Even if bird watching is not your thing, there are some interesting and beautiful birds in Singapore. Most of them don’t hang around the CBD much, but they are out there. Here are seven types for you to get to know for when you spot one.
Oriental Pied Hornbill
This large black-and-white bird lives high in tree canopies, mostly on Pulau Ubin and near Changi. Its trademark bill has a knob on top known as a casque, made of honeycombed tissue. The bird’s loud call has been described as a cross between a cackling witch and a monkey! Hornbills mostly eat fruit and small critters such as lizards. Unfortunately, this beauty is listed as critically endangered.
Did you know? The male hornbill helps to seal the female into a suitable hole in a tree, leaving only a slit for slipping food in, protecting the chicks until they’re strong enough to leave the nest.
The most common bird in Singapore was brought to Singapore as a pet in the 1920s. Now? You can find them everywhere – to the point that some people hate them. The early bird gets the worm, and mynahs get up early to scavenge insects, fruit and leftover human food and hawker scraps. They can be aggressive about food, boldly working an area as a group.
Did you know? Researchers believe the prevalence of the mynah may be contributing to the decline of other Singapore bird numbers.
You can recognise this stunner by its bright yellow colour with black on its wings and over its eyes – like a masked crusader. They’re fun to watch, too. Courtship is like a chase scene from a Tom Cruise movie, taking place at high speeds with the male in hot pursuit of the female. Their songs can be melodious and beautiful; at other times, they sound more like a cat. And, like cats, they chase other birds and often raid their nests.
Did you know? This oriole has been featured on Singapore currency in the past.
Though these are Singapore’s smallest egrets, they make a sound more like a big turkey. The species faces no threat of extinction, maybe because of their cool hunting technique: they stalk prey in shallow water, often running with raised wings or shuffling their feet to get small fish moving. On land, they do the same thing to snag an occasional reptile or insect.
Did you know? You can find them in wetland areas, often in flocks.
Asian Glossy Starling
Ever been on Orchard around sunset and heard what feels like millions of birds chirping all at once? Those are starlings. They’re kind of lazy (or smart maybe?), nesting in manmade spots such as abandoned buildings, before congregating in trees or on high wires for their nightly party. They often swallow fruit whole, helping to distribute seeds.
Did you know? On first sight, they look black, but they’re actually an iridescent green, with red eyes.
These beautiful small yellow songbirds are common in Singapore and really share the load when it comes to child-rearing. Together, they build a cool, flask-shaped nest where the female will lay one or two blue-green eggs. After the chicks hatch, both the male and female bring them food.
Did you know? You can tell the male apart from the female as he has a beautiful blue breast.
These multi-coloured beauties are related to woodpeckers and are quite common in Singapore. If you’re lucky, you can find a pair who are courting, a process that involves an entire dance routine, with singing, puffing the throat, bobbing the head, flicking the tail and more.
Did you know? They didn’t get their name for their copper-coloured heads, but rather because their call sounds like a coppersmith striking a hammer.
There are two stunning but rare kingfishers found in Singapore. The first is the blue-eared kingfisher with its striking royal blue body and copper-coloured undercarriage. And then there’s the oriental dwarf kingfisher that you can sometimes spot in the winter. This little guy looks like he flew through a Holi festival as he’s covered with so many beautiful, bright colours.
Did you know? Singapore is home to a total of eight different types of kingfisher.
Want to learn more and even hear what these birds sound like? Check out singaporebirds.com. There’s also a helpful free app for iPhones called “Birds of Singapore”.
This article first appeared in the February 2020 edition of Expat Living. You can purchase a copy or subscribe so you never miss an issue!