Loyang (Squance) Rock and the Black-Naped Tern

Photo by Morten Strange.

Sir T. Stamford Raffles, founder of modern Singapore, described this species of tern in 1822, and many other animals during his career. See Raffles the naturalist. - Webpage of the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research at the National University of Singapore.

T. S. Raffles, 1822. Second part of the descriptive catalogue of a zoological collection made in the island of Sumatra and its vicinity. Trans. Linn Soc. Lond., 14. [p. 329] "Sterna sumatrana. A small species with short tail, and wings about the same length with it. The prevailing colour is white, tinged on the back, head and wing-coverts with light reddish-brown, and mixed with a few dark spots. A blackish crescent extends from eye [p.330] to eye round the back of the head. Wing-feathers lead-grey, the first one nearly black. Lower parts snow-white. Tail of the same as the back."

"The Loyang Rock or Squance Rock has been the traditional nesting site for the Black-naped Tern for a few decades now... The site is the only known continuous nesting site for this species in Singapore.The Black-naped Terns start arriving to the waters around the rock in March and nest between April to August." - Subaraj Rajathurai.

Black-naped Tern, Sterna sumatrana Raffles, 1822


From: Joseph Lai
Date: Tue, 17 Sep 2002

Hi Siva,

can you...contribute to the knowledge of the Tern's nesting rock off the coast of Fairy Point. Get public educated. Heard from people that the nest are being raid by poachers for their eggs.

If URA's coastal boardwalk is not on the rock, but at less 20m or so from the rock, the tern's habitat can be a real treat for visitors in future - a great item on the boardwalk's itinerary of things to see.

...See attached map by URA....

Ok.. enough of birds... back to plants : )



Notes on the Black-naped Tern, from Taiwan's Ecological Conservation



Proposed URA Boardwalk.

Source: URA (to be updated).

The bird on the dollar note.

The bird on stamps and badges.

Singapore featured the Balck-naped Tern on our dollar note, issued 6th August 1976.
For a nice clear photo, see


From: Morten Strange, in reference to the dollar note pictured above
Sent: 18th August 2002.

Dear Siva,

This drawing must have been made from Loke Wan Tho's photograph, pose and angle is just like the picture published in his autobiography, A Company of Birds (London, 1957).

I visited the rock with Lim Kim Keang some 10 years back, I don't have a digital scan from that day but I have used these pictures probably some 40-odd times, you are welcome to scan from any of my books. In the one I did with Allen J. on Sun Tree in 1993 we also show a picture of the nest. My classic shot looks something like this:

All the best,


Photo by Morten Strange, c.1992.
(used with permission).

Photo by Datok Loke Wan Tho, c.1950's.
Photograph from a picture on the wall of the Seminar Room at
Bukit Timah Nature Reserve Visitor Centre taken by Benjamin Lee.

15 cents stamp, issued in Singapore,
9th November 1966 

Black-naped tern on international stamps


On a school badge - "The Black-Naped tern, poised for flight, represents the Braddell-Westlake pupil, determined to take on challenges to achieve his purpose in life."

Listen to what it sounds like (Mangoverde.com)



Loke Wan Tho

Wan Tho Avenue in Sennett Estate is named after the "King of Movies", Loke Wan Tho. His personal photographic works on birds can be found at Jurong Bird Park where a memorial library has been constructed in his honour. - Shirley Tan-Oehler, 2002. Three Kings. Highway Magazine, May 2002.

The Selegie Arts Centre at Selegie Road was allocated to The Photographic Society of Singapore (PSS) in 1995. The gallery on the 3rd storey was named Loke Wan Tho Gallery in memory of one of the Society's most distinguished member, Datok Loke Wan Tho.


Tongue in Cheek

The other Loyang Rock.

Loyang - "a marshy land known for it's art and cuisine", in the land of Pheona.

Notes on their breeding and rrarity to us in Singapore.

Photos by Chua Ee Kiam

From: Subaraj Rajathurai
Date: Wed, 18 Sep 2002

Dear Siva,

The Loyang Rock or Squance Rock has been the traditional nesting site for the Black-naped Tern for a few decades now and a photo was taken there way back by Dato Loke Wan Toh himself. The site is the only known continuous nesting site for this species in Singapore. There have been a few nesting records from a few rocks around Tekong and Ubin but these are merely temporary and often disturbed locations.

The Black-naped Terns start arriving to the waters around the rock in March and nest between April to August. From September to March they spend their time offshore, mainly in the South China Sea. The colony has regularly been disturbed by fishermen poaching eggs all these years. Nevertheless, the birds keep returning to nest here year after year. A good observation point from land is the government house at Fairy Point Hill.

The importance of conserving this rock has been brought to the attention of the government before, especially with regards to any possible development that may be proposed for that part of the coast. As Joe has pointed out, if properly planned with enough distance between the nesting rock and boardwalk this site can add to the attractiveness of the coastal walkway, along with any shore habitats that exist.

The terns have just left and will not return until March nest year. It will be therefore difficult to show the true value of the site first-hand. Morten Strange has actually photographed the nesting birds and one option may be to obtain a couple of his photos to demonstrate the nesting colony.

If you need any further input, let me know. I am glad that the natural importance of Changi is being carefully considered prior to development. Thanks and take care!


Subaraj Rajathurai


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