In May 1943, GC Madoc published “An Introduction to Malayan Birds.” He wrote his manuscript in Singapore’s Changi Prison where he was interned when the country fell into the hands of the Japanese Imperial Army. Only a single copy was produced, typed on paper stolen from the Japanese commandant’s office.
In the preface to the third edition of the book, Madoc wrote: “I hope that some day it will be superseded by a Nature Society publication in which the pooled knowledge of all Malaya’s ornithologists will be presented comprehensively with numerous coloured illustrations.”
With today‘s launching of the The Birds of Singapore website, Madoc’s dream is just beginning to be realised – sixty-seven years on.
The brainchild of ornithologist Slim Sreedharan, this online book will initially start with 100 of the commoner species. A series of checklists have already been posted that include all the species recorded to date, whether resident, introduced, escapees, vagrants or extinct. And Slim is slowly but surely adding on the individual species… one by one. It will take some time before we reach our one hundred species target, but get there we will.
Why is the Bird Ecology Study Group launching the website at this initial stage, you may ask? Well, this is an exciting new development as we broaden our base from our current, hugely successful blog on bird behaviour. And we wish to share our excitement with everyone as the website unfolds stage by stage.
The Birds of Singapore is essentially an online book. This online publication can be updated regularly as new information becomes available. Errors can be corrected and changes in systematics can be updated effortlessly. The online book will keep on growing and in time will literally become a living book. We cannot say the same about the few guidebooks we have on the local birds – guidebooks that are long outdated.
Also, this online book is freely accessible to anyone with a computer and an internet connection. It is also the green thing to do. We do not need to destroy more trees for the paper that go into conventional books. And you need not spend any money to buy guidebooks anymore.
Guidebooks in general can only provide limited descriptions of plumage, individual interpretations of calls and songs, and limited, if at all any information on behaviour. Besides, the illustrations, whether photographs or drawings, are much too small to do justice to the morphological diversity of our birds.
There are also sections on detailed write-ups of individual species that will include, besides aspects given in guidebooks, behaviour, large images, vocalisation and eventually, videos. Currently the Common Kingfisher, Blue-eared Kingfisher, White-throated Kingfisher, Spotted Dove and Pink-necked Green Pigeon have already been completed. These will give readers an idea of what is yet to come. Note that species that have been written up are listed in BLUE while those that have yet to be completed are in GREEN.
We hope to engage bird enthusiasts of all stripes and colours in active participation in the development of this online book. So check out “A Guide to Contributors” to get ideas on how you can get involved and what to contribute. All contributors will be fully acknowledged and the copyright will naturally remain with contributors.
YC Wee & Slim Sreedharan