Grey-breasted Spiderhunter – nesting material

posted in: birds, Nesting | 0

“I had an opportunity today to watch Grey-breasted Spiderhunters (Arachnothera modesta modesta) collect nesting material. I had two extended observations, at the same site, of single birds each time.

“The bird(s) spent much time looking for and collecting the fluffy heads of seeds that are wind dispersed. These seeds have soft, fluffy cotton-like parachutes – silky hairs that arise directly from the top of the seed to help it be wind-blown far from the tree (above).

“These seeds often get caught in trees, (like the Bridella tomentosa above) or bushes and the bird(s) were harvesting them to line the nest; at times resorting to acrobatic skills to gain access.

“They also obtained these silky hairs from other seeds (above). I also saw spider webs being collected. I could not be sure if both partners were involved or only the same bird was doing the work.

Dato Dr Amar-Singh HSS (Dato’ Dr)
Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia

Location: Kledang-Sayong Forest Reserve, Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia
Habitat: Primary forest
Date: 25th February 2021
Equipment: Equipment: Nikon D500 SLR with Nikon AF-S Nikkor 500mm f/5.6E PF ED VR, handheld with Rode VideoMic Pro Plus Shotgun Microphone

Silver gulls mating

posted in: birds, gulls | 0


Article by K-LW

25 July 2021


On their usual nature jaunt, Teo Lee Wei & K noticed an affray coming from an unusually large flock of silver gulls by the water’s edge. The video clip below captures the reason for the loud noises. A mature (red bill and legs) male gull was very insistent on getting along with a young (dark bill and legs) female gull.

The clip was taken in Victoria State, Australia in November 2015. The flock comprised a large number of young birds.


Ruby-cheeked Sunbird (Chalcoparia singalensis interposita)

posted in: Sunbirds | 0

“It was a dark morning, so watched along the edge of this forest reserve. A male Ruby-cheeked Sunbird that was foraging for invertebrate juveniles.”

Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS
Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia
25th July 2019
Location: Kledang-Sayong Forest Reserve, Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia
Habitat: Fringe of forest reserve

Equipment: Nikon D500 SLR with Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD, handheld with Rode VideoMic Pro Plus Shotgun Microphone

The Bird Ecology Study Group is back in business…

posted in: Reports | 0

Up to early 2005 local birdwatchers were simply looking at birds. Their aim was to see who could end up with the most ticks in his or her checklist. And many were good at bird identification. But they were totally uninterested on what birds eat, where they nest, how many eggs they lay, etc. Also, they were ignorant that birds cast pellets made up of undigested food they swallowed, make use of ants to remove ticks and lice from their feathers (anting), lay eggs in the nests of other birds so that the adopted parents take care of their chicks (brood parasitism), courtship feeding and many other interesting behaviours.


Anting by a Vinous-breasted Starling (Photo: Subaraj Rajathurai)


In an effort to encourage birdwatchers to study birds instead of just looking at them, a few members of the Nature Society (Singapore) got together and formed the Bird Ecology Study Group (BESG). This was in July 2005.


After 15 years of postings involving hundreds of articles that include every aspects of bird behaviour, it was natural to assume that local birdwatchers were no more simply looking at birds. In other words, the BESG website had served its purpose. Hopefully, birdwatchers had at last ditched their checklists. After all, many were seen bringing their cameras when out in the field, not just their pair of binoculars.


Black-crowned Night-heron casting pellet (Photo: Sin Chip Chye)


Around 2015 BESG linked up with BICA (Birds, Insects N Creatures of Asia) when the latter burst onto the birdwatching scene. Under the leadership of Jeremiah Loei, BICA members photographed numerous aspects of bird behaviour that BESG incorporated into its website.


When BESG finally stopped postings in December 2019, the website was placed under the care of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum at the National University of Singapore. There it remains a valuable archive not only of birds but also the various aspects of nature related to birds… like plants, insects, arachnids, amphibians, reptiles and mammals.



Ashy Tailorbird feeding a large Plaintive Cuckoo fledgling (Photo: Johnny Wee)


I had a pleasant surprise early this month when two nature lovers, K-LW (who had contributed many articles earlier) came forward to volunteer reviving the BESG website. Of course, we welcome them. Once they become familiar with the software, I am sure they will start posting.


I take this opportunity to thank Prof. Peter Ng Kee Lin, Director of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum for maintaining the BESG website within the museum and Dr Ang Yuchen for providing technical support.


YC Wee

16th July 2021


2005-2019: Fifteen years of postings on bird behaviour will have to come to an end

posted in: Reports | 7

At midnight of 31st December 2019 the website has recorded at total of 24,297,294 visits. This translates to 5,509,803 visits for the year under review – see 2018 report HERE. What this means is that visitorship has been increasing every year.

Pink-necked Green-pigeon: Female above, male below (Photo: YC Wee).


The website was started in July 2005 at a time when birdwatchers were only interested in the number of species spotted… in an area… an habitat… an overseas visit… etc. I distinctly remember googling “pink-necked green-pigeon” and got pages and pages of trip reports where these pigeons were seen. No information on behaviour could be found on the internet – if there were any, I could not locate then. Information on bird behaviour were only found in books written by mainly naturalists. And this was where I located information on male green-pigeons incubating eggs during the day and females during the night.


