An accipiter and the debate around its identity

on 7th February 2016

On the afternoon of 16th January 2016, Andrew Tay was at the Singapore Botanical Gardens’ Botany Centre when he saw this large accipiter perching on a branch of the huge Penaga Laut (Calophyllum inophyllum) tree.

As Andrew and friends were watching the raptor, the latter was in turn calmly watching them. After about 15 minutes of confrontation, the raptor suddenly swooped down and flew straight towards the group. Flying just over their heads, it disappeared between the buildings towards Serasi.

“Gorgeous thing,” enthused Andrew. “These are the only two reasonable shots I managed (above, below). After all, I only had basis snap camera and a piece of choc cake in my other hand. What can it be?”

“Great sighting” wrote Ng Bee Choo. “Morten and I studied [the images] and thought that Japanese Sparrowhawk (Accipiter gularis) can be a candidate but it is most likely a Besra (Accipiter virgatus). We’ll check with Rishad Nairobi Naoroji. He is the raptor expert for this region.”

Wildlife consultant Subaraj Rajathurai thought the accipiter could be a male Besra, “considering the range in and around the eye is spectacular, as is the rufous streaking on the throat and chest.”

Tan Gim Cheong on the other hand thought it could be a Crested Goshawk (Accipiter trivirgatus ).

The debate ended the next day when Bee Choo informed that Rishad confirmed the accipiter to be an adult Besra after all.

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

3 Responses

  1. “The debate ended the next day when Bee Choo informed that Rishad confirmed the accipiter to be an adult Besra after all.”

    ….the above is definitely inconclusive nor convincing for someone like me reading this blog post. For a frequent visitor who visited SBG very often and seen the Goshawk there many times, unless the specific features are given on how to ID this as a Besra instead of a Goshawk else this post will be misleading on ID.

  2. Rishad Naoroji is the author of ‘Birds of Prey of the Indian Subcontinent’ (Christopher Helm, London, 2006) and many papers on raptors. You are free not to accept his ID.

  3. Mr Lee is welcome to his opinion but we welcome the expertise knowledge of an experienced regional raptor specialist like Rishad. It is not the Blog role to explain identification details….you will need to spend time reading through the various texts on the subject.

    For me, I have had the opportunity to observe both species and they are nothing alike. While we cannot judge the obvious size difference from a photo, the colouration and patterning of an adult Besra, in this case, is very different from a Crested Goshawk. If you have seen the goshawk several times, as you state, then the difference would be obvious!

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