Nordmann’s Greenshank at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve

posted in: Waders | 5

The Nordmann’s Greenshank (Tringa guttifer) rarely over-winters in Singapore. When two birds were spotted on 15th November 2008 (and again the next day) at the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, photographers and birdwatchers were naturally excited. Mendis Tan and David Li, both from SBWR, were informed and the former successfully photographed the bird and made it available on e-forums.

David wrote: “The Nordmann’s Greenshank has been observed by Lau Jia Sheng, Lau Weng Thor, Tan Kok Hui and Tan Gim Cheong at 13:25 at the Observation Hide 1C today. Thank them for informing me about their observation. The bird was still around at 15:30. A number of people have taken picture on this bird. Besides 8 Great knots was also around.

“The appearance of this bird is believed to be related to tide situation. As today is the peak tide of the year (3.3m at 1200), the surrounding mudflat in Johor and Singapore would have been all covered by water, so that create a better chance for the bird to roost at Sungai Buloh.”

Tan Kok Hui commented: “We observed the single bird from about 1 pm onwards. Interestingly the bird did not associate itself with the Common Greenshanks (Tringa nebularia) and instead was feeding more or less alone, although there were a few Marsh Sandpipers (T. stagnatilis) around it. It fed by constantly walking in the water in a seemingly random manner giving us all round view of it. It seemed to feed more on small crabs than other creatures…

“After it has had its fill, it stood amongst a few Pacific Golden Plovers (Pluvialis fluva) and remained there for some time. At one time, it lifted one of its legs and stood one-legged. In the meantime, a flock of Great Knots (Calidris tenuirostris) flew in and we counted 8 of them.

“There was also a Terek Sandpiper (Xenus cinereus) , a few Lesser Sand Plovers (Charadrius mongolus) and the usual suspects in good numbers: Whimbrels (Numenius phaeopus), Pacific Golden Plovers, Curlew Sandpipers (Calidris ferruginea), Marsh Sandpipers, Common Redshanks (Tringa totanus) and Common Greenshanks (T. nebularia).”

Ong Tun Pin wrote from Sydney, Australia: “Birders in Singapore should consider themselves very lucky to have a pair of Nordmann’s Greenshank visiting SBWR. Although recently NG has been observed in Sumatra, Java, Australia as well as several sites in Malaysia, this one comes to Singapore in a place where it can be better observed using the hide. Also there are not many places on
earth where one can observe reasonly intimately the birds feeding behaviour and their unique toe web.

“In Kapar Selangor, where NG has been observed for many years, is strictly a roosting site. The NG never feed there and they like to dip their feet in the water. More importantly there is no luxury of having a hide to observe the bird in the desirable distance…

“If someone is still unsure how to distinguish between NG and Common Greenshank or think that both are normally inseparable even in close distance, then you have to go to SBWC to see it for yourself!”

This greenshank is a very rare winter visitor and passage migrant. The bird is also globally threatened due mainly to habitat loss. The Nordmann’s Greenshank was last seen by DR Wells in 1981.

In the meantime Howard Banwell has taken the initiative to inform BirdLife International of this historic sighting.

Image by Mendis Tan.

Wang, L.K. & C. J. Hails, 2007. An annotated checklist of birds of Singapore. Raffles Bulletin of Zoology, Supplement 15: 1-179.

5 Responses

  1. Subaraj

    Hi Yeow Chin,

    I did manage to visit Sungei Buloh on the 16th and observed the two Nordmann’s Greenshanks and the 8 Great Knots. While the Nords were initially with a flock of Pacific Golden Plovers, as the tide dropped they flew to the edge of the embankment for about 15 minutes, where they could be observed next to Common Greenshanks, Marsh Sandpipers and Common Redshanks. The key features between both species of greenshanks, that were notable in the field, were that Nords had a two-toned bill, much whiter face and short thighs. The last feature made them much shorter than the adjacent Commons.

    There is one error in the article above. The last record (3rd for Singapore) of Nordmann’s Greenshank in Singapore, between November 5th – December 1st, 1981, was not by D.R.Wells. David Wells merely reported the record in his Annual Bird Report (1981) and this is quoted as the source of the record. The actual observers were probably Richard Ollington, David Bradford and Hugh Buck….though I will have to double-check that. These three were the hardcore birders of the time.

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