom of this post is a table containing the bird list of current and extinct species. This data represent a best effort by the authors at the time of publication. This website will use it as a starting point to update its own list in the future.

Photos of some of the birds that have gone extinct in Singapore:

Reference:
Chisholm R.A., Giam X., Sadanandan K.R., Fung T. & Rheindt F.E. (2016). A robust non-parametric method for quantifying undetected extinctions. Conservation Biology.

 

Table A1. Resident native birds of Singapore recorded since 1819. This list excludes species that were introduced by humans or for which evidence for breeding activity is too sparse. Some species for which breeding evidence is doubtful are included in the table but were excluded from the analysis described in the paper.

Common Name Name First record Last record
Blue-breasted Quail Coturnix chinensis chinensis 1819 2014
Red Junglefowl Gallus gallus spadiceus 1985 2014
Lesser Whistling-duck Dendrocygna javanica 1977 2014
Barred Buttonquail Turnix suscitator atrogularis 1819 2014
Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker Dendrocopos moluccensis moluccensis 1819 2014
Rufous Woodpecker Celeus brachyurus squamigularis 1819 2014
White-bellied Woodpecker Dryocopus javensis javensis 1819 2001
Banded Woodpecker Picus miniaceus malaccensis 1819 2014
Crimson-winged Woodpecker Picus puniceus continentis 1819 1949
Checker-throated Woodpecker Picus mentalis humii 1819 1949
Laced Woodpecker Picus vittatus vittatus 1819 2014
Olive-backed Woodpecker Dinopium rafflesii rafflesii 1819 1949
Common Flameback Dinopium javanese javanese 1819 2014
Greater Flameback Chrysocolaptes lucidus chersoneus 1819 1908
Orange-backed Woodpecker Reinwardtipicus validus xanthopygius 1819 1920
Buff-rumped Woodpecker Meiglyptes tristis grammithora 1819 1949
Buff-necked Woodpecker Meiglyptes tukki tukki 1819 1949
Great Slaty Woodpecker Mulleripicus pulverulentus 1819 1949
Grey-and-Buff Woodpecker Hemicircus concretus sordidus 1819 1949
Lineated Barbet Megalaima lineata hodgsoni 1996 2014
Red-crowned Barbet Megalaima rafflesii malayensis 1819 2014
Blue-eared Barbet Magalaima australis duvaucelii 1819 1949
Coppersmith Barbet Magalaima haemacephala indica 1957 2014
Brown Barbet Calorhamphus fuliginosus 1819 1949
Oriental Pied Hornbill Anthracoceros albirostris convexus 1819 2014
Red-naped Trogon Harpactes kasumba kasumba 1819 1921
Diard’s Trogon Harpactes diardii sumatranus 1819 1921
Dollarbird Eurystomus orientalis orientalis 1819 2014
Blue-eared Kingfisher Alcedo meninting verreauxi 1819 2014
Stork-billed Kingfisher Halcyon capensis malaccensis 1819 2014
White-throated Kingfisher Halcyon smyrnensis fusca 1819 2014
Collared Kingfisher Todiramphus chloris humii 1819 2014
Rufous-backed Kingfisher Ceyx erithacus rufidorsa 1819 1949
Ruddy Kingfisher Halcyon coromanda minor 1819 1986
Banded Kingfisher Lacedo pulchella 1819 1949
Rufous-collared Kingfisher Actenoides concretus concretus 1819 1938
Blue-throated Bee-eater Merops viridis viridis 1819 2014
Banded Bay Cuckoo Cacomantis sonneratii malayanus 1819 2014
