Changing face of birding in Singapore

posted in: Reports | 2


The above paper has just been published. A PDF copy is available HERE.

Birding can be said to have originated in mid-1960s when British birders mist-netted and ringed birds as part of the Migratory Animal Pathological Survey that was then based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The survey was scientific in nature, and the activity yielded important information on bird migration, breeding and moulting data.

When the survey ended, Ng Soon Chye continued ringing activities at the old Serangoon Sludge Treatment Works from 1975-76. There was loose group of birdwatchers then, mostly members of the Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch). But it was only about a decade later when Clive Briffett and Chris Hails formed a Bird Group that birdwatching really took off. Clive and Chris tried to encourage birdwatchers to not just look at birds, but observe them as well. They were trying to inject a little science in the local birdwatching scene.

In the 1990s, locals took over the running of the group. Being insular and without the support of expatriate birders who had overseas exposure, the group ended up just looking at birds. Most of our birdwatchers are now great at identifying birds in the field. However, as Slim Sreedharan, once said, regional birders tend to “learn more and more about less and less”.


The arrival of digital bird photographers around 2000s totally changed the equation. Aggressive and persistent, they were suddenly thrust at the forefront of birdwatching to the extent that traditional birders, although initially suspicious of them, are now aggressively courting them for their sighting information and excellent images.

KC Tsang (left) still brings his binoculars when in the field, but most of the time uses his digital camera to record bird behaviour. He is a regularly contributor to this weblog.

The Bird Ecology Study Group has been working closely with photographers for the last few years. We showcase their observations and later publish (1, 2) their findings in scientific journals to make the information easily available to one and all.

So birding in Singapore has come full circle. It started as a scientific activity, became a purely recreational activity and now, science has once again returned to birdwatching.

YC Wee
September 2008


2 Responses

  1. […] once dominated the local birding scene. Not anymore. They have lagged behind on bird behaviour observations, being too involved in twitching, listing […]

  2. […] it is, the dynamics of birdwatching in Singapore has changed irreversibly since the early 2000s. And if you are a birdwatcher, […]


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