THE BIRDS OF KENT RIDGE PARK, SINGAPORE

 THE RAFFLES BULLETIN OF ZOOLOGY 1998 46(1): 113-122

© National University of Singapore

 Angus R. Lamont

2, Ridgewood Close, Block 1, #17-04, Himiko Court, Singapore 276693.

 ABSTRACT. – Studies were made of the bird diversity in Kent Ridge Park, Singapore for an initial three year period from September 1992 to August 1995 and for a second six month period from September 1995 to February 1996. The park was visited on 616 days and 151 bird species were recorded during the first study and on 95 days during the second study that added six new bird species. The most important record is of a female/immature Narcissus Flycatcher (Ficedula narcissina elisae) which is a new record for Singapore. Breeding records, changes in habitat and species diversity, and illegal bird trapping were also noted and are commented on. The continued loss of buffer zone habitat combined with the destruction of natural habitat in the park itself may have had a detrimental effect on the resident bird diversity.

 

KEYWORDS. – Urban birds, checklist, Kent Ridge Park, Singapore.

Records of interest include White-crested Laughingthrush, a non-native species, which has gone from a single bird in 1992 to a healthy breeding population in 1995. By the end of the survey this group of social birds had split into at least two distinct flocks with an estimated total population of about 30 birds. Their ability to establish themselves in a vacant ecological niche has allowed them to become well entrenched not just in the park but throughout suitable habitat elsewhere in Singapore. Before the advent of the White-crested Laughingthrush the park was home to the Greater Necklaced Laughingthrush, another non-native species, after half a dozen were released on 3 November 1992. The demise of this species as a resident is probably due to their displacement by the White-crested Laughingthrush. 

The Asian Koel is another species with a booming population. Once a rare bird in Singapore its increase in numbers is probably due to the increasing number of crows Corvus spp on whom it is probably a brood parasite (Bucknill & Chasen, 1927). The Eurasian Tree Sparrow was absent from the area until construction began on a vacant site at Singapore Science Park in 1993. Attracted to the site and the workers’ dormitories in the first place this species now seems a permanent feature of the area although all construction has now ceased. A flock of between 50 and 60 birds was seen on 4 September 1994. A species completely absent during the winter months is the Purple-throated Sunbird which may help to strengthen the hypothesis that this species may be migratory (Subharaj, 1988). As all the records were between early May and early September this species has been treated as a summer visitor.

Table 2 shows a list of 34 bird species that bred in the park together with an additional seven species that may have bred. A pair of Spotted Wood Owls bred annually during the period of the survey fledging one young each year.

During the autumn months the park seems particularly attractive to migrants with good numbers of cuckoos, warblers, thrushes, and flycatchers present from time to time. Southward migrating raptors probably use the updrafts generated by the ridge to help them gain altitude in order to cross the Strait of Malacca. By far the most important record for migrants was that of Narcissus Flycatcher, the first time it had been recorded in Singapore (Lamont, 1994). A female/immature of the elisae race was seen on 22 September and again on 4 October 1994. The autumnal arrival of the Black-capped Kingfisher heralds an interesting situation in which it probably displaces the White-throated Kingfisher from its usual haunts.

From time to time vegetation was managed by the Parks and Recreation Department that may have affected the bird fauna. The removal of waterside vegetation in April 1993 by this department caused two resident species, Little Heron and Yellow Bittern, to desert the area and they are now only occasional visitors. Many of the larger trees have fallen due to storms or landslides and this, combined with the growth of the “belukar”, has changed the character of the area considerably.

During the period of the survey a considerable amount of construction was started in the buffer zones around the park. This may have had a significant effect on the avifauna of the area and many scrub and open grassland species either vanished or were only apparent in reduced numbers. A possible outcome of this habitat change was that sightings of the Paddyfield Pipit declined from 144 in Year 1 to 22 in Year 2 and finally to only one in Year 3. All the open grassland munias also showed decreasing numbers probably due to habitat loss in the surrounding areas.