Plaintive Cuckoo Cacomantis merulinus threnodes 1819 2014
Rusty-breasted Cuckoo Cacomantis sepulcralis sepulcralis 1819 2014
Little Bronze Cuckoo Chrysococcyx minutillus malayanus 1819 2014
Violet Cuckoo Chrysococcyx xanthorhynchus xanthorhynchus 1819 2014
Drongo Cuckoo Surniculus lugubris barussarum 1819 2014
Asian Koel Eudynamys scolopacea malayana 1819 2014
Rhinortha Rhinortha chlorophaea 1819 1895
Black-bellied Malkoha Phaenicophaeus diardi diardi 1819 1949
Chestnut-bellied Malkoha Phaenicophaeus sumatranus sumatranus 1819 2014
Greater Coucal Centropus sinensis bubutus 1819 2014
Lesser Coucal Centropus bengalensis javanensis 1819 2014
Blue-rumped Parrot Psittinus cyanurus cyanurus 1819 2014
Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot Loriculus galgulus galgulus 1819 2014
Long-tailed Parakeet Psittacula longicauda longicauda 1819 2014
Glossy Swiftlet Collocalia esculenta cyanoptila 1819 2014
Black-nest Swiftlet Collocalia maxima maxima 1819 2014
Edible-nest Swiftlet Collocalia fuciphaga amechana 1819 2014
Asian Palm Swift Cypsiurus balasiensis infumatus 1819 2014
House Swift Apus affinis subfurcatus 1819 2014
Silver-rumped Needletail Rhaphidura leucopygialis 1819 1949
Grey-rumped Treeswift Hemiprocne longipennis harterti 1881 2014
Whiskered Treeswift Hemiprocne comata 1819 1969
Barn Owl Tyto alba javanica 1970 2014
Collared Scops Owl Otus lempiji lempiji 1819 2014
Barred Eagle Owl Bubo sumatranus sumatranus 1819 1925
Buffy Fish Owl Ketupa ketupa ketupa 1819 2014
Spotted Wood Owl Strix seloputo seloputo 1985 2014
Brown Hawk Owl Ninox scutulata scutulata 1819 2014
Malaysian Eared Nightjar Eurostopodus temminckii 1819 1989
Large-tailed Nightjar Caprimulgus macrurus bimaculatus 1819 2014
Savanna Nighjar Caprimulgus affinis affinis 1988 2014
Spotted Dove Streptopelia chinensis tigrina 1819 2014
Emerald Dove Chalcophaps indica indica 1819 2014
Peaceful Dove Geopelia striata striata 1819 2014
Cinnamon-headed Green Pigeon Treron fulvicollis fulvicollis 1819 1927
Little Green Pigeon Treron olax olax 1819 2014
Pink-necked Green Pigeon Treron vernans griseicapilla 1819 2014
Thick-billed Green Pigeon Treron curvirostra curvirostra 1819 2014
Pied Imperial Pigeon Ducula bicolor bicolor 2004 2014
Green Imperial Pigeon Ducula aenea polia 1819 1970
Red-legged Crake Rallina fasciata 1819 2014
Slaty-breasted Rail Gallirallus striatus gularis 1819 2014
White-breasted Waterhen Amaurornis phoenicurus javanicus, chinensis, phoenicurus 1819 2014
Ruddy-breasted Crake Porzana fusca fusca 1819 2014
White-browed Crake Porzana cinerea 1819 2014
Purple Swamphen Porphyrio porphyrio viridis 1986 2014
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus orientalis 1973 2014
Greater Painted-Snipe Rostratula benghalensis benghalensis 1819 2014
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus himantopus 1992 1994
Malaysian Plover Charadrius peronii 1988 2014
Red-wattled Lapwing Vanellus indicus atronuchalis 1993 2014
Black-naped Tern Sterna sumatrana sumatrana 1819 2014
Little Tern Sterna albifrons sinensis 1987 2014
Black-winged Kite Elanus caeruleus vociferus 1986 2014
