Most, if not all of us, have definitely seen or heard these birds; their calls punctuating the rhythm of our daily lives. While walking to school, it’s a one hundred percent guarantee that I surely will encounter Rock Pigeons (Columba livia). Whether perched on top of a lamp post or gathered in flocks (sometimes in the middle of a walkway when food has been thrown out), upon seeing them, my brain inadvertently screams ‘Avoid, avoid!’ for fear that I will be on the receiving end of their dive-bombing activity (read: pooping).
Birds, well, are birds, and they are just doing what they do best – being birds – albeit in the city. I have lived in the same neighbourhood for close to two decades, and until recently, my knowledge of birds was limited to crows, mynas, sparrows, pigeon and that unknown yellow bird (Black-naped Oriole). Airborne birds were relegated to the category of ‘those little black splotches flying high above’. It’s amazing to find that there are so many different kinds of birds living alongside us, after all. Most are shy and prefer to maintain their distance from people, so they may be heard (eg. Collared Kingfishers, Asian Koels, Gerygones), but not often seen unless one seeks them out. Of course, there are also chance encounters with our feathered friends…
…I was rushing for time; the bus was on its way. As I rounded a corner, something darted into the foliage of a Chiku tree (Manilkara zapota) with a lot of rustling. My curiosity got the better of me and I just had to look. To my utter surprise, I saw a *female Pink-necked Green Pigeon (Treron vernans) perched on a branch and eating the fruit. Wow! I was about a metre away and thus had a really good look. I’ve frequently encountered them in Kent Ridge but that was my very first time seeing it in my neighbourhood (after nearly twenty years…sigh). While fervently hoping that it wouldn’t fly away so quickly, I hurriedly got out my camera and managed to catch a few shots.
Perched on a branch, blending in almost perfectly with the leaves (indeed, I got a few weird looks from passers-by), the bird rapidly tucked into its meal. It would scoop up the soft flesh with its beak, going almost vertically to do so (as in the picture), and then right itself, throwing back its head slightly to swallow the bit of fruit.
The pigeon continued to feed in such a manner for quite some time. It was a delight to watch :) though I can only hope that I wasn't disturbing its meal (the encounter occurred at around 4 pm...so I guess you can say that it was tea-time?). Too bad I didn't get a shot of the bitten fruit... I did walk around the tree to look at it though and saw that a quarter or more of it had been eaten. (In case you were wondering, I did catch the bus in the end but had to do a mad dash for it. Hehe.)
So what else can one spot in the neighbourhood? A short stroll around a park in the evening recently led to sightings of a Yellow-vented Bulbul (Picnonotus goiavier) and a tailorbird (probably a Common Tailorbird - Orthotomus sutorius). Check out gopalarathnam_v's photostream on flickr, as well as Ingo Waschkies gallery on PBase for amazing shots of the Common Tailorbird.
Here's a list of the birds that one can commonly see/hear in urbanised areas in Singapore:
1. House Crow (Corvus splendens) - not to be confused with the Large-billed Crow (C. macrorhynchus) which is native to Singapore
2. Javan Myna, also known as the White-vented Myna (Acridotheres javanicus) - another introduced species
3. Common Myna (A. tristis) - these are less abundant than their introduced counterparts, having faced competition for resources from them. These mynas have a reddish-brown body, unlike the largely black plumage of their relatives
4. Eurasian Tree Sparrow (Passer montanus)
5. Rock Pigeon, also known as the Feral Pigeon (Columba livia)
6. Black-naped Oriole (Oriolus chinensis) - I always think of the song that goes "...yel-low bird, high up in the ba-na-na tree..." when I see them
7. Collared Kingfisher (Todirhamphus chloris) - look out for a streak of blue whizzing by!
8. Asian Koel (Eudynamys scolopacea)
9. Golden-bellied Gerygone (Gerygone sulphurea) - thanks LK for the ID! For many years I have listened to its wheezing call and never knew its source. See Paul Huang's photos of this shy bird.
10. Oriental Magpie Robin (Copsychus saularis)
Birds in the photos above (from top to bottom): Javan Myna, Little Tern (Sterna albifrons) and Pink-necked Green Pigeon.
*Unlike their more commonly sighted counterparts, the Rock Pigeons, which feed on a wide range of food, Pink-necked Green Pigeons are frugivores. They also exhibit dimorphism, with different colouration between the sexes. Males are more colourful than females. Most noticeable would be their pink-purple neck and upper breast, as well as an orange lower breast. Females, as shown in the pictures, mainly have green plumage.