BIRD WATCHING IN SINGAPORE

Bird watching is a great accessible activity for the whole family and all fitness types. While most people don’t associate Singapore with wildlife, the island is home to a diverse and fascinating population of birds. Whether you’re an ornithology expert or a novice bird-watcher, you’ll find a bird watching session rewarding and enlightening.

There are almost 400 species of bird in Singapore, some of which are vulnerable or endangered. Singapore’s climate and natural habitats are more diverse than most realise – consisting of mangroves, marshes, rivers and grasslands – providing rich environments for resident and migratory birds. 

Sungei Buloh Nature Park is one of the best spots for bird watching in Singapore. The park is an important stopover in the East Asian Flyway, one of the major global migratory routes for birds. Every year from September to March, thousands of birds stop over on the mudflats of the reserve. You can easily explore the park by yourself, but going on a guided walk with an expert may make the experience much more rewarding. You’ll understand how the natural habitats in the park are suitable for migratory birds such as bee-eaters, kingfishers and Redshanks – and look out for vulnerable, threatened and endangered bird species. 

The Dairy Farm Quarry is another ideal bird-watching spot. Located adjacent to the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve – a primary rainforest and one of the most biodiverse spots in the country – the quarry is an ideal place to spot black-naped oriole, gosly starlings, crimson sunbirds and flowerpeckers. Again, this is easily done independently but if you look online for a guided walk, you’ll probably get a lot more out of it.

Other spots like Labrador Park are also home to many diverse species of birds, with more than 70 types to look out for. Labrador Park is a good place to try to spot the White-bellied Sea Eagle, which also appears on the S$10,000 banknote. The Central Catchment area, consisting of reservoirs in the middle of the island (such as MacRitchie, Upper Seletar, Upper Peirce and Lower Peirce) is also home to a diverse group of birds and other fauna. 

The best time to go bird watching is early in the morning, or in the late afternoon to early evening around 5pm to 7pm. A pair of binoculars, comfortable walking shoes, insect repellant, water, a hat, and a small notebook to jot down quick sketches will also make your session more comfortable and enjoyable. Avoid wearing bright colours so that you blend in to the environment better. When sketching or noting down the description of a bird, try to note how it moves, the sound it makes, the type of tree it’s on, and the colours of the head, beak and wings; these details will help you identify the species.

For independent bird watching, the Nature Society (Singapore) publishes a book called A Field Guide to the Birds of Singapore; in addition, the NSS Bird Guide iPhone app is an ideal companion. Both the Nature Society (Singapore) and National Parks hold regular bird watching sessions, so stay updated on their websites.