Vinous-breasted Starling with a beak-full of ants (Photo: Subaraj Rajathurai).


Another behaviour that local birdwatchers were made aware of by the BESG website was “anting”. Although the behaviour was seen, local birdwatchers did not know what it was until 17 years later LINK and LINK.

Pellet casting was another phenomenon that was widely publicised LINK such that photographic evidence slowly became available as photographers kept watch after birds fed instead of moving off to seek out other birds LINK and PDF.

By 2012 the impact of the BESG website was such that listing of bird species and ticking checklists became a thing of the past – see HERE. Most birdwatchers were then beginning to keep an eye (if not both eyes) on bird behaviour when out in the field.


For the year 2019 we had a fulfilling year with contributors (casuals as well as regulars) continuing to send in their encounters – thank you very much. We continue our close collaboration with Facebook: Bird, Insects N Creatures Of Asia (BICA) to the benefit of both (above).

After 15 years of running the BESG website with the help of many, especially those who contribute entire articles (special mention: Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS of Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia and Daisy O’Neill of Penang), it is with great regret that I have to discontinue running the BESG website as of now. The last 15 years had been a learning period as I moved from being a plant person to one dealing with birds. But everything has to come to an end.

It is regrettable that the website will have to discontinue and laid to rest with the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum, National University of Singapore. I take this opportunity to thank Prof. Peter Ng Kee Lin, the Director, for backup support. Thanks also to Dr Yuchen Ang of the museum who came to our aid whenever there were technical problems with the website.


YC Wee
1st January 2020

Java Sparrow

posted in: Morphology-Develop., Species | 0

A pair of Java Sparrow (Lonchura oryzivora) was photographed at the limestone hills at the fringe of Ipoh, Perak (above).

The above image shows a close-up of an adult’s feet.

Above and below show a subadult/immature moulting into adult plumage.

Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS
Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia
28th November 2019

Location: Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia
Habitat: Limestone hill at fringe of city

Slaty-backed Gull – younger birds

posted in: Morphology-Develop. | 0

“Slaty-backed Gulls (Larus schistisagus) were reasonably common and we had the opportunity to see young birds that had not attainted full adult plumage. I am attempting to age these birds but would appreciate any suggestions and even ID concerns (just in case these birds are not ID correctly and the possibility of hybrids).

Slaty-backed Gull #1.

“On the ‘surface’ all these three birds (#1-3) look like 1st summer birds. But I take into consider the wise words of Keith Vinicombe (2014) who, when making comments about moulting and aging of gulls, states ‘Each plumage is more adult-like than the previous but remember that the different plumages may vary individually, particularly in larger birds (such as Herring Gulls) so do not expect all birds to conform exactly to those illustrated in field guides. Bare parts too – eyes, bill and legs also change as a bird gets older and, although their progression is roughly in sync with their plumages, there is great individual variation in the acquisition of bare-part colours.’ Moores (2005) states ‘some First-Winter (and First-summer/early Second-winter) Slaty-backed Gull can, however, be very much more difficult to identify than older birds’.

Slaty-backed Gull #2.

“From various references, the key features of 1st summer birds are the black bill, the black scales on the feet, the darker iris, blackish tail. Some authors say the iris turns paler but others (Moores 2005) suggest this only happens with second-winter onwards. Most suggest the bill is black but some (Oiseaux Birds, HBW) suggest the pinkish base of the bill may appear in the first year. Generally older birds are more ‘bleached’ with the tail remaining largely blackish (Moores 2005) until adulthood (white). I am uncertain when the adult reddish orbital ring develops. The yellow-orange bill colour change is said to only occur from third winter onwards.

Slaty-backed Gull #3.

“Bird #1 is clearly a 1st summer bird. Notice the near complete black bill, well shown black scales on the feet, the darker iris, black tail and overall darker wing and belly plumage.

Bird #2 is a bird with a black bill but the tail is much lighter and the overall plumage is also more bleached.

Bird #3 is a bird with pinkish base to the bill, lighter iris, browner tail, hardly any black scales on the feet and overall lighter plumage.

“Please note that I have more images of each bird (some in flight) to offer better views/descriptions. Despite the variation I am inclined to ‘label’ all as 1st summer birds but wonder if Bird #3 is of a second summer bird.”

Slaty-backed Gulls.

Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS
Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia
7th June 2019

Location: Nemuro Peninsula, East Hokkaidō, Japan

Keith Vinicombe. The Helm Guide to Bird Identification. Bloomsbury. 2014.
2. Mark Brazil. Birds of Japan. Helm Field Guides 2018.
3. Nial Moores, Charlie Moores (2005). The identification of Slaty-backed Gull Larus schistisagus. Birds of Korea (available HERE).
4. Burger, J., Gochfeld, M., Garcia, E.F.J. & Kirwan, G.M. (2019). Slaty-backed Gull (Larus schistisagus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive.
5. Gull Research Organisation. 30. Slaty-Backed Gull (available HERE).
6. Oiseaux Birds: Slaty-backed Gull – Larus schistisagus (available HERE).

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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