This is the time of the year when the migratory Blue-tailed Bee-eater (Merops philippinus) arrives in Singapore. When Samson Tan was at Singapore’s Botanic Gardens on the morning of the 7th November 2010 he encountered a number of Blue-tailed Bee-eaters that were ringed not around the leg but on the wing (above left) and wrote, “…I wonder if there is any reason for not ringing on their leg but their wing? I also took some of the shots in flight (above right), can see that the wing’s feather could not align properly. I’m not sure if their flight patterns affected as well.”
This is the first time we have come across such a practice. Field ornithologist Wang Luan Keng had this to say: “Beats me. Don’t think it’s done by anyone in Singapore. Maybe can check with David Li in Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve.” But David Li has no idea who has ringed the bird or for what purpose. He assured us that it has nothing to do with the SBWR.
We next wrote to Dr Robert DeCandido who has done extensive migration research in Thailand. Robert wrote, “We have been counting bee-eaters in migration but not ringing them. That being said, it looks very unusual what has happened here to this Blue-tailed Bee-eater. It looks to me that someone might have been keeping this bird as a tethered pet…but that is only speculation on my part.”
Samson has the last word: “…now the mystery remains. There are more than three birds that I observed having the same ring there at the Singapore Botanic Gardens. That means this is not an isolated case or mischief. Must be some kind of survey or study perhaps?” Or is it?
We are eager to know more about this practice and would appreciate comments from readers.