Red-headed Quelea dismantling Baya Weaver nest

posted in: Exotics, Illegal-Irresponsible | 4

GCSpyder photographed a breeding adult Red-headed Quelea (Quelea erythrops) in the latter part of March 2010 at Jalan Gemala 2, Singapore. This is an African weaver and its presence in Singapore is obviously as an escapee.

In April Howard Banwell photographed a red headed “Baya Weaver” ripping apart an uncompleted Baya Weaver’s (Ploceus philippinus) nest. Yong Ding Li suggested that it might be a Red-headed Quelea, one of those gregarious finches of the African grasslands. On the other hand it could well be a Cardinal Quelea (Quelea cardinalis) subspecies Rhodesia, which looks like the Red-headed Quelea (Zimmermann et al., 1999).

So, within a period of about two weeks, two sightings were made of the African weaver at opposite ends of the island. Is there a possibility that these queleas were released to coincide with a religious festival? Just a thought.

Image by GCSpyder.

Zimmerman, D. A., D. A. Turner & D. J. Pearson, 1999. Birds of Kenya and Northern Tanzania. Russel Friedman Books CC. South Africa. 576 pp.

This post is a cooperative effort between and BESG to bring the study of bird behaviour through photography to a wider audience.

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Dr Wee played a significant role as a green advocate in Singapore through his extensive involvement in various organizations and committees: as Secretary and Chairman for the Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch), and with the Nature Society (Singapore) as founding President (1978-1995). He has also served in the Nature Reserve Board (1987-1989), Nature Reserves Committee (1990-1996), National Council on the Environment/Singapore Environment Council (1992-1996), Work-Group on Nature Conservation (1992) and Inter-Varsity Council on the Environment (1995-1997). He is Patron of the Singapore Gardening Society and was appointed Honorary Museum Associate of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM) in 2012. In 2005, Dr Wee started the Bird Ecology Study Group. With more than 6,000 entries, the website has become a valuable resource consulted by students, birdwatchers and researchers locally and internationally. The views and opinions expressed in this article are his own, and do not represent those of LKCNHM, the National University of Singapore or its affiliated institutions.

4 Responses

  1. Lee Chiu San

    The birds commonly released by misguided worshippers are usually the munia species common in South East Asia. I do not intend to insult any religions, but the people who release birds are considered to be misguided even by the priests of their religion, who well understand that there is no merit to be gained in Heaven by encouraging trappers to subject birds to the stress of capture so that someone else can release them.

    A local, Malaysian or Indonesian munia costs between $3 to $5.

    A weaver imported from Africa costs anything from $40 to $100.

    It is therefore unlikely that these African weavers were purchased for the purpose of release, since people who do so consider a bird to be a bird, regardless of unit cost.

    It is more probable that the African weavers either escaped, or, when they went into their eclipse plumage and lost their brilliant breeding colours, their keeper got too impatient to wait another year for the birds to become beautiful again and simply dumped them.

  2. Alex Ong (eX.A.K.R.)

    I think there was an education campaign by the local Buddhist community urging us fellow Buddhists not to do such a thing, as it is actually inherently cruel and against Buddha’s teachings. I myself have taken a look at the issue and it does appear that this “custom” is nothing more than just opportunistic poachers trying to profit on misguided religious followers. I can only hope further education by the religious authorities here will help solve this problem.

    Chiu San, as for your theory that the bird was dumped by some irresponsible keeper, if it is true then I think it goes to show how profit-minded and greedy these people are. Sadly there seems to be not enough information or education on the public on how we can stop such people. I do think though that it might also have been an escapee, since judging from the many blog posts I have seen here, most birds dumped by such irresponsible people usually have their tail feathers yanked off (just look at that recent posting of that poor white-bellied sea eagle). I myself have actually personally rescued a white-rumped shama from my neighbourhood; I had trouble identifying the bird from reference photos at first because the bird I rescued had its long tail feathers missing. For your information I had that bird handed over to SPCA and I hope it has now recovered and is a free bird again.

    I wonder if there might be a chance that these birds might start to breed; maybe someone should prevent that by trying to capture these birds and sent them back to where they came from or hand it over to Jurong Bird Park?

  3. Lee Chiu San

    Dear Alex,

    The shama without tail feathers could possibly have been one trapped with adhesive. When shamas get stuck in glue traps, their feathers often come off.

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