More birds crash into Singapore buildings

By Feng Zengkun, 2nd June 2015;

Between September last year and April, at least 20 birds crashed into buildings in Singapore’s central region, according to preliminary results of a study by the Nature Society (Singapore), or NSS.

This is the period when most migratory birds arrive and leave here each year.

In total, there were 47 collisions documented by the society’s Bird Group.

The group said last month that birdwatchers had found an increasing number of dead or injured migratory birds in urban areas since the 1990s.

More than 100 species and thousands of birds pass through Singapore each year, including the Blue-winged Pitta (Pitta moluccensis) and the large, wading Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus).

To understand the extent of such migratory bird collisions in Singapore, the Bird Group started a five-year survey last year to document these accidents.

It aims to identify bird species which are prone to crashing, where and when the accidents happen, and aspects of the urban landscape that may prove hazardous.

People can report such incidents through an online form.

The group also worked with an avian genetics laboratory at the National University of Singapore (NUS) which collected the dead birds.

The Bird Group found that the top three bird families affected were pittas (F. Pittidae), flycatchers (F. Muscicapidae) and kingfishers (F. Alcedinidae and F. Halcyonidae).

Mr Albert Low, who authored the report, said: “These three families are predominantly nocturnal migrants. These birds may be especially vulnerable to collisions with lighted structures owing to the multitude of high-rise, intensely-lit housing and office blocks, which are a feature of Singapore’s skyline.”

The lights can distract the birds from cues they receive from the stars and moon.

The creatures could also crash into buildings because they are attracted to the light, or might circle the buildings until they become exhausted.

NUS Department of Biological Sciences research assistant David Tan said the glass on the buildings may be so reflective that it seems to be the sky.

He said one way to reduce such accidents is to put decals or louvres on the windows to make the buildings more visible to birds.

More research is needed to determine why such collisions happen, he added.

Singapore could also look to other countries. The city of Calgary in Canada, for example, has bird-friendly, voluntary guidelines for buildings, including using blinds to make clear glass more opaque or angling glass downwards so it does not reflect the sky.

In April, the government of New York in the United States announced that all of its state-owned and managed buildings will turn off non-essential outdoor lighting from 11pm to dawn during peak bird migration periods to reduce such collisions.

If you see an injured or dead bird that may have flown into a building, take photographs of it and go to

Source: The Straits Times (Mirror)

More birds crash into Singapore buildings

  • Fork-tailed Drongo-cuckoo (Surniculus dicruroides)
  • Chestnut-winged Cuckoo (Clamator coromandus)
  • Blue-winged Pitta (Pitta moluccensis)
  • Black Bittern (Ixobrychus flavicollis)

Migratory Bird Collisions in Singapore
By Francis Yap, 15th May 2015;

The Black Bittern was exhausted. He had covered hundreds of kilometres during the night. Now the Sun was rising and it was time to find a suitable place to take a breather and find some food. However, everywhere he looked he saw the brightly lit outlines of concrete giants as far as the eye could see. Just then, he saw it. The first rays of sunlight had revealed a giant covered in greenery and, best of all, the unmistakable shimmering outline of a pond in the centre. The bittern changed course and made a beeline for the pond. Breakfast beckoned…

Singapore lies along a major migratory path along the East Asian-Australian Migratory Flyway (EAAF), undoubtedly Asia’s most important migratory flyway. Used by hundreds of millions of migratory birds annually, more than 100 migratory species pass Singapore on their migratory journeys to destinations further south, the most conspicuous being the shorebirds that can be easily observed in our wetland reserves. Less well known to the public are the songbirds, and other migratory landbirds like cuckoos, nightjars and kingfishers. Many of these species migrate at night, and while their journeys are fairly well documented in Europe and North America, species that migrate in eastern Asia remain very poorly known.

The phenomenon of migratory bird collisions is well-studied in North America, where estimates of birds killed range into the high hundreds of millions per annum, with the majority of these collisions occurring in heavily urbanised areas like New York City. According to scientists, these migratory collisions occur for two reasons. Firstly, many migratory birds migrating at night rely on stellar patterns in the sky for navigation, and thus may be misled by artificial lighting from man-made structures, drawing them in and leading to collisions. Secondly, birds are unable to distinguish reflections from real trees and greenery. As a result, birds flying through urban areas that have vegetation may be drawn to the reflections from windows. Either way, avian victims of these collisions are often too severely injured to proceed with their migrations, or otherwise perish.