Illegal bird trapping occurred throughout the entire period of this study and will continue to do so until the appropriate legislation is efficiently enforced by the authorities. Trapping reached a peak each spring when many birds were singing to protect breeding territory. The two species most sought after by bird trappers were the Hwanmai and the Oriental Magpic Robin both species noted for their fine songs.

DISCUSSION

From the large number of species recorded during this survey, about half of the total species recorded from Singapore, clearly this site is an important area for resident, visiting, and migrant species of birds. Resident species are those probably most at risk through alterations to their breeding habitat by anthropogenic changes to the park environment. These changes are largely man made and seem to be undertaken without sufficient realization as to the consequences of these actions.

 The distribution of the resident birds in the park, 22 species from around the lake area and 24 from the ridge, is fairly even and comes as something of a surprise as the area around the lake nearly always seems to have more activity. It is probable that bird species around the lake are more concentrated whereas from the top of the ridge a considerable vista can be observed and the birds are more widely scattered.

 One of the surprises of the study was the large number of bird species that are normally resident in Singapore that visit the park. It is probably because Kent Ridge Park is on a ridge and with Clementi Woods to the north-west and Faber Park to the south-east it forms part of a green corridor along which birds can travel. This would certainly help to explain the high number of visiting birds that are normally resident in Singapore but do not breed in the park. Presumably the park lacks either the suitable habitat or food resources for these species to remain there on a permanent basis yet is sufficiently attractive for them to visit for short periods. It is also indicative that some resident species may have large hunting ranges. Examples include Crested Goshawk, Changeable Hawk Eagle, Emerald Dove (King, 1975), and Blue-winged Leafbird.

 The park hosts good numbers of passage migrants which are probably least affected by changes in the park as their stay is typically short and provided their food and habitat requirements are met there is no reason to suppose that their numbers will diminish. The loss of buffer zones and other suitable habitat in the area may actually tend to concentrate them into the remaining suitable habitat. There is no doubt as to the attractiveness of the area to migrants as there are many records of species that are usually regarded as uncommon or rare in Singapore. Besides Narcissus Flycatcher, the first for Singapore, rare passage migrants like Mugimaki Flycatcher and Blue-and-White Flycatcher (Lamont, 1994) also occur in the park.

 Apart from changes in the park itself habitat loss in the surrounding buffer zone may have an affect to the avifauna of the park. As would be expected grass and scrubland species have suffered most from this but there is no doubt that visiting residents must be affected in some way as well because there is a tendency for the park itself to become more isolated from other green areas. The continuing loss of undergrowth and low shrub cover gives cause for concern for the future of Abbott’s Babbler that is dependent on this type of habitat.

 Final conclusion to protect the avifauna of the park include the recommendation that suitable habitat be provided for the resident species. This includes the introduction and reintroduction of suitable native species of plants, shrubs, and trees rather than the planting of exotic species. The loss of many of the larger trees gives rise to apprehension especially as there seems to be no plan to replant or replace them. The main difficulty here is the long time taken for suitable trees to reach maturity. The waterside habitat should be allowed to regenerate in order to attract water birds back into the area. This would also help to prevent suitable siltation of the lake during heavy rainstorms and allow it to return to its former clarity rather than retain its present muddy brown appearance. The reintroduction of water plants eradicated in 1992-3 would help this situation as well. The creation of an island in the center of the lake and planting it with suitable flora would provide a secure breeding area for some bird species while visually enhancing the area. The prevention of illegal bird trapping would also be a very positive step and this could easily be accomplished by employing a suitable person armed with a mobile phone who could then act as a ranger as well as a security officer preventing vandalism, littering, and other antisocial behaviour. With the loss of so much buffer zone habitat it is doubly important to preserve the remaining area in the best possible way.


