The Bird Ecology Study Group or BESGroup

posted in: Reports | 5

I have been officially informed by Dr Geh Min, President of the Nature Society (Singapore), that at the meeting of the Executive Committee held on the 27th September 2005, the Bird Ecology Study Group or BESGroup for short, was formally accepted as an official sub-group under Article 10.4.5 of the society’s constitution.

This blog has been operating under the heading of Singapore Bird Ecology Study Group since July 2005. With immediate effect it will operate as Bird Ecology Study Group, Nature Society (Singapore).

As a sub-group of the Nature Society, we will provide exciting activities and a series of talks by professional ornithologists and birdwatchers for the benefit of members as well as anyone interested in bird ecology. We have also plans to bring out various publications that will be useful to nature lovers and birdwatchers in general. Our full programme is being formalised and announcements will be made in due course.

The BESGroup is currently being coordinated by Wee Yeow Chin, Richard Hale, Subaraj Rajathurai and Grant Pereira. We plan to replace one person each year with a new member. This safeguard is to ensure that the leadership will not stagnate, will always be vibrant and there will always be new ideas flowing into the group.

The objectives of BESGroup are as follows:

1. To encourage the study of birds and their links with all aspects of the natural environment.
2. To help fill in the information gaps, especially on the breeding behaviour of local birds.
3. To encourage the dissemination of information.
4. To encourage the publication of information collected through the internet, popular magazines and scientific journals.

At long last we can now concentrate on working in good faith with all members of the society towards our shared goals of nature appreciation and conservation. BESGroup looks forward to a cordial working relationship with all groups, especially the existing Bird Group, so that together we can offer more activities to the membership at large as well as enrich our current ecological knowledge of the local bird population.

YC Wee
8th October 2005

Common Flamebacks’ Dance

posted in: Miscellaneous | 4

Several years ago now I was walking down the road from the top of Bukit Timah Hill in late morning. There was nobody about and as I approached the turning off to the Telecoms building I heard a commotion to my left. There was a large tree with a trunk about two feet in diameter almost at the edge of the road and on it about twelve feet up were two male Common Flamebacks one to the left some twelve inches above the other which was on the right. Each was in view of the other and appeared to be having an argument.

Both birds started to circle clockwise and to my surprise a third bird appeared far right, again about twelve inches lower down, and calling loudly. This continued and to my amazement a fourth bird appeared still lower.

All four birds continued to circle the trunk slowly. Moving gradually upwards, calling all the time but maintaining distance from each other and keeping the  birds to left and right just in sight. They reached a height of over twenty five feet and then flew down nearly to ground level before starting the whole process again. I have no idea what was the purpose of this dance and as far as I can recall I saw no sign of a female in the vicinity.
Finally they all flew off in the same direction and I continued my walk.

Richard Hale
6th October 2005

ZEBRA DOVES – 17. The birds are gone for good

posted in: Nesting, Pigeon-Dove | 1

Nearly two months after the eggs were hatched, the doves are permanently gone from tha vicinity of their nest. No more do I hear their pleasant cooing each morning and evening. No more can I see them huddling together on a branch, preparing to roost for the night. Every trace of the trial nest is now gone. Every single piece of dried grass stem has been removed. In a way it is good that they are building a new nest somewhere else. The area around the tree where the nest was is now busier than even. Workers are moving around under the tree, as construction activities of the house behind is moving forward towards the road. The birds managed to avoid detection for more than two and a half months. I am not sure whether they can avoid detection if they are to nest in the same tree again.

I am now waiting for the next pair of birds to build their nest around my place.

