Blue-tailed Bee-eater ringed on the wing

on 21st November 2010

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.

If you like this post please tap on the Like button at the left bottom of page. Any views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the authors/contributors, and are not endorsed by the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM, NUS) or its affiliated institutions. Readers are encouraged to use their discretion before making any decisions or judgements based on the information presented.

YC Wee

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.

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