CHECKLIST TO THE BIRDS OF THE SOUTHERN HILLS

(Mount Faber, Telok Blangah, Kent Ridge Park, NUS Kent Ridge, Labrador Park)

 c - common                u - uncommon                s - scarce

r - resident                m - migrant  v - visitor                i - introduction

bm - breeding migrant (summer)

  

1               Great-billed Heron

Ardea sumatrana

2               Grey Heron

Ardea cinerea

3               Purple Heron

Ardea purpurea

4               Striated Heron

Butorides striatus

5               Chinese Pond Heron

Ardeola bacchus

6               Pacific Reef-Egret

Egretta sacra

7               Great Egret

Casmerodius alba

8               Cattle Egret

Bubulcus ibis

9               Black-crowned Night Heron

Nycticorax nycticorax

10           Malayan Night Heron

Gorsachius melanolophus

11           Yellow Bittern

Ixobrychus sinensis

12           Schrenck’s Bittern

Ixobrychus eurhythmus

13           Cinnamon Bittern

Ixobrychus cinnamomeus

14           Black Bittern

Depeter flavicollis

15           Lesser Whistling-duck

Dendrocygna javanica

16           Osprey

Pandion haliaetus

17           Black Baza

Aviceda leuphoites

18           Oriental Honey-Buzzard

Pemis ptilorhyncus

19           Black-winged Kite

Elanus caeruleus

20           Black Kite

Milvus migrans

21           Brahminy Kite

Haliastur Indus

22           White-bellied Fish-Eagle

Haliaeetus leucogaster

23           Short-toed Snake Eagle

Circaetus gallicus

24           Crested Serpent-Eagle

Spilomis cheela

25           Eastern Marsh Harrier

Circus spilonotus

26           Japanese Sparrowhawk

Accipiter gularis

27           Besra

Accipiter virgatus

28           Crested Goshawk

Accipiter trivirgatus

29           Chinese Goshawk

Accipiter soloensis

30           Grey-faced Buzzard

Butastur indicus

31           Common Buzzard

Buteo buteo

32           Greater Spotted Eagle

Aquila clanga

33           Booted Eagle

Hieraaetus pennatus

34           Rufous-bellied Eagle

Hieraaetus kienerii

35           Changeable Hawk-Eagle

Spizaetus cirrhatus

36           Blyth’s Hawk-Eagle

Spizaetus alboniger

37           Common Kestrel

Falco tinnunculus

38           Peregrine Falcon

Falco peregrinus

39           Slaty-breasted Rail

Rallus striatus

40           Red-legged Crake

Rallina fasciata

41           White-breasted Waterhen

Amauromis phoenicurus

42           Common Sandpiper

Actitis hypoleucos

43           Oriental Pratincole

Glareola maldivarum

44           Black-naped Tern

Stema sumatrana

45           Little Tern

Stema albifrons

46           Thick-billed Green-Pigeon

Treron curvirostra

47           Pink-necked Green-Pigeon

Treron vemans

48           Jambu Fruit-dove

Ptilinopus jambu

49           Green Imperial Pigeon

Ducula aenea

50           Pied Imperial Pigeon

Ducula bicolor

51           Rock Pigeon

Columba livia

52           Spotted Dove

Streptopelia chinensis

53           Zebra Dove

Geopelia striata

54           Emerald Dove

Chalcophaps indica

55           Rose-ringed Parakeet

Psittacula krameri

56           Long-tailed Parakeet

Psittacula longicauda

57           Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot

Loriculus galgulus

58           Yellow-crested Cockatoo

Cacatua sulphurea

59           Tanimbar Cockatoo

Cacatua goffini

60           Large Hawk-Cuckoo

Hierococcyx sparverioides

61           Hodgson’s Hawk-Cuckoo

Hierococcyx fugax

62           Indian Cuckoo

Cuculus micropterus

63           Plaintive Cuckoo

Cacomantis merulinus

64           Rusty-breasted Cuckoo

Cacomantis sepulcralis

65           Violet Cuckoo

Chrysococcyx xanthorhynchus