YC Wee
4th October 2005

The role of amateur birders in ornithology

posted in: Reports | 0

Amateur birders have always played an important role in collecting information that ornithologists find useful to write their papers and monograph. This has been clearly seen in the recent book by Dr David Wells, The Birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsula Vol. I. In the preamble to his book, he paid tribute to professionals whose theses and scientific papers provided useful materials. At the same time he recognized the contributions of amateurs, especially members of the Nature Societies in Malaysia and Singapore. The Malaysian society publishes Enggang while the Singapore counterpart is Singapore Avifauna (SINAV).
The Nature Society (Singapore)’s Bird Group (BG) recently made a detailed check on the number of citations from SINAV in Wells’ book. It yielded 168 citations for a total of 118 species under various aspects of birdlife such as identification & distribution; status & population; habitat & ecology; breeding; geographical variation; movement; foraging & food; moult; social interaction; and social organisation.
This is indeed quite a contribution by SINAV to the ornithology of Singapore. It certainly changes my earlier erroneous impressions of the publication. And this is only the first volume, covering the non-passerine group. The second volume covering the passerine group is coming out soon. I am waiting eagerly to make another count to prove the above point.
Well done, Singapore Avifauna!

NOTE: Unfortunately, when I made the above post, I was not aware of the unwillingness of the Bird Group leadership to make the publication available to Dr David Wells, who was then working on Vol I of “The birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsular” – LINK.

YC Wee
3rd October 2005

ZEBRA DOVES – 16. It was only a trial nest

posted in: Nesting, Pigeon-Dove | 0

The three birds had been returning to the area of their nesting ever since the two nestlings fledged. At around 6.30 to 7.00 pm every evening, an adult bird would perch high up on a scaffolding pole and vocalise, whereby the two young adults would fly in to join it. All three birds would then fly to their favourite Golden Penda tree and perch on a branch, huddled close together throughout the night. Around 7 am the next morning they would fly off.

A few mornings ago, when I went to check on the birds at their perch, I had a look at the new nest. Imaging my surprise when all the nesting materials were gone. The birds must have used this site to build a trial nest. The materials must have been removed to a new nesting site.

But where? And are the birds gone forever?

YC Wee
29th September 2005

ZEBRA DOVES – 15. Yes, the doves are breeding again!

posted in: Nesting, Pigeon-Dove | 0

This morning, I woke up late and missed seeing the three birds stirring from their roost. However, I was pleasantly surprised to hear cooing. The two young adult birds were foraging on the ground while the adult was sitting comfortably between the fork of the mempat tree. Suddenly it flew off to the old nest site in the Golden Penda tree. It was cooing repeatedly, making low gurring sounds in between.

When I returned home just after midday, I heard more cooing. The three birds were back. The two young adults were again foraging on the ground while the adult was in the old nest site. Soon, the two other birds joined it. The adult was sitting in the old nest site adjusting the sparse nesting materials of dried pieces of twigs and coiled climbing fern stems. One bird nearby was seen contributing a piece of dried plant material.

There was a cooing from nearby, probably made by the mate. Soon all three birds flew off. I took a closer look at the tree and yes, there were definite signs of a new nest.

YC Wee
21st September 2005

ZEBRA DOVES – 14. Are the doves about to breed again?

posted in: Nesting, Pigeon-Dove | 0

It would appear that every evening a parent would fly on to a high perch and start cooing to attract the fledglings. All three birds would then fly to a tree around the nesting area and settle for the night. At first light the next morning, the birds would rouse, preen themselves and each other, then fly off.

The young birds are now 49 days old, having left the nest 35 days ago. They are still dependent on the parents for food. This protracted parental care appears to be common in many species of small birds, as reported in the 1960s by P. Ward working in Singapore on the Yellow-vented bulbul and by M.P.L. Fogden working on a number of species in Sarawak.

Of late, the adult bird, immediately after the fledglings flew off in the morning, returned to the exact nesting site or a potential nesting site in a nearby tree and started cooing repeatedly, at times duetting, and all the time making low pitch copulating noises. It is possible that the adult birds are into breeding again, more than two months after the last batch of eggs were laid? I am keeping my fingers crossed.

