Birders go wild over parrots' nest: 5 other rare bird sightings in Singapore

A Blue-Crowned Hanging Parrot takes its first flight as its mother looks on from their nest along Owen Road, next to Pek Kio Market and Food Centre.
A Blue-Crowned Hanging Parrot takes its first flight as its mother looks on from their nest along Owen Road, next to Pek Kio Market and Food Centre.PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

SINGAPORE - A new nest of  blue-crowned hanging parrots has set hearts aflutter near Block 51, Kent Road.

Numerous photographers and birdwatchers have been visiting the tree since last week in hopes of capturing a glimpse of the exotic-looking birds, which are normally found high up in the tree canopy.

Unusually, the Kent Road nest was found about 5m from the ground, within sight of standing observers and their cameras.

A check of various local birdwatching interest sites and nature journals shows Singapore has a lot to offer to ornithologists.

Here are five bird species that are rarely sighted in Singapore and where they have been spotted.

1. Cotton Pygmy Goose (Nettapus coromandelianus)

Classified as a nationally threatened species on the Nature Society Singapore's (NSS) 2015 checklist of the birds of Singapore, the Cotton Pygmy Goose can be found across South-east Asia, India, Pakistan, and parts of Australia.

In Singapore, it is listed as a resident species, meaning it can be found throughout the year, though it remains unclear if the Cotton Pygmy Goose breeds here.

Photographed sightings in Singapore have been few and far between.

Retiree and birder Alan OwYong, said he spotted two males and one female at the Senoko Ponds in 1994.

It was only in 2015 that another birder, Mr Raghav Narayanswany, caught a female on camera again.

Since then, there have been two sightings of this bird - once at MacRitchie Reservoir in December 2015, and another time at a lotus pond near dining hotspot Satay by the Bay a month later.

See the cotton pygmy goose at the lotus pond near Satay by the Bay here:

2. Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis)

While this species is also nationally threatened, birders will be heartened to know that it is, at least, breeding here.

According to the Bird Ecology Study (BES) Group, its nest is typically made of floating water weeds attached to underwater vegetation.

The little grebe can be found around freshwater lakes and ponds and dives regularly for the fish it feeds on, but capturing this elusive bird on camera might not be easy, as recorded sightings have been sporadic.

Some places to try your luck include the Singapore Quarry in Dairy Farm Nature Park, where it was spotted in 2009 and 2010, as well as the Lorong Halus Wetlands along the eastern bank of Serangoon Reservoir, where birder Francis Yap caught a family of three little grebes on video in 2011.

See the family of little grebes at the Lorong Halus Wetlands here:

3. Blue-eared Kingfisher (Alcedo meninting)

The blue-eared Kingfisher has eyes which are adapted to allow it to see clearly both underwater and in the air, while its calls come in short shrill bursts.

Though it is identified by the striking blue feathers on its upperside and distinct orange feathers on its underside, spotting this bird will not be easy.

It is, after all, a shy bird rarely found in gardens or parks.

This means birders not only have to match the blue-eared kingfisher's exceptional eyesight, but also venture further, to places near forest streams or mangroves, to spot it.

Since 2009, there have been sightings of the blue-eared kingfisher around the Central Catchment Nature Reserve (2009) and Bukit Batok Nature Park (2010), as well as in Pulau Ubin (2015).

Another hot spot is the Kranji Marshes, where it is classified as a signature species due to its significance to the location.

The blue-eared kingfisher spotted at the Kranji Marshes:

4. Lady Amherst's Pheasant (Chrysolophus amherstiae)


A male Lady Amherst's Pheasant spotted at Singapore's Botanic Gardens. PHOTO: CON FOLEY

Native to mountainous south-west China and Myanmar, this species of pheasant was named after  Lady Amherst, wife of Lord Amherst, Governor-General of Bengal, who sent the first specimen to the United Kingdom in 1828. The bird died in transit.

Later attempts to bring the species over were more successful.

When they were eventually released from the Amherst estate, the birds managed to survive in the nearby woods.

According to The Express, the last sighting of a male specimen in the UK was in 2015 and it was said to be the only Lady Amherst's Pheasant remaining in the wild.

Males of this species can be distinguished by their spectacularly colourful plumage and a head capped in red.

Recently, avid bird watcher and photographer Con Foley managed to photograph a male Lady Amherst's Pheasant at Singapore's Botanic Gardens, and shared his find on Facebook:

In his post, Mr Foley, past president of the Nature Photographic Society (Singapore), said of the unusual find: "If you stay in Singapore long enough, I think you can see all 10,000 species of birds of the world."

Someone seemed to have released the bird into the gardens, he added.

Hear the sounds made by Lady Amherst's Pheasants here:

5. Asian Openbill Stork (Anastomus oscitans)


The Asian Openbill Stork resting in a grove of trees near Seletar Airport. PHOTO: DENNIS ONG

A migratory bird, the Asian Openbill Stork has a large average wingspan of nearly 1.5m.

Adults of the species can be distinguished by the gap between the upper and lower mandibles of their bills.

Mostly native to India and Sri Lanka, the birds were observed in Singapore for the first time in early 2013, according to a paper published in Nature in Singapore, which is the online journal of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum at the National University of Singapore.

Photographer Dennis Ong managed to capture photos of several specimens resting in a grove of trees near Seletar Airport.

The birds flew out of sight after three days in the Seletar area.

Said Mr Ong in a blog post of the sighting: "The news triggered many bird photographers down to photograph them.

"Naturally I would not have missed this chance either."

Hear the sounds made by the Asian Openbil Stork here:

Sources: Animal Diversity, Beauty of Birds, RSPB, Express, Bird Ecology Study Group, Nature Society Singapore, Singapore Bird Group