It’s often joked that Singapore’s national bird is the ‘crane’ – due to our construction frenzy – but thanks to the circuit breaker measures, we’ve been seeing a lot more of other types of birds. We’re not talking about the common pigeons, mynahs, sparrows, or crows that are constantly seen everywhere. From bright green parrots to noisy koels, here are some other common birds that we may not have noticed before.
If you’ve ever been annoyed by a constant ‘ku-oo’ noise at dawn, then it’s the koel. The males resemble crows, but with red eyes, while the females have a brown-ish plumage with white spots. These birds are horrible parents – they lay eggs in the nests of other birds (usually a crow) and let them take care of their chicks until they become adults!
This brown bird has a flash of white on its face and underbelly, plus a hint of yellow on its rear end. It’s a pretty little songster – it has a rolling, bubbly chirp – that’s commonly seen almost everywhere in Singapore, and is so used to humans that it sometimes nests in gardens.
Oriental pied hornbill
These giant, majestic birds sometimes appear on balconies when they come into inhabited areas to feed on fruiting trees. This endangered species can normally be found in forests, especially in Ubin and the East Coast; it’s a big bird (about 70cm tall) with black-and-white plumage and its signature large yellow bill.
This bright yellow bird with black markings and red eyes is common across Singapore. It was featured on Singapore’s $500 currency notes of the “Bird Series” (1976-1984), and was one of five contenders for Singapore’s national bird. This pretty songbird can get aggressive, attacking other smaller species and killing their young.
Pink-necked green pigeon
This prettier version of the common pigeon displays a rainbow of pastel colours, with a mostly green plumage that’s tainted with orange, chestnut, gry, and of course, its namesake pink neck. It’s a fruit eater and rarely comes down from trees, except to drink. This species is an important fruit seed disperser thanks to its unique gizzard.
This pretty kingfisher can often be seen at dusk, especially near water sources like rivers or lakes where it can be seen diving for fish, shellfish, and dragonfly larvae. Identified by its bright plumage – blue upper parts and orange belly – it’s also known for its loud, high-pitched shrill.
Blue-crowned hanging parrot (Malay Lorikeet)
This green parrot is distinguishable by bright red markings on its rear and chest, and a blue dot on top of its head. Like its namesake, it hangs upside down when sleeping and when feeding on fruits. With a distinctive squeaky call, they feed in large groups at dusk in central and eastern parts of Singapore. It’s sometimes found together with the similar-looking Rose-ringed Parakeet which has a longer tail.
The Common Flameback is one of 8 species of woodpecker found in Singapore and it’s easily distinguishable by its golden back feathers, black-and-white striped face, and a crown of red (males) or black (females). Their drumming can be heard from a distance, and they have a loud, raucous and repetitive call. Often found in pairs, they’re the only woodpecker species with 3 toes on each foot.
This is a noisy species with an unmistakable squawking call. They look similar to the Malay Lorikeet – the two species often feed together – except the parakeets have longer tails and red beaks, and their plumage is mostly green. An introduced species, it’s a popular pet – captive individuals can mimic human speech. In the wild, rose-ringed parakeets usually feed on buds, fruits, berries, vegetables, nuts, and seeds.
If you live near a body of water, then you’re no stranger to the little egret. Sometimes it hunts by spreading its wings to create a shadow to lure fishes in, and sometimes it uses its foot to stir the water. Egret feathers used to be fashion accessories – an ounce of plume (which took 4 birds to produce) was worth twice that of an ounce of gold in 1903.
This nocturnal bird is usually identified first by its call, which sounds like ‘churr churr churr’ – some compare it to the sound of a car lock. Usually found roosting on the ground or perched on low branches in search of insects buzzing under street lamps, it has a patterned brown plumage.