By Anonymous Writer
Photos by Adriel Tan (17S06C)
Raffles can have a surprisingly diverse range of birds, which can be found in a couple of hot spots. The School track, being in close proximity to MacRitchie, tends to have many birds fly over in the mornings and evenings.
2nd Field, Gryphon’s Square, Marymount Gate and the long patch of greenery stretching from Marymount Gate all the way to the Main Gate is full of fruiting trees, a favourite for birds.
The same goes for the stretch of trees near the Columbarium, stretching along Raja Block and Block A. And deeper into the Year 1-4 side, we have the trees and bushes surrounding Hullet Memorial Library as another hot spot.
As Promos ended, a friend, his camera and I embarked on a quest to chronicle the various birds in Raffles. To the best of our ability, we have come up with this short list of the Birds of Raffles.
Yellow Vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus Goiavier)
Description: Small brown bird. White head area with black mask covering the eyes. White belly with Yellow vented feathers. Distinct bubbly call and chirp.
Common Locations: Gryphon’s Square. 2nd Field. Bushes around MPH. Marymount Gate. Green Patch stretching from Marymount Gate to Main Gate.
Fun facts: It is known to nest between February and June. It is well adapted to humans and is able to build nests in a variety of places, from bushes in gardens to high up in trees.
Birder’s comment: Despite how common this bird is, it is still surprisingly beautiful. I’ve managed to find 2 nests for this bird here in Raffles. One I found in Raja Block on one of the shorter trees. It’s currently not in use as far as I am aware. The other nest I did not see conclusively but I know for sure one exists in the bush next to the MPH pull up bars.
I managed to find a juvenile Yellow Vented Bulbul hiding in that bush and calling it cute is more than an understatement. That was near start of the June holidays, when the chick’s feathers were barely developed and it could hardly fly. Towards the end of the June Holidays, it was finally capable of flight.
Watching a bird grow from a chick to being capable of flight across a month is heart-warming to say the least. It’s like raising children without the responsibility.
Black Naped Oriole (Oriolus Chinensis)
Description: Distinct bright yellow bird. Medium sized. Has black markings on its wings and tail and a black mask covering the eye. Distinct, musical call.
Common Locations: Areas nearest to the Columbarium, especially Raja Block and along Block A. Marymount Gate. Green patch stretching from Marymount Gate to Main gate.
Fun facts: 2 subspecies can be found in Singapore. One, maculatus is a resident breeder, the other diffusus is a winter visitor, coming over from China. Each subspecies has slightly different markings and they can be hard to distinguish.
Birder’s comment:Its call usually has a very musical tone to it, though it can make really coarse calls at times too.
Pink Necked Green Pigeon (Treron Vernans)
Description: Green coloured pigeon. Green belly, back and wings, pink around neck and head. Green and black stripes along wings. Female lacks the pink head and is almost mostly green.
Common Locations: Areas closest to the Columbarium, especially Raja. Marymount Gate. Green Patch stretching from Marymount Gate to Main Gate. 2nd Field.
Fun facts: These birds are arboreal and seldom come to the ground. They usually only do so to get a drink. Both male and female birds will help in the nest building. Males will search for twigs and branches, while it is the female who actually constructs the nest. Both parents will help incubate their eggs, taking turns to sit on the nest at dawn and dusk.
Birder’s comment: It’s one of the most common birds in Singapore, coming in the top 10 every mid-year bird census. However, the average person in Singapore can go their entire lives without noticing this bird exists, as they congregate in large flocks, but only stay at the top of trees. Unless you look up, no matter how abundant this species is, you will never notice its presence. There’s a very interesting lesson to be learnt here. To have such a beautiful bird go unnoticed despite it being so common, simply because people don’t look up enough.
A nest by one of this bird was once built at Raja. I first noticed a couple of Pink Necked Green Pigeons in the short trees. A couple of days later, the pigeons were back, one of them carrying twigs. On closer inspection, I saw that a nest had been built in one of the trees at Raja. One of the pigeons sat on the nest over the course of a month. The nest itself was not blocked by many branches and was built only slightly higher than eye level. The pigeon could easily be seen sitting on its nest in Raja for the month.
Unfortunately, the nest was eventually destroyed, and one day I came to look at it again, only to find a mess of sticks and twigs strewn around the tree and the ground. Was it the rain and wind? Or did someone chase the bird away? Some secrets man was never meant to know.
Rock Dove/Common Pigeon (Columba Livia)
Description: Medium sized bird. Usually in various shades of black, grey or white.
Common Locations: Raja Block. Field outside ArtSpace at Year 1-4 side. 2nd Field.
Fun facts: This bird can be astonishingly fast. Members of this species have been trace as race pigeons, with speeds recorded at up to 148.9 kilometres per hour. Whereas it may be unfair to use the Usain Bolt of pigeons as the benchmark for the entire species, this makes the common pigeon the 6th fastest animal on the planet.
From a Straits Times article, this bird was thought to have been brought into Singapore in the 1960s. In 1968, only a flock of about 100 could be found on the entire island, near Victoria Theatre. The bird has since reached ubiquity.
Birder’s comment: More commonly known as just “pigeon”. Most of my friends from RG have their own horror stories to tell about this bird. One tells me about how a pigeon once stole her waffles. If that had happened to me, I would probably have broken down and cried. I can’t help but admire her strength in the face of adversity. Another tells me how it’s weird not seeing pigeons anymore in RJ. Thankfully, they’re mostly found around the Year 1-4 side. It is indeed comforting to know we have a safe school environment.
There is also a pair of pigeons that frequent Raja Block. One is mostly black and skinny, the other has a greyer plumage and is fairly plump. Research suggests pigeons mate for life so maybe they are just another one of the many couples frequenting Raja. I also wonder if the fatter pigeon is starving the other since it looks so malnourished.
Javan Myna/White Vented Myna (Acridotheres Javanicus)
Description: Black bird, yellow beak, white tail feathers
Common Locations: Literally everywhere
Fun facts: As the name suggests, the Javan Myna does not originate from Singapore but from Java Indonesia. It is thought to have been brought as a pet to Singapore in the 1920s, meaning this bird has been around for less than a 100 years. From completely non-existent in Singapore, it has since risen to become the most common bird on the entire island. Its tenacity definitely helps explain its prevalence in Singapore. It wakes up earlier than most other birds, is able to nest in any corner it can find and has easily adapted to Singapore’s urban environment. Its dominance however, has pushed down the numbers of other bird species, including the Common Myna and the Oriental Magpie Robin.
Birder’s comment: This bird needs no introduction. Every living being on the island of Singapore has seen this bird before. In spite of that, there is a fairly interesting history people may not know about. I can only hope to replicate this bird’s adaptability in the face of ever increasing workloads.