Most Common Bird
By Lim Kim Seng
Photos by Ong Kiem Sian
Which is Singapore's most common bird? Is it the House Crow, Javan
Myna or Eurasian Tree-sparrow? Has the population of these and other
resident birds increased, decreased or remain unchanged?
These were some of the questions which the Nature Society (Singapore)
Bird Group wanted to find out when the Second Mid-Year Bird Census
(MYBC) was organised earlier this year.
Unlike other censuses, this was conducted over a full weekend, with
Saturday dedicated to counting birds in our "backyards"our gardens,
parks and any green oasis near home, and Sunday reserved for key sites,
most of which have already been identified as conservation areas in
the Singapore Green Plan. This arrangement was made so that birds
in the more urbanised areas were counted in order to balance the bias
towards the biologically richer areas of previous surveys.
Although the MYBC is only in its second year in Singapore, it has
been conducted in various guises in many other countries, including
Australia, the US and the UK. These surveys have names like Common
Bird Census, Breeding Bird Census and Christmas Bird Count, and have
been very popular among birdwatchers.
It is hoped that the MYBC will continue to be conducted annually as
it serves two important functions. Firstly, to collect data on bird
populations and distribution, which when accumulated over the years,
will help us analyse and mitigate adverse population trends, especially
for globally and nationally threatened birds. In addition, it will
also serve as an indicator of the state of health of our natural environment.
Secondly, the census is a great means of promoting the past-time of
birdwatching and nature appreciation, and encouraging nature education
to the converted as well as to the initiated.
In MYBC 2001, 29 sites throughout Singapore were counted by 48 dedicated
birdwatchers and the final tally of birds came to an impressive 8,417
birds from 115 species. The results were better than the previous
census and were due in part to the warm, sunny weather although the
rather high tide affected counts at some coastal sites. Out of the
115 species counted, five were overstaying migrants and included two
shorebirds, one tern and two egrets.
Coming out tops in MYBC 2001 was the Javan Myna, a bird from Java
first detected in Singapore in the 1920s, with 1,152 birds. This is
only slightly less than the 1,243 birds from the 2000 count when it
was also the most abundant species recorded. However it demonstrated
very clearly that the familiar, cocky Javan Myna is Singapore's commonest
bird. It was also very widespread, being present in virtually all
sites counted except for the forest interior.
The second most common resident bird was the House Crow, with 892
birds counted. Its numbers didn't drop even though there has been
a lot of publicity in the mass media of late on the culling of this
species through shooting and trapping. Perhaps this introduced bird
is a lot more intelligent and versatile than people give it credit
Coming in third was the indigenous Asian Glossy Starling, with 648
birds. This is the same as MYBC 2000 but compare this with F.N. Chasen's
observation of birdlife in Singapore in the 1920s.
His top three birds were Eurasian Tree-sparrow, Oriental Magpie-robin
and Yellow-vented Bulbul! The comparison illustrates the changing
fortunes of birds in the last intervening 80 years as Singapore's
natural environment changes from one which was largely rural to the
urbanised city-state of the present day.
Asian Glossy Starling
|The sparrow is now ranked seventh while the magpie-robin
is nationally threatened although showing encouraging signs of recovery
and now ranks number 32. In contrast, the Yellow-vented Bulbul had
remained pretty static, slipping just one position to fourth, which
is perhaps a good indication of its adaptability to parks and gardens
and open, wooded areas.
Other birds in the top 10 positions for MYBC 2001 (see 10 Most Abundant
table) included Pacific Swallow, Pink- necked Green-pigeon, Common
Myna, Black-naped Oriole and Olive-backed Sunbird, all familiar birds
of urban areas as well as our gardens and parks.
Mid-Year Bird Census
10 Most Abundant Birds
Here are the 10 most abundant birds in 2001
(Numbers in brackets indicate totals
and ranking in 2000)
Myna: 1152 (1243, 1)
2. House Crow: 892 (801, 2)
3. Asian Glossy Starling: 648 (540, 3)
4. Yellow-vented Bulbul: 476 (413, 4)
5. Pacific Swallow: 374 (295, 5)
6. Pink-necked Green-pigeon: 300 (247, 6)
7. Eurasian Tree-sparrow: 229 (176, 10)
8. Common Myna: 229 (124, 17)
9. Black-naped Oriole: 214 (186, 8)
10. Olive-backed Sunbird: 195 (145, 14)
Number of birds counted: 8417
Number of species recorded: 115
Number of resident versus migrant species: 110/5
Number of observers: 48
Number of sites counted: 29
Site with most number of species: 53
Site with least number of species: Bukit Brown (19)
Site with biggest number of birds: Kampong Nordin, Pulau Ubin (677)
Site with lowest number of birds: Bukit Timah (87)
Mid-Year Bird Census
10 Most Common Birds
(Based on MYBC 2000-2001 data)
numbers indicate totals and averages
for both years combined
Myna: 2395, 1198
2. House Crow: 1693, 847
3. Asian Glossy Starling: 1188, 594
4. Yellow-vented Bulbul: 889, 445
5. Pacific Swallow: 669, 335
6. Pink-necked Green-pigeon: 574, 274
7. Eurasian Tree-sparrow: 405, 203
8. Black-naped Oriole: 400, 200
9. Spotted Dove: 375, 188
10. Rock Pigeon: 375, 188
| Combining the data for MYBC 2000 and 2001 gives us
the latest update on our most common resident birds (see 10 Most Common
Birds table). It's no surprise to see the Javan Myna, House Crow and
Asian Glossy Starling occupying the top three positions.
But will it be the same 10, 20, 80 years from now? Only time and more
MYBCs will tell.
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