An update on the Frigatebird retrieved earlier this month by the good people at Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES). The bird was reported to ACRES on 9 October 2015 by a member of the public near Marina South Pier, where he said that the bird was first spotted entangled in fishing line by construction workers in the area. He also mentioned that the construction workers saw the frigatebird with a fish and hook in its beak, and despite their best efforts were unable to stop the bird from swallowing both fish and hook, although the workers were able to free the bird from the fishing line.
When the ACRES wildlife rescue team picked up the bird, they found the bird in a very weak condition and so passed it on to the Bird Park for rehabilitation. Unfortunately, the bird did not survive for long, and NEA suspects that the fishing hook may have been the cause of death (they found the hook in the stomach when they dissected the bird). Up until this point, it was generally assumed that the bird was a Christmas Island Frigatebird (Fregata andrewsi), but a closer examination (with advice from Lau Jiasheng and Lim Kim Seng) shows that this is in fact a Lesser Frigatebird (Fregata ariel), a very rare non-breeding visitor to the Singapore Straits, as can be seen by the black ventral patch extending into the lower belly and the absence of an incomplete black breast band.
This Lesser Frigatebird had swallowed a baited fish hook and was found entangled in the fishing line at Marina South Pier.
Unfortunately, even with the help of the bird keepers and vets at Jurong Bird Park, the poor bird eventually passed away.
The use of glass is considered aesthetically appealing in building construction. However, many birds lose their lives flying into these glass windows as they are not able to differentiate between a reflection off a hard surface and an open area.
Seabirds like this one, face not only problems from glass buildings, but also mistaking fish bait as easy meals.
I had the rare but sad privilege of transporting the body of Singapore’s first known record of the White-tailed Tropicbird (Phaethon lepturus) from the Bird Park, where the exhausted bird spent its final days under the expert care of their vets, to the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum’s Cryo Collection, where it will eventually be skinned and preserved for scientific research. We have just taken a chunk of breast muscle tissue from the bird for DNA work, which is why you can see that bird has a massive chest wound.
The yellow wash of this bird’s plumage suggests that it belongs to the fulvus subspecies, which is known to breed only on Christmas Island.
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.
Yet another avian casualty of urbanisation. This female Cinnamon Bittern (Ixobrychus cinnamomeus) was found alone and terrified just outside Simei MRT Station earlier this evening.
Despite her best attempts to escape, the sheer volume of human traffic and the tight packing of urban pillars resulted in the bittern flying into a wall and subsequently dying. The poor thing is now back in the lab and will be preserved in the name of science.
Birds may face threats from various factors. In a highly urbanised environment like ours, glass windows and reflective surfaces pose a threat too. A lot of research is being carried out on the impact of this, and there are ways to mitigate. We do come across several cases of window collisions, and fortunately some of the birds do pull through following the members of public getting help, incubation and right way of handling. Unfortunately, some do not make it, like these birds in the picture. Thanks to our callers for trying their best to get help for these birds who go into a period of shock after knocking onto the glass. But for those unfortunate ones, who pass away, please do report your sightings at http://tinyurl.com/SGBirdCrash to contribute to an ongoing survey by the Nature Society Singapore.
I’ve contacted David Tan, who received these carcasses, for further information. The heron on the right, which was found at Sentosa Cove, is thought to be a pond heron (most likely Chinese Pond Heron) (Ardeola bacchus). The carcass in the lower left of the photo is a female Asian Fairy Bluebird (Irena puella), found at Asia Square Tower. Unfortunately, there is no locality data for the Black-backed Kingfisher (Ceyx erithacus) in the upper left.
Lu-Ann and I saw a group of men kill a Black Bittern (Ixobrychus flavicollis) in University of the Philippines Diliman earlier today. Really senseless act of violence. This species is uncommon in the Philippines and extremely rare in the campus (the last documented sighting in the campus that I know of was in 2008). It should be a source of pride for U.P. Diliman that there’s a Black Bittern in its grounds! We reported the killing and showed the photos to two guards. I really hope U.P.’s guards understand that the place is a sanctuary for wildlife, and understand the concept of respecting wildlife. I hope the U.P. leadership does something to protect more effectively the wildlife that seek shelter in its grounds. What a waste of life.
Additional info added 11-10-14: Just to avoid any misconception, the bittern was standing on a muddy part of the lagoon when it was killed by repeated blows to the head with a piece of wood and a jungle bolo. Why a man openly carrying a jungle bolo is allowed to walk around in campus is something that U.P.’s officials should ask its security force. Before it was killed, the bittern may have been already incapacitated in some way, or maybe was exhausted from a long trip, and that’s why it wasn’t able to fly off when the men approached and killed it. This species is usually very wary of humans and would have flown away at the first hint of danger.