Birds along the lower slopes of Mount Faber, Singapore

posted in: Miscellaneous | 1

“I was a resident on the lower slopes of Mount Faber facing the former World Trade Centre (Harbour Front) for the almost 20 years between 1979 and 1998, almost 20 years, in Marang Road near the Seah Im Food Centre and carpark. Now that I commute in and out of Singapore from my new base in Perth, Western Australia, I often stay with my friend in almost exactly the same location, at Seah Im Road. On my most recent visit, for the first three weeks of December 2008, I was struck by the fact that although bird life happily is still abundant on this well wooded hill park, its composition has changed quite dramatically from what I used to observe in the early 1980s, including the enhanced presence of several aliens! I’m open to correction on my observations below, as I am no ornithologist, but here they are, for what they are worth. It would be great to hear whether my observations tally with field surveys over recent years or not:

“For example, the two most dominant voices on the Mt Faber slopes now are those of the very visible White-crested Laughingthrush (Garrulax leucolophus) and of course, the now ubiquitous Koel (Eudynamys scolopacea), whereas back in the ‘80s they would have been the Black-naped Oriole (Oriolus chinensis – still heard, but much less frequently), and, interchangeably according to season, the White-throated and White-collared Kingfishers (Halcyon smyrnensis and H. Chloris – again, still heard, but less frequently).

“I don’t remember hearing or seeing the Yellow-vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus goiavier) on this trip at all, which is fairly incredible, as compared with its high audio-visibility in the ‘80s. But maybe I wasn’t paying proper attention!

“On this trip, December, I did not hear the ‘chonk chonk’ of the ‘Burong Kubor’, the Large-tailed Nightjar (Caprimulgus macrurus) at all, and the piping note of the tiny Collared Scops Owl (Otus bakkamoena) only once, whereas these birds provided constant nocturnal soundscapes in the ‘80s. Neither did I hear the bass ‘whoop-whoop-whoop’ of the Greater Coucal (Centropus sinensis), another very common occurrence in the ‘80s.

“What I did see and hear, apart from the Laughingthrushes and Koels already mentioned, was white Cockatoos (seen and heard); the Hill Mynah (Gracula religiosa – heard); a Parakeet of some kind, probably the Long-tailed Parakeet (Psittacula Longicauda) (heard); and either a Long-tailed Parakeet or a Racket-tailed Drongo (Dicrurus sp) (seen, but light was very bad).

“If indigenous forest birds like the parakeet and the Hill Mynah are moving into areas like Mt Faber, it would be interesting to understand why, although I do realise the southern coast is very much a smuggling and escapee route as well.

“I also did not hear the chuckles of the White-breasted Water-hen (Amaurornis phoenicurus) this time which was pretty strange too. I wonder if the area is drying up too much, if climate change is part of the problem?”

Ilsa Sharp
Perth, Western Australia

Former Council member, Malayan Nature Society (both Malaysia and Singapore branches)”

R Subaraj, our bird specilist, has this to say:

“Ilsa’s… is spot on… the White-crested Laughingthrushes were absent at the Fabers until the 1990s. There were Hwamei (Garrulax canorus) and Greater Necklaced Laughingthrushes (Garrulax monileger) in small numbers but the White-cresteds have since spread very agressively and taken over. The Asian Koel was a mere migrant in the 1980s, initially only to offshore islands such as Sentosa, St Johns and Tekong, then subsequently in the 1990s, numbers increased on the mainland and they became resident, mainly due to healthy numbers of their main host….the House Crow (Corvus splendens). Today, they are one of the dominant sounds at dawn, throughout Singapore.

“She is also probably correct that waterhens decline as habitats become drier. The nightjar and owl have probably also declined a bit at Faber, though both should still be present. December is the non-breeding period so some residents are less vocal, if vocal at all. As for the Greater Coucal, the large cuckoo has definitely declined significantly in Singapore.

“Cockatoos were likely Tanimbars, as there is a healthy population at Sentosa and they are also found around Keppel. The Hill Myna is possibly an escapee as such escapees have been noted on both Sentosa and St Johns. Not sure which parakeet is there and it may not be the native Long-tailed Parakeet at all.”

Image of Mt Faber Park by YC.


One Response

  1. […] हà) ROBIN …Bird Ecology Study Group Birds along the lower slopes of …… and Koels already mentioned, was white Cockatoos (seen and heard); the Hill Mynah (Gracula […]


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