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Birding in Singapore [wk2004]

wk2004 Pioneer 2184 points
14/05/2014 | 16:18:59

"Singapore got birds meh?" ~ this has been a consistent question many of my friends ask me. The answer is ~ YES! There are many species of birds in Singapore, both resident and migratory. So, where do I go to look for birds to photograph?

There are a few locations that have a good variety of local resident birds such as sun-birds, kingfishers, barbets, woodpeckers, herons and even owls!

#1 Crimson Sunbird, Singapore National Bird

Crimson Sunbird

This was photographed along a pathway just beside the multi-storey carpark at MacRitchie Reservoir. Even though I learned that I am able to find this bird at MacRithchie quite some time back, I did not delibrately go and look for it. In fact, the day I spotted it, I was there to look for another eagles. As I was walking out of the park, I heard an unfamiliar bird-call and decided to stand around and wait. There it was! Perched high up among the branches singing away. I stood there for a good 15min looking (of course taking some "cannot-make-it" shots) at it pruning its feather as if he was going for meet his girlfriend. Then it came down to the flowers and started feeding, right in front of me! That's when I got this shot ~ happy!

#2 Grey Heron

Grey Heron

This was taken at the big drain at Pasir Ris Park (beside Downtown East). There are a lot of bird-activities around the drain and the connecting river. Just stand on the bridge and wait for actions. If you are lucky, you will see Kingfishers in action, diving for fishes, always a wonderful show to watch!

#3 Asian Koel (aka Alarm Clock Bird)

Asian Koel

Many of us have been awakened by this famous "alarm clock" bird. They are very common and can be found all over the island. This was photographed in Gardens by the Bay, near the pond beside Satay by the Bay. Around this pond, there are many species of birds making home there. Expect to find ducks, bitterns, sunbirds, munias, woodpeckers and even kingfishers there. I was lucky to chance upon a Greater Green Leafbird!

#4 Greater Green Leafbird

Greater Green Leafbird

My friend mentioned that it is only possible to find leafbirds deep within out nature reserve forest and usually it takes about 1-2 hours to hike to such locations! I guessed it was my lucky day!

Lower Pierce Reservoir trails is where I go for my sunset-landscapes. Not known to many people who go there to excercise and jogs, it is a very good location to spot hard-to-find forest birds. There are many small streams at the fringe of the reservoir where forest birds come out to bathe and feed. This is the best time to see them as they are busy doing their stuffs. It is also the perfect location for migratory birds to rest and feed before continuing their flight home.

#5 Blue-winged Pitta

blue-winged pitta

This year seems to be a good year to see migratory birds. Many came in early and stayed longer than usual, giving the birders more time to see them. This blue-winged pitta stayed almost 1 month (usually 1 week). In the same vicinity, I was able to photograph a common local bird but extremely hard to spot as it likes to move among the thick vegetations.

#6 Short-tailed Babbler

Short-tailed babbler

A few days later, news came that another "super star" bird, a forest kingfisher was spotted near Venus Drive, near the trail to Tree Top Walk. Its the Three-Toed Kingfisher or commonly known as the Black-backed Kingfisher. I managed to photographed it last year but when I went back for improvement shot, the super-star had already left for home (it stayed for less than 1 week).

#7 Black-backed Kingfisher

As you can see now, this little jewel of the forest is really a beauty! I still cannot believe the colours you can find on this fellow. From pink to blue to purple, wow! Photographing this tiny bird, its about 15cm, was a huge challenge. And to get a shot of the black-backed's famous back pose, was extremely challenging. I am thankful to get glimpse of its back through a small gap among the leaves to capture this pose.

Some of you probably read the newspaper that a Mega-Rare bird landed in the Singapore for the first time ~ the Band-bellied Crake, at Chinese Garden. While at Chinese Garden, I was able to photograph 2 other birds, a local - Pied Fantail and a migratory - Pin-Tailed Snipe

#8 Band-bellied crake

band-bellied crake

#9 Pied Fantail


#10 Pin-tailed Snipe

pin-tailed snipe

Are there really so many species of birds in Singapore? The answer is Yes. However, many times, they are not easy to spot as birds are generally hard to get near, especially when you are in their natural habitat such as the nature reserves. However, there are many parks that some of these birds have grown used to human activities like joggers, cyclists and birdwatchers. These parks are a good start. Some of the parks that have a good variety of birds are:

- Singapore Botanic Gardens

- Pasir Ris Park

- Bishan Park

- Bukit Batok Nature Reserve

- Chinese Garden / Japanese Garden / Jurong Garden

- Gardens by the Bay

So, how do I get started? For those of you who are interested to venture into the world of nature / bird photography, a good start will be a 300mm (can be 70-300 f5.6) on a crop body. Start exploring the parks and experience spotting and taking photographs of birds, any birds, even the mynas or pigeons. Join the Free Zoo Outing by LBK, visit Jurong Bird Park, go to a park near your place, etc. Remember, just like taking portraiture, try to get the eyes in focus. Good luck and have fun!

Feel free to check out my other works here

[All the above photos were taken with Canon 70D + EF400f5.6 + 1.4xTC (for some of the shots) mounted on tripod]

Cheers & take care!

Weikuan (David)


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