Brahminy Kite Haliastur indus intermedius 1819 2014
White-bellied Fish Eagle Haliaeetus leucogaster 1819 2014
Grey-headed Fish Eagle Ichthyophaga ichthyaetus 1950 2014
Crested Serpent Eagle Spilornis cheela bassus 1819 2014
Crested Goshawk Accipiter trivirgatus indicus 1987 2014
Changeable Hawk Eagle Spizaetus cirrhatus limnaeetus 1819 2014
Black-thighed Falconet Microhierax fringillarius 1819 1986
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis poggei 1994 2014
Pacific Reef Egret Egretta sacra sacra 1819 2014
Great-billed Heron Ardea sumatrana sumatrana 1819 2014
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea jouyi 1983 2014
Purple Heron Ardea purpurea manilensis 1940 2014
Striated Heron Butorides striatus javanicus 1819 2014
Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax nycticorax 1983 2014
Yellow Bittern Ixobrychus sinensis 1986 2014
Cinnamon Bittern Ixobrychus cinnamomeus 1819 2014
Lesser Adjutant Leptoptilos javanicus 1882 1882
Mangrove Pitta Pitta megarhyncha 1819 2014
Garnet Pitta Pitta granatina coccinea 1819 1949
Dusky Broadbill Corydon sumatranus sumatranus 1819 1871
Black-and-red Broadbill Cymbirhynchus macrorhynchos malaccensis 1819 1949
Banded Broadbill Eurylaimus javanicus pallidus 1819 1927
Black-and-yellow Broadbill Eurylaimus ochromalus ochromalus 1819 1871
Green Broadbill Calyptomena viridis viridis 1819 1941
Golden-bellied Gerygone Gerygone sulphurea sulphurea 1819 2014
Asian Fairy Bluebird Irena puella malayensis 1819 2014
Greater Green Leafbird Chloropsis sonnerati zosterops 1819 2014
Lesser Green Leafbird Chloropsis cyanopogon cyanopogon 1819 2014
Blue-winged Leafbird Chloropsis cochinchinensis icterocephala 1819 2014
Long-tailed Shrike Lanius schach bentet 1969 2014
Mangrove Whistler Pachycephala grisola vandepolli 1819 2014
Large-billed Crow Corvus macrorhynchos macrorhynchos 1819 2014
Dark-throated Oriole Oriolus xanthonotus xanthonotus 1819 1941
Black-naped Oriole Oriolus chinensis maculatus 1936 2014
Bar-bellied Cuckooshrike Coracina striata sumatrensis 1819 1969
Lesser Cuckooshrike Coracina fimbriata culminata 1819 1969
Pied Triller Lalage nigra nigra 1819 2014
Fiery Minivet Pericrocotus igneus igneus 1819 1969
Scarlet Minivet Pericrocotus flammeus xanthogaster 1819 2014
Pied Fantail Rhipidura javanica longicauda 1819 2014
Bronzed Drongo Dicrurus aeneus malayensis 1819 1949
Greater Racket-tailed Drongo Dicrurus paradiseus platurus 1819 2014
Black-naped Monarch Hypothymis azurea prophata 1819 2014
Asian Paradise-flycatcher Terpsiphone paradisi affinis 1819 1990
Common Iora Aegithina tiphia singapurensis 1819 2014
Green Iora Aegithina viridissima viridissima 1819 1949
Rufous-winged Philentoma Philentoma pyrhoptera 1819 1949
Maroon-breasted Philentoma Philentoma velatum caesia 1819 1879
Large Woodshrike Tephrodornis gularis fretensis 1819 1949
Mangrove Blue Flycatcher Cyornis rufigastra rufigastra 1819 2000
Oriental Magpie Robin Copsychus saularis musicus 1819 2014
White-rumped Shama Copsychus malabaricus mallopercna 1819 2014
Asian Glossy Starling Aplonis panayensis strigatus 1819 2014
Common Myna Acridotheres tristis tristis 1935 2014
