Category Archives: Singapore Avifauna

The Return of the King.

King Quail
King Quail male feeding on the bird seeds, the first time we get to see it out in the open. 14 July 2015

Alfred Chia and I started bird watching around the same time in the late 80s. We have flushed many quails and button quails at the Simpang, Punggol and Marina East grasslands to make this an easy tick. But truth be told, we never made it. They were just too fast for us to pick out the field markings. That was until early this week when Alfred saw a family of four King Quails, Colurnix chinensis, running across a clearing at an open grassland at Punggol Barat. He got his lifer after 25 years of trying.

Typical habitat of the King Quail. They can run across this path in less than a second.

I could not pass up this opportunity and drove down the very next day. I got my tick very late in the evening when a male made a split second dash across the path. News came in from the photographers that there were up to seven birds roosting inside the tall lallang patch. Some managed to get fleeting shots of them which were be the first set of photographs of this secretive resident taken in Singapore. So the hunt is on for the first open view and photo of this highly sought after species.



Getting comfortable under the hot sun (top). Friends waiting for the quails to appear.

I came prepared for the long wait under the sun the following afternoon. I brought a flower pot base, fill it with water and left it out hoping that they will take a bath. But it rained the night before, so it was not such a clever idea after all.

King Quail
Close up of the King Quail, a rather small bird.
Moving out from the base of the lallang bush

At about 4.30 pm, a female walk across the path. Alan Ng, Shunda Lee and I were caught out and did not take any shots. A male followed. It dashed across the opening. All we got was a glimpse. Now we were on full alert. Within minutes I saw some movement below the nearest grass bush. Another male walked out slowly this time round picking up and eating the bird seeds left by others. We could not believe our luck. The clicking was fast and furious and all of us got all the photos we came for in that three seconds or so. We were smiling and all the sweating under the hot sun was soon forgotten. We got our prized lifer.

It is the first species in our checklist formally listed as Blue-breasted Quail. An uncommon resident found in semi dry grasslands, scrubs and reclaimed land all over the island. But because of its secretive habit of hiding in thick grassy patches, it is difficult to see them. One is more likely to flush them only to see them flying away for a short distance before dropping down to another grassy patch. It has a wide range from South and South-East Asia to the East Asia, Greater Sundas, Philippines and down to Australia.

Source: The Avifauna of Singapore 2009. Lim Kim Seng. Many thanks to Alfred Chia, Francis Yap, Alan Ng, Frankie Lim, Con Foley, Joaquim Aw and Eric Tan for their help. 

Raining Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoos at Punggol

31 May 2015

Horsefield's Bronze Cuckoo
Horsefield’s Bronze Cuckoo Marina South June 2005.

The one cuckoo on everyone’s wish list made a spectacular appearance at Punggol Barat this month. Following Francis Yap’s post of Lim Kim Seng’s article on the Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoo, Chrysococcyx basalis,¬†Albert Tan and Eric Wang, both shared their photos on facebook of this very rare Austral migrant taken this early this week. When Francis Yap went down to look for it yesterday afternoon, he was shocked to find not one but 10 birds flying among the Mimosas.

Some of us were lucky to encounter this Cuckoo way back in June 2005 at Marina South. It was spotted by Paul Huang feeding on the caterpillars of the Golden Showers Tree. My photo of a juvenile showed the eye strip, the incomplete belly bands and dark forehead. The rufous sides of the tail unfortunately cannot be seen. There was another adult there then and both stayed for a week.

Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoo at Punggol Barat taken on 31 May 2015. The whole upper tail is rufous with a black terminal band.

I joined the hordes of photographers at Punggol Barat this morning and fanned out to try to get better shots of this cuckoo. Great to meet up with many of the rare birders like Wong Lee Hong, Nicholas Tan & Mick Price and meeting new one like Vincent Lao and Cyrus Low. Hio John and Vincent Ng already had the cuckoo on their sensors by the time I caught up with them. It seemed that the cuckoos were flying around among the Mimosas. You just have to be lucky to have one perched near you.

Cuckoo hunters at Punggol Barat this morning.

One of the diagnostic features of of the Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoo is the rufous side of tail. But from the above photo, the whole upper tail is rufous with a narrow black terminal band. Hope to get some answers on this and also why so many birds congregate at one location. Vincent Lao shot a cuckoo there on 10 May. It was later identified as the Horsfield’s, which means that they were “wintering” here for the past 20 days.

We also noticed that they tend to move around together. Six birds were seen together at one bush yesterday by Hio John. Some of the photographers even managed to have two birds in one frame. Lets hope we can monitor these cuckoos to get some better insights in their wintering behavior.

Ref: Avifauna of Singapore. Lim Kim Seng 2009. Field Guide to the Birds of Australia Simpson and Day.