“On January 11th, 2009, while observing birds on Pulau Semakau, I noticed a harrier in the distance. It was hunting low over the grassland. Soon, I was able to obtain a much closer view and the plumage was distinctive; a male *Western Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus) (left top). This is quite a rare migrant to Singapore. This autumn, there had been at least one other bird at Changi between October – December.
“Suddenly, a Black-winged Kite (Elanus caeruleus) came out of nowhere and started mobbing the harrier (left bottom). The harrier dived for cover, into the tall grass. After a few seconds, the kite flew into a clump of trees.
“The Black-winged Kite is our only resident raptor that specialises on hunting over grasslands. They do so by hovering over a particular area for a few seconds, before flying a short distance to repeat the hovering watch again. If a prey item is spotted, the kite will swoop in for the kill. They prey on small rodents, reptiles and birds.
“During the northern winter period, certain migratory raptors turn up that are also grassland specialists. These include the harriers and kestrels. Hence, during this time of the year, the resident kites face competition, for food, within their territories.
“As none of the Black-winged Kite’s grassland habitats are protected in Singapore, this resident bird-of-prey has to cope, each year, with the loss of temporary homes. As long as reclamation continues, the kite will find new temporary homes at places like Changi, Tuas and even Pulau Semakau. This cannot and should not continue though, as reclamation also means the loss of marine habitats, especially our inter-tidal areas. How do we ensure that the Black-winged Kite and many other grassland bird species, both resident and migrant, continue to survive in Singapore? How do we provide man-made environments, like grasslands, without it being at the expense of habitats of greater biodiversity?”
13th January 2009
*Please see HERE.