Picked up 3 carcasses today in Singapore, one Yellow Bittern (Ixobrychus sinensis) (top), and two Blue-winged Pittas (Pitta moluccensis) (below). The Pittas died after crashing into glass (seems like the main migratory wave is passing through right about now) and the Bittern was found exhausted in the middle of a carpark but died shortly after.

Source: David Tan, in Dead Birds (for Science!) Facebook

Blue-winged Pitta (Pitta moluccensis)
Tanjong Katong, 20th April 2015

This photo of a Blue-winged Pitta that had died within a school compound was shared on Facebook by Jo Teo.

Find out how you can contribute to Monday Morgue too.

Never shot a Blue-winged Pitta (Pitta moluccensis) in my few years of birding and now I see this next to my bar. 😦 It is very sad that during migration season, many birds die from exhaustion, crash etc.

Source: Bernard Seah Facebook

  • 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

Two bird carcasses today. The one on the left is a Coppersmith Barbet (Psilopogon haemacephalus), a common resident species more often heard than seen, found dead in St. John’s Island. The one on the right is a migrating Blue-winged Pitta (Pitta moluccensis), the second in 2 days, found in the middle of the parade square at Marina Bay Fire Station.

A close-up view of the Coppersmith Barbet’s head. It was bleeding from its beak when first found, probably the result of some form of blunt impact.

Source: David Tan Instagram [1], [2]

Another dead Blue-winged Pitta (Pitta moluccensis) – the second one this migratory season – found at a playground in Jurong West. Seems like it may have survived flying into a window and died of internal injuries later.

Source: David Tan Instagram

Around 2 days ago I was informed of a Blue-winged Pitta (Pitta moluccensis) that flew into a person’s house by accident. This isn’t all that surprising an occurrence since Blue-winged Pittas are currently on migration and are quite prone to getting lost in urban areas.

I made contact with the lady whose house the bird had flown into and advised her to call the ACRES: Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Singapore) 24hr animal rescue helpline so they could conduct a health evaluation and rehabilitate the bird for release if it was injured.

The lady, however, seemed to have other plans for the bird and was extremely reluctant to release the bird into ACRES’s care, insisting instead that she could look after the bird for at least one night. She also mentioned that she tried feeding papayas to the bird, even though the Blue-winged Pitta is an insectivore and will only feed on insects and other invertebrates.

She assured me that she was only going to keep the bird for one night and call ACRES the next day to have them pick up the bird. I called her again the next day to follow up on the case and found that not only had she not called ACRES, she suddenly seemed very intent on releasing the bird back into the wild herself. After some prodding, however, she also admitted that she wanted to keep the bird for another 2 more days. Once again, I strongly advised her to have ACRES pick up the bird since wild birds are not only difficult to look after without proper training, but are also illegal to keep under section 5 of the Wild Birds and Animals Act. She once again reassured me that she would call ACRES when she got home from work.

At around 8pm I received a call from the lady and she was clearly quite flustered. She informed me that although she had been providing the bird with food via her maid, she arrived home to find the bird unmoving and unresponsive. It was only at this point that she decided to call ACRES, who arrived to find the bird dead.

The tragedy of this whole incident is that this could have entirely been avoided had the lady surrendered the bird to the animal rescue experts at ACRES instead of trying to look after the bird herself.

Wild animals are just that – wild – and they are not the same as pets. They have not adapted to a domesticated lifestyle and this is especially so for the normally forest floor-dwelling Blue-winged Pitta.

The situation echoes the incident with the bat just over a month ago. Had the person called for professionals to rehabilitate and release the bat instead of treating it like a pet, then the loss of life could’ve entirely been avoided.

If you should come across a live wild animal in distress, please don’t try to be a hero. The potential loss of an animal’s life should far outweigh whatever brief sense of gratification one can gain from rescuing an animal. Call the ACRES animal rescue hotline at 97837782 instead.

Source: David Tan Facebook

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 http://tinyurl.com/SGBirdCrash to help in the survey.

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