The Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, NUS published The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology Supplement No. 15, "An Annotated Checklist of the Birds of Singapore," in collaboration with the Bird Ecology Study Group.
The 179-page monograph by Wang Luan Keng and Christopher J. Hails was published on 30 April 2007. It is the 15th in The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology Supplement Series. The tome is
Retail price: S$25 (including GST). Available for sale at the Raffles Museum office and Nature's Niche (Singapore Botanic Gardens Shop). Participants of the Biodiversity of Singapore Symposium II tomorrow will be able to buy the issue at $20 between 12pm-1pm.
Abstract. - This annotated checklist is the third major compilation for Singapore. It lists the current status of all bird species ever recorded in the wild in Singapore. A total of 404 species have been recorded, including 44 species which are now extinct or have not been recorded for the last 50 years. Some of the latter species have been recorded again as non-breeding visitors.
There are now 342 species that occur naturally in Singapore and another 22 species that were introduced by man. Fifty-eight families of birds are represented. There are 121 resident species with proven breeding records and 21 other presumed residents. One hundred and fifty-four species are winter visitors and/or passage migrants, with another 25 species listed as non-breeding visitors and 21 others that occur in Singapore as vagrants.
Census data since 1991 shows that the total number of birds in Singapore has declined by 40 % and the number of species has declined by nearly 17 %. The most abundant bird species is a migrant, the Pacific Golden Plover (Pluvialis fulva).
The most important site in terms of bird population is Sungei Mandai, an unprotected mudflat and mangrove ecosystem while Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve and Pulau Ubin are important in having the highest diversities of birds. The loss of mudflats through reclamation, damming of estuaries, and canalisation of rivers had resulted in a decline in waterbird density and diversity as shown in the Annual Waterfowl Census. The current total shorebird population in Singapore is only 4,000 – 5,000 birds, a vast decrease from the large wintering population of 10,000 birds at a single site in 1985, the Serangoon Estuary.
Forty-one of the 44 extinct species were resident forest birds, of which, 34 (87.8 % ) went extinct between 1900 and 1950. This equates to 3.4 species lost every five years, an alarming rate of extinction for a small island like Singapore. The most susceptible families are the Trogonidae and Eurylaimidae, with 100 % species loss, and Picidae, with 56.3 % species loss. The susceptible bird families are predominantly those of the forest, whereas the resistant families exist largely in open country and scrub. In fact, only three extinct species were not largely dependent on tropical rainforest for their existence. Forest species such as the Green Broadbill (Calyptomena viridis) became extinct from the forests as recently as 1941. This emphasises the role that habitat destruction has played in shaping Singapore’s avifauna.
Fifty-four species of birds are at risk of extinction, of which 34 species (63 %) live in the forest. The remaining patches of forest in Singapore are mostly protected in the Central Nature Reserves that should provide a safe haven for the forest birds. However, the forests are too fragmented, small and constantly disturbed by thousands of visitors. By connecting the smaller Bukit Timah Nature Reserve to the much larger Central Catchment forest, the forest patch size can be increased and might allow more movement of animals and plants between the two patches. Many forest birds are secretive or weak fliers and are reluctant to cross open spaces. A green corridor might encourage them to do so.
Another 16 species (29.6 %) of threatened birds are specialists of mangroves and wetlands. Preservation of these most-threatened ecosystems in Singapore is of utmost importance to the survival of the birds found in these special habitats. With improvement in the quality of habitats, we could perhaps slow down the rate of local extinction of the avifauna of Singapore. Our remaining habitats need to be protected and laws protecting wildlife must be strictly enforced, so that the birds may have a chance to coexist with us.