Asian Emerald Cuckoo: Confirmed record for Singapore

posted in: Brood parasitism, Reports, Species | 3

The Asian Emerald Cuckoo (Chrysococcyx maculates) has at long last been accepted by the Records Committee of the Nature Society (Singapore)’s Bird Group. This was formally accepted during its April 2008 meeting and reported in the Singapore Avifauna Vol. 22(8).

A female (top left) together with an immature bird (top right) were photographed by birder-photographer KC Tsang as far back as 31st May 2006 at Upper Seletar Reservoir and submitted to the committee.

The committee must surely be greatly relieved to be able to come to a decision after more than two years. This was with photographic evidence. What more, if the sighting was documented by sketches and field notes.

It has always been rumoured that in the past, unless a senior member of the Records Committee actually saw the bird, the sighting submission would not see the light of day. Of course, this is just a rumour. However, to be fair, how can you take the word of the not-so-experienced birdwatchers? Especially in the absence of photographic evidence!

As far back as 1998, the bird was listed as a resident in R Subaraj’s privately circulated Field Checklist of the Birds of Singapore. But the 1999 checklist complied by the Bird Group did not include it. Strangely, the bird was included in the Lim (1997) with the status of “not yet recorded from Singapore but a probable winter visitor.”

Subsequently, Subaraj made a sighting that he believed to be an immature Asian Emerald Cuckoo, but this was also rejected due to lack of evidence, although it was thought to be a Violet Cuckoo.

YC Wee
November 2008

Lim, K. S., 1997. Birds – An illustrated field guide to the birds of Singapore. Sun Tree, Singapore. 226 pp.
2. Wang, L.K. & C. J. Hails, 2007. An annotated checklist of birds of Singapore. Raffles Bulletin of Zoology, Supplement 15: 1-179.


3 Responses

  1. My apologies! Yeow Chin did try to get my comments on this but I have only just returned from South Africa.

    I did list the Asian Emerald Cuckoo on my private bird checklist in the mid-1990s, not as a Resident but as a Scarce Migrant. This was based on a record of a cuckoo with many of the features of the Asian Emerald, that was photographed by Ho Hua Chew and seen by many birders in a garden at Kings Park. The confusing point here, and why there may have been some confusion about it being a resident, was that this sub-adult was being fed by Brown-throated Sunbirds.
    The photos were subsequently confirmed to be actually of an immature/sub-adult Violet Cuckoo, with a first breeding record for that species and the first local confirmation of a host species. I removed Asian Emerald Cuckoo from my list soon after.

    The later record from Mount Faber was seen by Wang Luan Keng and I around 1999. We both initially thought that the cuckoo was an Asian Emerald but subsequent research proved that, once again, the cuckoo was a Violet.

    As such, there has been no positive proof of Asian Emerald Cuckoo in Singapore….until these 2006 photos by KC. When they were first circulated, there was much debate on whether it was an Emerald or Violet. Most leaned toward Asian Emerald and an overseas “cuckoo expert” was consulted. He initially stated that it was an Asian Emerald Cuckoo but subsequently changed his mind and stated that it was a Violet Cuckoo.

    Now, two years later, the Bird Group’s Records Committee confirms its acceptance of the record as Singapore’s first Asian Emerald Cuckoo and everyone willingly accepts their statement as “God’s word”! How was this decision reached? Who was consulted? Or, was the record accepted through the “wealth of experience and expertise” of the Record Committee.

    Does anyone remember a certain Long-billed Plover record that was initially accepted publicly. Then, after Hongkong experts disputed the photo, the RC changed its collective minds!

    I shall remain skeptical for now!

  2. […] of evidence”, as in the past. The Asian Emerald Cuckoo (Chrysococcyx maculatus) was recently accepted as a new record for Singapore – with photographic evidence, even though it took 23 months to do […]


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