Sentosa’s Buffy Fish Owl

on 16th February 2007


On 2nd February 2007, Angie Ng wrote: “Did I wake up the owl with my trampling on the leaf litter? Aren’t owls supposed to be asleep in the day? What owl is this? It gave me a fright! I thought I saw a gremlin starring at me, for trespassing into a forest which will soon be destroyed to make way for an Integrated Resort! (above left)”

The bird in question, a Buffy Fish Owl (Ketupa ketupu) (above left), was perching on a branch of one of two Dracaena maingayi trees (above right) in the coastal forest of Sentosa. Angie spotted splashes of dried white droppings on the saplings and twigs under the tree. On looking up she spotted the owl.

This owl is most probably the same as that spotted on the morning of 23rd June 2006 by Yury Averkiev, a member of Club SNAP photographic forum. It was then seen along a footpath from the underwater world to the orchid gardens.

According to our bird specialist R. Subaraj then, “A most interesting location as the habitat there isn’t really typical fish owl habitat. This is indeed a scarce and localised owl in Singapore with records only from Pulau Ubin, the Central Catchment Nature Reserve and the western side of the island including Sungei Buloh. There are also a couple of records from near the Singapore Botanic Gardens but these could be strays from the nearby nature reserves.

“Sentosa is fairly far from the nearest known location. There are two possibilities for this occurrence. It can be an escapee (maybe even deliberate, considering it’s Sentosa) or a stray or dispersant from somewhere in Singapore or the Riau Archipelago (where the species was reconfirmed at Bintan about 12 years ago).

“There is no way to be certain, but a good record nonetheless. This is a first record for Sentosa.”

See also Joesph Lai’s account.

Input by Angie Ng, YC and R. Subaraj, images by Angie.

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

4 Responses

  1. Hi
    The ‘fish owl’ does not necessarily eat
    fish. I have been told by Malaysian villagers that
    this owl will also steal unprotected poultry but
    the villagers avoid it because they
    think it sucks human blood too..

    I have also seen up dead Buffy Fish Owls
    far from rivers along Highway 3 in Malaysia
    because they like to bath in the warmth
    of roads at night and they do get hit by
    vehicles while flying low.


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