Hill Myna Gracula religiosa javana 1819 2014
Pacific Swallow Hirundo tahitica abbotti 1819 2014
Straw-headed Bulbul Pycnonotus zeylanicus 1819 2014
Black-headed Bulbul Pycnonotus atriceps atriceps 1819 2014
Grey-bellied Bulbul Pycnonotus cyaniventris cyaniventris 1819 1949
Yellow-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus goiavier personatus 1819 2014
Olive-winged Bulbul Pycnonotus plumosus plumosus 1819 2014
Cream-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus simplex simplex 1819 2014
Yellow-bellied Bulbul Alophoxius phaeocephalus phaeocephalus 1819 1924
Buff-vented Bulbul Iole olivacea olivacea 1819 1949
Spectacled Bulbul Pycnonotus erythropthalmos erythropthalmos 1819 1949
Red-eyed Bulbul Pycnonotus brunneus brunneus 1819 2014
Zitting Cisticola Cisticola juncidis malaya 1819 2014
Yellow-bellied Prinia Prinia flaviventris rafflesi 1819 2014
Oriental White-eye Zosterops palpebrosus 1819 2014
Common Tailorbird Orthotomus sutorius maculicollis 1819 2014
Dark-necked Tailorbird Orthotomus atrogularis atrogularis 1819 2014
Rufous-tailed Tailorbird Orthotomus sericeus hesperius 1819 2014
Ashy Tailorbird Orthotomus ruficeps ruficeps 1819 2014
White-chested Babbler Trichastoma rostratum rostratum 1819 2014
Abbott’s Babbler Malacocincla abbotti olivacea 1819 2014
Short-tailed Babbler Malacocincla malaccensis malaccensis 1819 2014
Black-capped Babbler Pellorneum capistratum nigrocapitatum 1819 1899
Moustached Babbler Malacopteron magnirostre magnirostre 1819 1986
Chestnut-winged Babbler Stachyris erythroptera erythroptera 1819 2014
Striped Tit Babbler Macronous gularis gularis 1819 2014
Yellow-breasted Flowerpecker Prionochilus maculatus maculatus 1819 1969
Yellow-vented Flowerpecker Dicaeum chrysorrheum chrysorrheum 1819 2014
Orange-bellied Flowerpecker Dicaeum trigonostigma trigonsostigmum 1819 2014
Plain Flowerpecker Dicaeum concolor borneanum 1819 1931
Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker Dicaeum cruentatum ignitum 1819 2014
Plain Sunbird Anthreptes simplex simplex 1819 1874
Brown-throated Sunbird Anthreptes malacensis malacensis 1819 2014
Purple-naped Sunbird Hypogramma hypogrammicum macularia 1819 1969
Purple-throated Sunbird Nectarinia sperata brasiliana 1819 2014
Copper-throated Sunbird Nectarinia calcostetha calcostetha 1819 2014
Olive-backed Sunbird Nectarinia jugularis microleuca 1819 2014
Crimson Sunbird Aethopyga siparaja siparaja 1819 2014
Little Spiderhunter Arachnothera longirostra longirostra 1819 2014
Thick-billed Spiderhunter Arachnothera crassirostris 1819 1920
Yellow-eared Spiderhunter Arachnothera chrysogenys chrysogenys 1819 2014
Grey-breasted Spiderhunter Arachnothera affinis modesta 1819 1949
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus malaccensis 1819 2014
Paddyfield Pipit Anthus rufulus sinensis 1819 2014
Baya Weaver Ploceus philippinus infortunatus 1819 2014
White-rumped Munia Lonchura striata subsquamicollis 1883 2014
Scaly-breasted Munia Lonchura punctulata fretensis 1819 2014
Black-headed Munia Lonchura malacca sinensis 1819 2014
White-headed Munia Lonchura maja maja 1819 2014

