SINGAPORE’S FIRST NARCISSUS FLYCATCHER

posted in: Species | 2

“The past week of monsoonal weather had barely allowed me to conduct my bird surveys, with a couple of complete wash-outs. However, butterfly surveys were not possible at all! When the weather eased off yesterday, I was out surveying again. Today, after my morning counts, I decided to do a few make-up surveys for butterflies.

“As I was conducting my Sengkang transect at about 1130hrs, there were a few birds actively enjoying the short periods of sunshine. A small black and yellow bird caught my eye. It was sallying about the branches of a row of wayside trees. My first thought was that it was a male Yellow-rumped Flycatcher (Ficedula zanthopygia). We do get a few males of this species in spring.

“I decided to try and obtain a few record shots with my Panasonic Lumix camera. The bird was not very cooperative and stayed mainly in the upper crown of the trees, making photography, with my limited equipment, rather difficult. The yellow did seem rather bright and the throat and rump were chrome yellow….almost orangy. I did manage some poor record shots. My son, Saker, also observed the bird.

“When I returned home and checked the photos against the field guides, I realised that the bird was a male Narcissus Flycatcher (F. narcissina). As far as I know, this would be the first record for Singapore.

“In Singapore, the Yellow-rumped Flycatcher is a common migrant, though males are less commonly seen. The Green-backed (Chinese) Flycatcher (F. elisae) is a scarce migrant here and we usually get 1-2 records each winter. This species used to be a subspecies of the Narcissus Flycatcher.

“The Narcissus Flycatcher is known from Thailand but I am not aware of any records from the Malay Peninsula. David Wells (Wells Vol 2 (2007) does not separate elisae from narcissina, as a full species but mentions that there are no records of the subspecies F. n. narcissina.

“I sent a few photos to Dave Blakewell in Malaysia and he replied, saying that the flycatcher certainly looks like a narcissus. He confirmed that there are no records for the Malay Peninsula but that the species is not uncommon in Sarawak.

“Certain birds like the Petchora’s Pipit, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper and Chestnut-cheeked Starling usually migrate east of us, though the Philippines to Borneo or Australia. The Narcissus Flycatcher probably falls in this category. The strong winds over the past month and a half, combined with the non-stop rain that we had over Sunday and Monday, may have contributed to this occurrence.

“From the poor photos, that I managed to take, the key features of the species can be seen, including the yellow eyebrow, white belly and, just barely, the short, broad, white wing bar. Additionally, the throat and rump are chrome yellow and the breast is bright yellow. What a beaut!”

Subaraj Rajathurai
Singapore
2nd February 2011

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2 Responses

  1. This is a very exciting sighting. Our garden city does continue to spring a few surprises and photography is an invaluable tool for post sighting evaluation.

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  2. Tou Jing Yi

    wow…. excellent find, definitely a good find for this region, hopefully we could find one in West Malaysia as well. Thanks.

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