Is the crimson sunbird Singapore's national bird? Er... not official yet

The crimson sunbird has been unofficially touted as Singapore's national bird since 2002, when it topped a poll on the topic organised by the Nature Society.
The crimson sunbird has been unofficially touted as Singapore's national bird since 2002, when it topped a poll on the topic organised by the Nature Society.ST FILE PHOTO

Nature Society backtracks a bit after blog post announcing crimson sunbird's official status

The crimson sunbird may be going through an identity crisis of sorts.

On Sunday, the Nature Society's bird group wrote in a blog post that this bird is now the "official national bird of Singapore".

The red-breasted bird has been unofficially touted as Singapore's national bird since 2002, when it topped a poll on the topic organised by the Nature Society.

But just when its status had seemingly been made official - along with that of the Common Rose butterfly - comes another twist.

Mr Anuj Jain, chairman of the society's Butterfly & Insect Group, indicated to The Straits Times yesterday that the "official" status wasn't quite, well, official just yet.

ST understands that the Nature Society has contacted three government departments to get the bird and the butterfly some sort of official standing, but it is still not clear on who will rule on the matter.

In contrast, the Vanda Miss Joaquim orchid has been Singapore's official national flower since 1981, approved by the then Ministry of Culture.

Nature lovers got excited when, in a blog post titled Crimson Sunbird Is Now The Official National Bird Of Singapore, the Nature Society said the selection had been made official and publicly announced by Dr Shawn Lum, president of the Nature Society, at a dinner held in conjunction with the 6th Asian Bird Fair last Saturday.

The same post said the Common Rose was also declared the national butterfly of Singapore.

Yesterday, the Nature Society backtracked a little. Mr Jain said that Dr Lum had shared at a fellowship dinner that the Nature Society had "written in" to make the status of both the Common Rose and the crimson sunbird official.

They thought the fair, which was attended by more than 20 nature clubs, would be a good opportunity to make the announcement.

However, it was not an official declaration, Dr Lum clarified yesterday.

"The information, we hope, will generate public interest in our natural heritage and, in that sense, it is meant for public discourse. The announcement is not, however, a decree and in fact reflects the wishes of people who came forward with these selections," he told The Straits Times.

Mr Alan OwYong, vice-chairman of the Nature Society's Bird Group, said that they wanted to announce it at the fair to "claim it first" before others from the region laid claim to the bird.

Besides Singapore, the crimson sunbird is found in most of South-east Asia. It also lives in India and southern China, Mr OwYong said.

Voters in 2002 felt that the crimson sunbird is a suitable symbol of Singapore because it is small and active, and because of the male bird's brilliant red plumage.

Mr Ow Yong said that the sunbird can be seen at the Singapore Botanic Gardens, and near forests.

Yesterday evening, the word "official" was dropped from the title of the blog post by the Nature Society's Bird Group.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 03, 2015, with the headline 'Is it the national bird? Er... not official yet'. Print Edition | Subscribe