YC Wee
11th September 2005

ZEBRA DOVES – 13. Nearly a month and still they need mummy

posted in: Nesting, Pigeon-Dove | 0

The older of the fledglings is now 28 days old. The parent bird arrived this evening, perched high up on a nearby building and cooing a few times to attract the fledglings. After an initial period of greetings, the birds flew straight to a nearby tree. They spent some time moving from branch to branch foraging(?) before they settled on a nearby tree for the night. Apparently they must have come back to the same area every evening since fledgling, spending the night together before flying off early next morning. The mate must be around as there was a call from elsewhere. How long more will it take before the fledglings become independent???
YC Wee
8th September 2005

ZEBRA DOVES – 12. Twenty four days old and still…

posted in: Nesting, Pigeon-Dove | 0

Guess what? Yesterday morning the doves made another return visit. A parent bird and two fledglings, now 24 days old. Late that morning there were repeated cooing by the parent bird (male?) who returned to the original nesting site. It remained there for some time, cooing and making “gurring” sound for some ten minutes, probably calling for its mate to inspect the nesting site. No luck. That evening all three birds returned to spent the night on a branch of a nearby tree, flying off early this morning.
YC Wee
5th September 2005

ZEBRA DOVES – 11. The return of the doves

posted in: Nesting, Pigeon-Dove | 0

I did not expect the doves to return. But they did.

Last evening at 7.10 pm there was a faint call of a dove. Suddenly a bird landed on a branch of my Artocarpus tree. Two others followed. Surprise of surprise, they were the two fledglings and a parent bird.

There was an initial scrambling of who was to perch where. Obviously the choice location was to be in the centre, squeezed between a parent and a fledgling. The younger of the two finally got the choice spot.

The fledglings had yet to fully develop the blue orbital rings, that of the older more pronounced that the younger. The pale pink breast was clearly seen in the fledglings. In the older, the pinkish area went right up to the neck, not so in the younger.

They were on the same spot throughout the night. This morning at 7.20 am they suddenly became active, pecking the parent bird around the neck, possibly to be fed. But this was not to be. There was a distant call of the other parent (male?) and suddenly the bird flew off to a nearby perch. A few minutes later both fledglings followed.

The older of the fledgling is now 19 days old. How long more will they be dependent on the parents?

YC Wee
30th August 2005

26 Responses

  1. kris

    I just found a young dollarbird in the garden.. It seems to have left the nest too early and cannot fly yet. How am i to keep and feed it for a few days untill it can fly.???

  2. Iwan

    We have a small pond in our garden surrounded by trees and steep bedrock. The other day we saw a heron flying over and attempting to land – I guess to try to eat our small stock of fish. We managed to frighten it away before it landed, and have since installed trip wires around the pond in order to dissuade the bird. The amount of shelter around the pond means that a heron would have to land practically vertically. Does anyone know whether these birds have the agility to hover and land in this way, or do they always need a “glidepath” in order to land successfully?

  3. Khng Eu Meng

    Today, at the former Bidadari Cemetery, there was a buzz about a sighting of a Grey Nightjar (Caprimulgus jotaka). I heard some birders say this nightjar isn’t commonly seen in Singapore. After some hunting, we spotted it asleep on a tree branch, some 15 m above ground. This was rather interesting as my previous encounters with nightjars have been on either terra firma or on low branches.

    Is this perching so high up the tree normal or is it unusual? I have posted a photo of it on my Facebook Timeline:

  4. Jess

    Bird Sanctuary At Former Bidadari Cementry

    1)Which is the best spot in Bidadari cemetery for bird watch?

    2)Where this bird usually resident at?

    3)What are some of the rare bird species that can be found at Bidadari?

    4)Where is the particular hot spot for the hornbills, eagles, kingfishers and some of the rare migratory bird?

    5)Which part of Bidadari are richest in it wildlife?

    6)Can you name me the 59 migratory bird species found?

  5. YC

    Why not search the website using the word ‘Bidadari’ to obtain the information you need. There should be sufficient info in past postings to satisfy you.

  6. Firdaus Razak

    Hai, I just want to ask did anybody had an experience bring bird from oversea via MasKargo? Did the bird will stress at high altitude?

  7. Chung Wah

    Hi, I am new to bird photography! Could anyone advise a good pair of binoculars to get for this hobby?

