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Interspecific interaction of birds at Pasir Ris

on 20th February 2006

The place: near the Pasir Ris MRT Station, Singapore. The time: around 8 am. The date: 22nd December 2005. I noticed this whole assemblage of different species of birds on the grass, some foraging, others just looking around. There were crows, mynas, egrets and rock pigeons. More were continually joining in, especially pigeons and crows. The egrets didn’t really seem to mind and almost seemed oblivious to the 30-40-strong gathering before them.

Could the spot be a designated meeting ground for birds? After all, birds sometimes do communicate and discuss eating places, like Singaporeans. Or could the spot, judging from the seemingly limited interspecies interactions, be just a good spot for forage or rest? If the latter, it is amazing that there is no or little competition or observable territorial behaviour among different bird species!

Text and image by Lim Junying.

Comment by our bird specialist, R. Subaraj: I am glad that you were observant enough to notice this. Most people, including many birdwatchers, would have simply ignored the gathering as it mainly involved common urban species.

Based on the photo and what you have written, I would think that the area is a good feeding site. The Cattle Egrets (Bubulcus ibis) normally hunt insects in fields and the mynas and crows are opportunists who would also catch and eat insects. The patch of grass may be rich in invertebrate life due to some unknown reasons (dampness, freshly cut grass, etc.). As for the pigeons, they may focus on seeds but could be eating invertebrates as well, being highly adaptable.

As for competition, if there is plenty about there should be no problem. However, it may be interesting to study if they are working as a team, in a birdwave of sorts. A birdwave is a gathering of insectivorous bird species that move together to stir up more insects. This is a common occurrence in forests, from the lowlands to the mountains. The more birds involved, the more insects are stirred up and the better chance of finding a buffet, such as a tree of caterpillars.

Does this behaviour occur on the ground and in more open country or urban settings? Should be fun finding out.

Keep at it and nature never fails to amaze!

If you like this post please tap on the Like button at the left bottom of page. Any views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the authors/contributors, and are not endorsed by the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM, NUS) or its affiliated institutions. Readers are encouraged to use their discretion before making any decisions or judgements based on the information presented.

YC Wee

Dr Wee played a significant role as a green advocate in Singapore through his extensive involvement in various organizations and committees: as Secretary and Chairman for the Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch), and with the Nature Society (Singapore) as founding President (1978-1995). He has also served in the Nature Reserve Board (1987-1989), Nature Reserves Committee (1990-1996), National Council on the Environment/Singapore Environment Council (1992-1996), Work-Group on Nature Conservation (1992) and Inter-Varsity Council on the Environment (1995-1997). He is Patron of the Singapore Gardening Society and was appointed Honorary Museum Associate of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM) in 2012. In 2005, Dr Wee started the Bird Ecology Study Group. With more than 6,000 entries, the website has become a valuable resource consulted by students, birdwatchers and researchers locally and internationally. The views and opinions expressed in this article are his own, and do not represent those of LKCNHM, the National University of Singapore or its affiliated institutions.

Other posts by YC Wee

5 Responses

  1. Interesting.

    I’ve become very used to seeing cattle egrets, but if purple herons and great egrets also frequent open patches, I may need to keep my eyes open the next time I pass by there.

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