The Red Avadavat (Amandava amandavat), also known as Red Munia and Strawberry Finch, is a South Asian bird the size of a sparrow. Because of its colourful plumage, it is a popular cage bird. A number of countries, including Malaysia and Singapore, harbour introduced populations.
According to Wang & Hails (2007), the Red was introduced into Singapore as early as the 1880s. Since then it has been sighted on and off but there has been no confirmation of breeding.
On 25st May 2008, KC Tsang sighted five birds, attracted by their “glaring red color… so obvious against the
greenery.” They were feeding
on grass seeds. He managed to get a portrait shot of a male bird in breeding plumage (above).
Robson (2005) lists it as a scarce feral bird. The Annotated Checklist (Wang & Hails, 2007) lists it under an appendix on escapees. However, the Pocket Checklist (Lim, 2007) does not list it, but this is not a problem as it is not a scientific publication.
Margie Hall wrote that “To get into the Checklists I think it would have to be “Introduced” in the sense of ‘recorded as having a (feral) breeding population.’ So I think you have a nice little project of watching your gang of five (possibly a post-Vesak troop) and see what transpires over the next few years. Enjoy, and keep us updated.”
Timothy Pwee added, “…there is an interesting question here: how many feral bird sightings are there per year in Singapore? The number and density of different species sighted would provide an indication of the size and trends in the bird trade.”
Can we assume that these five birds are recent Vesak Day releases? These birds have been around since 1880s, although the population has been fluctuating widely. Can we further assume that the early introductions disappeared through natural deaths and predation? Are there any chances that at least a few may have successfully breed? R Subaraj reported that he did observe breeding at various locations on and off. However, since the population did not sustain through the years the Red Avadavat is still on the escapee list.
We know very well that the majority of our local birdwatchers, at least since the early 1990s, are more interested in listing rather than observing bird behaviour, including breeding behaviour. Can this lack of interest contribute to most birders not knowing that the bird was actually breeding?
Now that photographer, including birder-photographers like KC, are aggressively documenting behaviour, we may well unearth hard evidence like an image of the Red Avadavat breeding locally that birders cannot dismiss easily.
1. Lim, K. S. (2007). Pocket checklist of the birds of the Republic of Singapore. Nature Society (Singapore) Bird Group Records Committee.
2. Robson, C. (2005). Birds of South-east Asia. London: New Holland.
3. Wang, L.K. & Hails, C. J. (2007) An annotated checklist of birds of Singapore. Raffles Bull. Zool. Suppl. 15:1-179.