  8. Geam Liang

    I ‘acquired’ a female Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot 5 days ago – was in a public place when the bird flew overhead hit the wall and dropped right in front of me dazed. I picked it up, it appeared unhurt but could not sustain it’s flight. I have since constructed a fairly large ‘cage’ for it, about 4ft x 2fx x 2ft and placed it there last night. I temporarily placed her in a normal bird cage until I had completed the build.
    From what I have read up, it’s a fruit, seed and insect feeder and also nectar, flower buds. It’s doing as well as it can on bananas, papaya, jack-fruit (didn’t touch the grape) and seeds (black and white sunflower and other smaller ones). It loves to bathe so I’ve gotten it a tray and from what I read it’s important to keep things clean as it easily succumbs to infection.
    Does anyone else have any useful experience and sharing on it’s upkeep? I suspect this bird is an escapee – as far as I can read up, it’s not common, if at all, found in Georgetown, Penang where I am. I’m also not optimistic that it can survive if I were to set it free – assuming it can sustain it’s flight and not go crashing down and if there were dogs/cats around that would be the end of it.
    I can attach some pictures but not sure how to do this…

  9. Lee Chiu San

    The blue-crowned hanging parrot, even though very closely related to the lovebirds, is a nectar feeder. You would raise it the way you raise a lorikeet – which is a messy process. And because you are mixing batches of food for just one little bird, whereas I used to do it for about half a dozen pigeon-sized lorikeets each morning, I don’t know how you are going to get the portions down to manageable sizes. Anyway, here goes, with my recipe for feeding big lories. You can adjust the proportions down accordingly for your little bird.

    The staple diet would be a couple of slices of soft fruit (papaya, apple, grapes, even though I am surprised that you said the bird would not eat any) and a mixture of cooked rice sweetened with nectar mix.

    How to make nectar mix? Go to a pharmacy and get a can of food for invalids or infants. I use Complan, but I am sure any good baby formula would do. I usually make up enough to fill a beer mug, but there is no way you need that amount for a day’s feeding. If in doubt, make the mixture thinner, not thicker. Birds cannot digest baby formula that is too thick. If it is too thin, they simply have to consume more to get the required amount of energy. Then to this mug, add half a teaspoonful of rose syrup. Also stir in about a cup of cooked rice, well mashed up.

    In the case of your bird, I suggest that you pour this lot into an ice-cube tray, freeze the mixture, and defrost one cube to feed it each day.

    Now, you said that this bird eats sunflower seeds. This is most unusual for a blue-crowned hanging parrot. Are you sure that this is actually the species you have? Could it be possible that you have actually got a pet lovebird that escaped? There are so many different artificially-created breeds of lovebirds in so many colours that you might have been mistaken.

    If you actually have a lovebird, feeding is much simpler. Just go to the nearest pet shop, buy a packet of budgerigar or cockatiel seed of a reputable international brand, and offer it to the bird. You can supplement this with a couple of slices of fruit each day, and that will be all. Plus of course fresh water and a piece of cuttlefish bone to nibble on.

  10. Lee Chiu San

    About nectar feeding birds. I forgot to add that feeding nectar is messy, and it goes rancid very quickly in our tropical weather. Feeding containers have to be removed and thoroughly cleaned at the end of each day. The birds also splatter the mixture and wipe their beaks on perches and the bars of the cage. All my lories and lorikeets used to be housed in outdoor aviaries which were hosed down daily.

    If Geam Liang does not think the bird will survive if released, I really hope that it is a case of mistaken identity, and that you have a lovebird, rather than a blue-crowned hanging parrot. In our part of the world, all available lovebirds are domestically bred, take to captivity readily, and are easy to feed with commercially available seed mixtures. Yes, and being domestic pets, they would not survive if released.

  11. Geam Liang

    Thank you Chiu San for your inputs. Thus far, bananas and papayas work well. I’m not sure why it did not take to grapes – will try again. Am I supposed to peel it? I didn’t the last time, basically skewered a couple of grapes to a satay stick and positioned it as I did for the sliced and skinned papaya and peeled bananas.
    I have yet to try rice and certainly not nectar but will try out your concoction – have half a mind to go to a pet shop to see if they carry nectar for birds. The ice-cube freeze method is a good one, will try that. I might be mistaken on the sunflower seeds… not touched but it did eat the much smaller roundish, mixed colored seeds. Will remove the sunflower seeds.
    I’m sure it’s a female blue crowned hanging parrot.. it sleeps like a bat every night.