66           Little Bronze-Cuckoo

Chrysococcyx minutillus

67           Drongo Cuckoo

Surniculus lugubris

68           Asian Koel

Eudynamys scolopacea

69           Greater Coucal

Centropus Sinensis

70           Lesser Coucal

Centropus bengalensis

71           Oriental Scops-Owl

Otus sunia

72           Collared Scops-Owl

Otus bakkamoena

73           Brown Hawk-Owl

Ninox scutulate

74           Spotted Wood-Owl

Strix seloputo

75           Grey Nightjar

Caprimulgus indicus

76           Large-tailed Nightjar

Caprimulgus macrurus

77           Savanna Nightjar

Caprimulgus affinis

78           Waterfall Swift

Hydrochrous gigas

79           Edible-nest Swiftlet

Callocalia fuciphaga

80           Black-nest Swiftlet

Callocalia maxima

81           Himalayan Swiftlet

Callocalia brevirostris

82           Silver-backed Needletail

Hirundapus cochinchinensis

83           Brown-backed Needletail

Hirundapus giganteus

84           Fork-tailed Swift

Apus pacificus

85           House Swift

Apus affinis

86           Asian Palm Swift

Cypsiurus balasiensis

87           Grey-rumped Treeswift

Hemiprocne longipennis

88           Common Kingfisher

Alcedo atthis

89           White-throated Kingfisher

Halcyon smymensis

90           Black-capped Kingfisher

Halcyon pileata

91           Collared Kingfisher

Todiramphus chloris

92           Blue-tailed Bee-eater

Merops philippinus

93           Blue-throated Bee-eater

Merops viridis

94           Dollarbird

Eurystomus orientalis

95           Coppersmith Barbet

Megalaima haemacephala

96           Rufous Woodpecker

Celeus brachyurus

97           Laced Woodpecker

Picus vittatus

98           Branded Woodpecker

Picus miniaceus

99           Common Flameback

Dinopium javanense

100        Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker

Dendrocopus moluccensis

101        Barn Swallow

Hirundo rustica

102        Pacific Swallow

Hirundo tahitica

103        Red-rumped Swallow

Hirundo daurica

104        Asian House Martin

Delichon dasypus

105        Pied Triller

Lalage nigra

106        Ashy Minivet

Pericrocotus divaricatus

107        Common lora

Aegithina tiphia

108        Blue-winged Leafbird

Chloropsis cochinchinensis

109        Red-whiskered Bulbul

Pycnonotus jocosus

110        Yellow-vented Bulbul

Pycnonotus goiavier

111        Olive-winged Bulbul

Pycnonotus plumosus

112        Ashy Bulbul

Hemixos flavala

113        Black Drongo

Dicrurus macrocercus

114        Ashy Drongo

Dicrurus leucophaeus

115        Crow-billed Drongo

Dicrurus annectans

116        Greater Racket-tailed Drongo

Dicrurus paradiseus

117        Black-naped Oriole

Oriolus chinensis

118        House Crow

Corvus splendens

119        Large-billed Crow

Corvus macrorhynchos

120        Abbott’s Babbler

Malacocincla abbotti

121        Striped Tit Babbler

Macronous gularis

122        White-crested Launghingthrush

Garrulax leucolophus

123        Hwamei

Garrulax canorus

124        Siberian Blue Robin

Luscinia cyane

125        Oriental Magpie Robin

Copsychus saularis

126        White-rumped Shama

Copsychus malabaricus

127        Siberian Thrush

Zoothera sibirica

128        Eyebrowed Thrush

Turdus obscurus

129        Golden-bellied Gerygone

Gerygone sulphurea

130        Yellow-browed Warbler

Phylloscopus inornatus

131        Arctic Warbler

Phylloscopus borealis

132        Eastern Crowned Warbler

Phylloscopus coronatus

133        Oriental Reed Warbler

Acrocephalus orientalis

134        Black-browed Reed Warbler

Acrocephalus bistrigiceps

135        Common Tailorbird

Orthotomus sutorius

136        Dark-necked Tailorbird

Orthotomus atrogularis

