Grey-streaked flycatcher spotted for the second time in Singapore since 1991

SINGAPORE – A grey-streaked flycatcher that was last seen in Singapore 30 years ago was caught on camera on Nov 9.

The lone bird, known for its slender wings, was spotted at Sembawang. This makes it the second confirmed sighting on record since the species was first sighted in Singapore in 1991.

Dr Yong Ding Li, regional coordinator for migratory bird conservation in Asia at conservation group BirdLife International, told The Straits Times: “I was surprised that this bird showed up here because this species typically doesn’t occur in this part of South-east Asia.”

He said grey-streaked flycatchers are migratory birds that travel through the Philippines and eastern Indonesia.

“The bird that showed up in Sembawang usually migrates along what we call the oceanic route. It is called the oceanic route as it is sitting right on the rim of the Pacific Ocean,” said Dr Yong, who has seen these birds in Indonesia and the Philippines over 10 years ago.

He believes the bird is likely to be lost and could have ended up in Singapore after being swept here by strong winds.

The migration behaviour of such flycatchers is an innate ability and not learnt. So this particular bird could have been born with a genetic defect that caused it to stray from its migration patterns, he added.

Sightings of rare birds and those that are thought to have been extinct have been more common over the past few years.

In June, the green broadbill, a bird that had been declared extinct in Singapore sometime after 1941, was spotted on the island. 

The buff-rumped woodpecker was sighted many times on Pulau Ubin despite being recorded as extinct here after 1950. The black-and-red broadbill, declared extinct sometime after 1949, was also spotted on Ubin in 2004 and again in 2019.

Mr Lim Kim Seng, chairman of the bird group’s records committee at Nature Society (Singapore), said birdwatchers should keep their eyes peeled during these few months as it is the peak migration period for birds.

“The migration period started in September and will end in April next year. I think bird enthusiasts can expect to see rare birds or even birds that have not been spotted in Singapore in years.”

Referring to the recent rare sighting of the grey-streaked flycatcher, Dr Yong said: “It is exciting, almost like finding a very rare Pokemon.”

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