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A new plover for Singapore and Malaysia?

on 15th February 2008

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On 8th February 2008, Simon Cockayne and Martin Kennewell spent a morning birding at Changi Cove (above). The highlight of their trip was seeing six to eight birds of the newly described “White-faced” Plover.

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Simon sent in images of the Malaysian (left top) and White-faced (left bottom) Plovers that he digiscoped, the birds being some distance away.

As Martin writes: “We went in on the new road to the air show. The guard was very reasonable and allowed us entry, we did explain that we wanted to access the coast beyond the air show to go bird watching. We signed the visitor’s book and were given a visitors pass. We drove about two kilometres to where the road u-turns… that allows you to access the coast. It is then a further one kilometre on foot to the site.”

Their morning tally: Lesser Sand Plover (c250), Pacific Golden Plover (c150), Grey Plover (c50), Malaysian Plover (10), Kentish Plover (<5), Red-necked Stint (1), Common Sandpiper (4+), Common Tern (8), Terek Sandpiper (1), Oriental Pratincole (4 flying north), "White-faced" Plover (4 males, 2 non-males, plus maybe 2/3 more). Note: The White-faced Plover is a “mystery” plover first observed by Peter Kennerley (in Singapore, 1993-4) and David Bakewell (in Malaysia, 2006-7) and described in an article published in Surfbirds.com.

These birds occur during the northern winter months of October to March together with flocks of Kentish Plovers (Charadrius alexandrinus), and like the latter, appear to undertake a pre-breeding moult between January and March, suggesting a northern origin. After considering the possibilities of them being hybrids (Kentish x Malaysian), having aberrant plumage or being a poorly known race of a common species, or even an undescribed taxon, the authors concluded that it is most probably a new taxon. However, they suggest that detailed comparison of biometrics and DNA of these birds with those of known taxa be undertaken for comparison.

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.

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