137        Ashy Tailorbird

Orthotomus ruficeps

138        Rufous-tailed Tailorbird

Orthotomus sericeus

139        Zitting Cisticola

Cisticola juncidis

140        Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher

Rhinomyias brunneata

141        Dark-sided Flycatcher

Muscicapa sibirica

142        Asian Brown Flycatcher

Muscicapa dauurica

143        Brown-streaked Flycatcher

Muscicapa williamsoni

144        Ferruginous Flycatcher

Muscicapa ferruginea

145        Yellow-rumped Flycatcher

Ficedula zanthopygia

146        Narcissus Flycatcher

Ficedula narcissina

147        Mugimaki Flycatcher

Ficedula mugimaki

148        Blue-and-White Flycatcher

Cyanoptila cyanomelana

149        Pied Fantail

Rhipidura javanica

150        Asian Paradise-Flycatcher

Terpsiphone paradisi

151        Grey Wagtail

Motacilla cinerea

152        Yellow Wagtail

Motacilla flava

153        Forest Wagtail

Dendronanthus indicus

154        Paddyfield Pipit

Anthus refulus

155        Brown Shrike

Lanius cristatus

156        Tiger Shrike

Lanius tigrinus

157        Long-tailed Shrike

Lanius schach

158        Asian Glossy Starling

Aplonis panayensis

159        White-shouldered Starling

Stumus sinensis

160        Purple-backed Starling

Sturnus sturninus

161        Common Myna

Acridotheres tristis

162        Javan Myna

Acridotheres javanicus

163        Crested Myna

Acridotheres cristatellus

164        Hill Myna

Gracula religiosa

165        Brown-throated Sunbird

Anthreptes malacensis

166        Purple-throated Sunbird

Nectarinia sperata

167        Olive-backed Sunbird

Nectarinia jugularis

168        Crimson Sunbird

Aethopyga siparaja

169        Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker

Dicaeum cruentatum

170        Japanese White-eye

Zosterops japonicus

171        Oriental White-eye

Zosterops palpebrosus

172        Eurasian Tree Sparrow

Passer montanus

173        Baya Weaver

Ploceus philippinus

174        Java Sparrow

Lonchura oryzivora

175        White-rumped Munia

Lonchura striata

176        Javan Munia

Lonchura leucogastroides

177        Scaly-breasted Munia

Lonchura punctulata

178        Black-headed Munia

Loncgura malacca

179        White-headed Munia

Lonchura maja

 

 

Escapees

Palm Cockatoo

African Grey Parrot

Great-billed Parrot

Yellow-naped Amazon

Rainbow Lory

Great Hornbill

Golden-fronted Leafbird

Blue Magpie

Greater Necklaced Launghingthush

Black-throated Laungingthrush

Black-winged Starling

Chestnut Munia

Chestnut-flanked White-eye

   

Bird records compiled from observations made by Richard Ollington, Angus Lamont & Subaraj Rajathurai

   

This field checklist was prepared by

Subaraj Rajathurai

      Natural History / Birding Consultant & Guide
Blk 127, Tampines St 11,  
#09-444, Singapore 521127  
Tel/Fax: (065) 6787-7048  
E-Mail: serin@swiftech.com.sg  
August 25th, 2002

Other Vertebrates Recorded

Common Fruit Bat

Cynoptrus brachyotis

Asiatic Yellow House Bat

Scotophilus kuhlii

Plantain Squirrel

Callosciurus notatus

Painted Bronzeback

Dendrelaphis pictus

Oriental Whip Snake

Ahaetulla prasina

Black Spitting Cobra

Naja sumatrana

Amphibious Sea Snake

Laticauda colubrine

Malayan Water Monitor

Varanus salvator

Common Sun Skink

Mabuya multifasciata

Common Flying Dragon

Draco Volans

Green-crested Lizard

Bronchocela cristatella

Changeable Lizard

Calotes versicolor

Red-eared Terrapin

Trachemys scripta

Malayan Box Terrapin

Cuora amboinensis

Asian Toad

Bufo melanostictus

Common Tilapia

Oreochromis mossambicus

Common Carp

Cyprinus carpio

Giant Snakehead

Channa micropeltis

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