Although the issue of bird collisions is unfamiliar to many Singaporeans, there have been an increasing number of reports from birdwatchers who were finding dead or injured migratory birds in urban areas beginning from the 1990s. To understand the extent of migratory bird collisions in Singapore, the Bird Group started a long-term (5 year) survey to document these collisions better. Our study aimed to 1) identify bird species that are prone to these collisions, 2) identify the geographical distribution of these collisions, 3) determine which time of the year these collisions are most frequent and 4) identify aspects of the urban landscape that may increase the risks of these collisions.

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Source: Singapore Bird Group

The carcasses of a Blue-winged Pitta (Pitta moluccensis) (left) and Chestnut-winged Cuckoo (Clamator coromandus), both migratory birds, spotted in Jurong.

For birds, skyscrapers can mean fatal collision
Many die yearly after crashing into buildings here: Nature Society
By Lim Yi Han, 13th October 2014;

Singapore’s skyline may be revered by tourists but it is spelling death for scores of migratory birds.

The Nature Society (Singapore) has found that every year, many of these birds die after hitting skyscrapers here.

While millions of birds worldwide also die in this way, many studies have been done to mitigate the problem overseas. The society, however, noted that such a phenomenon is “chronically understudied” in Asia.

With the avian migratory season under way, the Nature Society’s Bird Group has started a survey and is asking for those who have witnessed dead or injured migratory birds here to come forward.

It plans to collect information from now until next May and release a preliminary report by late next year. There are plans to run the survey for at least five years to observe short-term trends.

Mr Yong Ding Li, 30, a coordinator of the project, said such crashes may lead to a loss in the bird population, which is already in decline due to habitat loss, hunting and climate change.

“If we know which species are more affected, and what settings increase their risk of crashes, we might then be able to make recommendations to mitigate this,” said Mr Yong, a graduate student specialising in ecology and bird conservation at the Australian National University.

Each year, some 2,000 migratory birds from countries like Russia, Mongolia, China and Japan arrive in Sungei Buloh in August and September for a respite from harsh winters, said the National Parks Board. Some fly off again, heading to Australia or Indonesia, while others live in Sungei Buloh and surrounding areas till the next March or April.

Mr Yong explained that migratory birds crash into buildings because many fly at night. They are often attracted to, or disoriented by, the lighting from buildings, as they navigate using star patterns of the night sky. They may also be confused by the reflection of trees and sky on the buildings’ exterior.

Strix Wildlife Consultancy director Subaraj Rajathurai, 51, noting that the study was interesting and worthwhile, said: “We know this is happening but we don’t know on what scale.

"But it’s not an easy study to do because we have such an efficient clean-up system in Singapore… Our clean-up crew may sweep away the dead birds before anyone wakes up.”

Bird Ecology Study Group co-founder Wee Yeow Chin, 77, said: “In other countries, there are architectural adaptations so that birds don’t crash. This study can help us find out the extent of the tragedy and whether we need to take some steps to crack down on this.”

Visit to help in the survey.

Source: The Straits Times (Mirror 1) (Mirror 2)

Hi all,

A few of us from the Nature Society (Singapore) are conducting a survey of migratory bird crashes in Singapore to understand where they are most frequent, which species are the most affected, why they occur, and what can be done to better protect them. As the migratory season is now in full swing, it is expected that the number of such crashes will steadily increase across Singapore. We would appreciate if you could take a couple of minutes to fill in our online form at should you come across dead or injured birds in and around urban areas. Thank you very much for your participation!

If you find birds that are already dead, you should contact David Tan from NUS Bird Lab to deposit the specimens, which can then be used for research purposes.

Source: Singapore Bird Group Facebook

The 2 birds pictured are a Black Bittern (Ixobrychus flavicollis) and Hooded Pitta (Pitta sordida).