  12. Lee Chiu San

    When feeding local birds which are unfamiliar with imported fruits such as grapes, it helps to split the fruits to expose the edible parts. As to your remark that the bird sleeps hanging upside down like a bat, yes, that is the way blue-crowned hanging parrots sleep.

  13. Geam Liang

    Thanks… I need to think like a bird – yup. She has probably not seen a grape much less know that it’s edible, unless the previous owner has fed her with grapes… even then… Today she’s done pretty well making the most of the banana and all of the papaya plus quite a bit of seeds. Will try the baby food + mashed rise + rose syrup.
    Will regular honey do instead of rose syrup?

  14. Lee Chiu San

    About making nectar to feed birds. Most aviculturalists do not use honey for two reasons: 1. It is expensive and does not seem to give any added benefits. 2. Honey is made by bees, and the composition varies wildly. Some honeys are also known to cause fungal infection in birds.

    If you do not want to buy a huge bottle of rose syrup just for one tiny bird, there are cheaper alternatives. The first is plain table sugar, though most don’t seem to like it very much.

    What many birds will accept quite readily as a sweetener is condensed milk – the type with sugar that coffee shop owners use.

    Many, many birds have a sweet tooth (or should I say sweet beak?) Besides the usual suspects of lories, lorikeets, sunbirds and hummingbirds, for whom it is an essential part of the diet, nectar mixture is readily consumed by mynahs, leafbirds, fairy bluebirds, barbets, doves, parrots of all kinds, and a whole host of other species.

  15. Geam Liang

    I tried the condensed mild, placed in in a small bottle cap.. only the ants showed interest. Am I supposed to dilute it? I didn’t =( I took you advice and refrained from honey. Have yet to find Rose Syrup from the shelves of TESCO… will try to mix the baby food + mashed rise + rose syrup/sugar syrup this week…

  16. David Thackray

    Can anyone help me identify a bird I saw in Singapore last week. Size of a smakll dove or thrush. Dark metallic back. Grey breast with red throat, chest.

  17. Emily Koh

    Lately I bought a bird feeder which I fill with 4parts water n 1 part white sugar. Sunbirds come regularly to drink and they are really lovely to watch. May I know if it is bad for them to feed on this? Previously they would sometimes pierce and drink from my potted flowers

  18. Emily Koh

    Lately I bought a bird feeder which I fill with 4parts water n 1 part white sugar. Sunbirds come regularly to drink and they are really lovely to watch. May I know if it is bad for them to feed on this? Previously they would sometimes pierce and drink from my potted flowers.

  19. Mahadevi Bhuti

    One of best souce for the bird watcher’s enjoying knowledge about ornithology

  20. Martin Nyffeler (PhD)

    Dear Sir / Dear Madame,

    I am a Senior Lecturer in Zoology at a University in Switzerland and I urgently need to get in touch with photographer Chan Yoke Meng, who takes beautiful photographs of birds near Singapore. Would you please mail me the email address of this photographer!


  21. Wee Ming

    Hello Besgroup,

    Trust this email finds you well. We chance upon your photograph on your website and found the amazing image of the Laced Woodpecker and durians. We would like to explore the possibility of getting permission to use them for a new Bird Park in Singapore.

    Spacelogic is a company based in Singapore and we have been contracted by Mandai Park Development to carry out design and build works relating to the exhibition interpretive displays in this new Bird Park.

    Some background of the new Mandai Bird Park project; it will build upon the legacy of the Jurong Bird Park – by retaining and building upon a world-reference bird collection and creating a place of colour and joy for all visitors. The new Bird Park will have a world-reference ornithological collection displayed in a highly immersive way with large walk-through habitats. To enhance visitors’ experience with storyline and narrative of the bird park, transition spaces are added to display exhibits that provide a varied type of fun, intuitive, interactive and educational experiences for all visitors. One of the habitats features the Laced Woodpecker on a flora panel It is in this flora panel that we are seeking your permission to feature the Laced Woodpecker. We are looking to use the first image on the link here.
    Link can be found here:

    We would like to ask if this is something that we can explore further and if yes, how can we go about with putting through a formal permission request. Thank you so much for considering our request and we look forward to hearing from you.

    Warmest Regards,
    Wee Ming
    SPACElogic Pte Ltd

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