Birds and climate change

posted in: Miscellaneous | 2

In late September 2009, we posted a sighting of a pair of Yellow-rumped Flycatchers (Ficedula zanthopygia). This flycatcher breeds in E Russia, Mongolia, N China and Korea and moves south to get away from the cold winter months. Many of this species end up in Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore. Others fly further south to Sumatra and Java.

It is a common winter visitor and passage migrant in Singapore, coming as early as 1st September to as late as 27th April, although they are mostly seen from September to November.

The post attracted the attention of two ornithologists.

Wang Luan Keng commented that the sighting of a female accompanied by a male was interesting as “I have not seen nor hear of any reports of these flycatchers travelling in pairs. Whether they are a coupled pair or just happened to be at the same place at the same time is another thing that needs to be investigated.”

Slim Sreedharan, who regularly conducts mist netting courses for staff of National Parks Board at the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve wrote: “Curious that none of these birds were caught in mist nets during the early days of ringing at Sungei Buloh and Pulau Ubin. Yet, during a series of ringing sessions at these sites last month, several of these birds were trapped, including juveniles. It would appear that they have become more common in Singapore during the winter months, which was not so previously.”

Obviously the migratory habits of this flycatcher have changed during the last few years. Can this be due to climate change? Possibly. The species should thus be closely monitored from now on, as well as other migratory species.

After all, birds are very sensitive to changes in the climate, and being highly mobile, they are extremely reactive. However, we do not know which species can cope and which can’t. Those species that cannot cope may expand their range to higher latitude or altitude, return earlier to their breeding grounds, stay there longer and prolong their breeding periods, etc. We need to observe all these aspects.

And this is where birdwatchers can play an important role.

2 Responses

  1. Slim Sreedharan

    While climate change is a possibility, habitat change cannot be excluded. In the early days of Sungei Buloh and Pulau Ubin, there was little by way of tall trees or shrubs, much of it being grassland.

    Now, most of the shrubs are taller, and the vegetative cover far better, a more attractive habitat for flycatchers and smaller passerines.

  2. bird ringing

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