Migratory birds, Bidadari and the threat to MacRitchie forest…

on 16th May 2013

“Migratory birds do not choose Bidadari over the Central Catchment and other patches of trees. Migratory birds simply turn up everywhere. There are thousands upon thousands of migratory birds that move through Singapore during the migratory months, mainly during the autumn passage (latter months of the year). Most passerines move during the night and will put down at the nearest green patch at dawn or when the weather becomes unfavourable (eg. heavy rain). They also become disorientated by bright lights, especially when rain forces them to low altitudes and this results in many casualties when they crash into buildings LINK.

“While the larger green area of the central nature reserves allows for many migrants to put down there, many others will land in any patch of green around Singapore, especially when the weather forces them down or when they get confused by bright lights.

“There have been some spectacular migrants in the strangest places. I have personally had numerous such encounters, such as the Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher (Rhinomyias brunneata) in a small grove of trees at Anson Road (above left) LINK or Singapore’s first Narcissus Flycatcher (Ficedula narcissina) in a roadside tree at Sengkang new town (above right) LINK. Does this mean that we have to preserve that little grove of trees because an internationally near-threatened species once visited?

“For that matter, everyone who has a garden or the little parks in every HDB estate have had migrants, that may have include a rarity or two. Do we turn all of them into wildlife sanctuaries? Migrants are simply unpredictable and can turn up just about anywhere and everywhere.

“Bidadari is one of numerous green pockets around urbanised Singapore that would be a temporary draw to migrants during their movement LINK. This is just the current convenient hot-spot for birdwatchers and bird photographers who love these places as they allow for better views or photos LINK.

“Others over the years have included reclamation areas such as Changi South, Changi Central, Changi Cove, Tuas and various nature areas/parks including Mount Faber, Kent Ridge Park, Lorong Halus, Pasir Ris Park, Chinese Gardens, Pulau Ponggol Barat pond… and the list goes on.

“At the end of the day, it is good to have wildlife corridors/park connectors and parks around Singapore that incorporate existing wooded areas/nature areas where possible. Bidadari fits this bill, along with most of the non-protected areas mentioned above. Will they be better for biodiversity? Yes! Are they valuable enough to be considered nature reserves/nature parks? No! There is no way that any of these sites will ever compare to the sheer value and importance of the Bukit Timah or the Central Catchment Nature Reserves, in any category of biodiversity, resident or migrant! Not even remotely close!

“Bidadari is a migrant trap like many other areas, except that it is easier to locate the birds that do visit LINK, due to the open nature of the site. However, there is nothing extraordinary about the resident birdlife and nothing else of real value in terms of flora and fauna. I know many private gardens, like Dr Wee’s, that actually have a couple or more resident birds found in our Red Data book. Does that make them more valuable than Bidadari? Should we preserve them also?

“There are so many misguided individuals focusing so much time and effort to save Bidadari, a place for migrant birds. Yet, the last substantial patches of primary forest in Singapore at MacRitchie (other than Bukit Timah), is under serious threat from a Mass Rapid Transit line LINK; an area supposedly protected as a nature reserve and a core area for biodiversity; a site that has many hundred times the biodiversity value! Preliminary investigation indicates a major destruction of the area just for the investigative study. Where are the protests about that? Why is everyone not concerned about this? Do they think that we still have plenty of time? This is a far more important site to fight for and should be the main attention of all those who care for nature!”

Subaraj Rajathurai
Strix Wildlife Consultancy
12th May 2013

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.

Other posts by YC Wee

4 Responses

  1. Dear Subaraj,
    I share your concerns about the Macritchie forest. Do you have any suggestions. I would be glad to help.


    Azmi Mohamed

  2. Dear Azmi and John 117,

    Thank you for your interest to help. The best thing that needs doing at present is to bring the focus of just how serious the situation at MacRitchie is and will be, to the general public. There simply isn’t enough information being made available about the reality of the destruction. Only with public support can we hope to avert this impending disaster!

    The fact is that it does not matter whether the new line runs above or below ground…the ion to the primary forest will be significant and the impact truly damaging. The CNR area is our nature reserve which affords it the highest level of protection. Rightly so, as the biodiversity there, along with the specialisation of forest species, makes the area irreplaceable and certainly not something that can be re-created! Bottom line: the new line will have to be diverted around the nature reserves. Nothing should run through the nature reserve as any kind of risk is not worth even considering!

    Spread the word, online or any other way you think will achieve maximum attention. That would be most helpful. Thanks in advance!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Overall visits (since 2005)

Live visitors
Visitors Today

Clustrmaps (since 2016)