Updates for January 2016

Although on the surface it seems that we have slowed down somewhat the completion of the write-up for the various species, the truth is that there have been a lot of work going on behind the scenes.

For example, we have now included where possible, the link to the IUCN Red List assessment page for each species. There are of course a few species without any such link. The simplest reason is that IUCN list is derived from the BirdLife International checklist, whereas our Singapore list is derived from IOC. There are differences in what constitute a species and their range between these two lists. The most apparent example is the Javan Myna in our Singapore checklist which is our most common introduced bird species. There is no Javan Myna in the BirdLife/IUCN species checklist because it’s lumped with the White-vented Myna that is very abundant in Indochina. So it is listed as Least Concern. Yet, the Javan Myna is a rare bird in Java (personal communications), its home ground. So linking it to the White-vented Myna IUCN page is not the correct solution, as that misses out the story of its decline in numbers.

On the bird photos front, we have as of today covered about 100 species, or approximately 25% of the bird species in our list. It’s slow work as uploading and checking each photo takes time, but we are getting there. Our back of the paper calculation shows that collectively there are 346 species in which photos exist of the species taken in Singapore. So a further 50 species were sight records only. That means we have to supplement these with photos taken elsewhere. This is especially true of the migratory waterfowls that no longer have suitable habitat to winter in our region. So our head writer See Toh is now in Tokyo looking hard for ducks to photograph!

In the meantime, the IOC checklist version 6.1 just came out. Our cursory checks shows no further taxonomic updates that affect Singapore birds. If there are any changes, we’ll hopefully be the first to cover it.

Beach Stone-curlew at Bali. Photo Credit: Francis Yap
A Beach Stone-curlew from Bali. There exist a pre-digital distant photo of this species by Alan OwYong, and that is the only photo record of this very rare resident species in Singapore. So it’s necessary to supplement it with bird photos from overseas.

How the website began – Part 1 (the checklist)

When I started taking birding seriously in 2010, information about birds whereabouts and what sort of wild birds there were in Singapore was hard to get. At first I relied on Wikipedia which list out all the birds that have been seen, and where they are likely to be found. Forums like Naturepixels and NPSS where bird pictures were shared were also sources of information about the latest birds found. Soon after, Facebook groups started sprouting up and I joined a few. That took the interest to another level with latest sighting discussed in closed group free from prying eyes. Whatsapp chat groups soon replaced SMS and one can instantly know what’s the latest news about any new birds.

Social media and technology have totally changed the way one approach birding in Singapore. While fieldcraft and technique matters to the serious birders, one can do birding quite well with just knowledge of which Facebook group or Whatsapp group chat to join.For the lists of birds found in Singapore, the choices was rather limited for the longest time. There is Wikipedia and there is Nature Society’s bird checklist. The latter being more authoritative yet the nomenclature used was strange. Both were available in format incompatible with how I kept track of my own burgeoning bird count. I had mine in a relational database with easy sorting of birds and all the benefit that comes with it. Wikipedia format made it difficult to transfer all the birds into the database easily, and the NSS one was in PDF which was also needlessly difficult. Nonetheless one day I managed to write a script to convert the NSS checklist into my database format.

With that came the ability to easily find out which birds I do not have, their relative abundance, and the start of my picture database. More importantly, I started to do a Singapore Big Year in 2012, and it was important to keep a separate Big Year list to help me track my progress in that competition. With the help of the database, the newly incorporated NSS checklist, and a list of possible location for each species, data analysis became much easier and more powerful than the pen and pencil approach that others were taking.

All was good, except Javan Myna was a White-vented Myna, and an Intermediate Egret was a Yellow-billed Egret in the NSS checklist and a whole other list of strange names, and keeping track of these difference took up my time. So one day I decided the best way forward was to stick to IOC nomenclature as they publish an updatable world bird list, and painstakingly go through every entry in NSS checklist and convert them into IOC names.

With that completed, I joined Singapore Big Year 2014. Armed with a revised Singapore checklist, I was constantly updating the database with my bird count that year and my guesstimate of my rival’s species count. A running species comparison between my 2012 effort and the 2014 also let me pace myself better since my work load had increased since 2012. I was also able to track everyone’s progress easily once I keyed in their data. That’s what a database is meant for; to query out useful information. So much so that by mid-November that year, I already knew I was 5 birds ahead of my nearest rival and that was enough to win the competition.

My Singapore checklist proved very useful to me, and so I published it in Excel format since 2013 for others to use. Since then, the checklist had been continually updated with new features and capabilities. It seemed to me the basic usage for a checklist have changed over time. For example, I have never physically printed out the checklist because I don’t do data entry by pen and pencil. Therefore a checklist in PDF format did not make sense to me. At least in Excel format, one can cut and paste the bird name to search for more information elsewhere. I thought wouldn’t it be good if we can do automatic links to those those websites for each species? With that realization, I started providing those links. The rationale for putting in names in other languages was very simple, there were requests for them and it made sense.

With all these information already incorporated into the database, it seems logical that when we started the Singapore Bird Project, the database and the checklist it produced would form the foundation for the new website. I’ll talk more about the database in a later article.