In the parlance of birding, escapees are non-native birds that have ‘escaped’ from captivity and are now living independently in the wild. In Singapore there are quite a number of escapees birds as we do have a bird trade going on and of course there are many people who release captive birds for religious purposes on certain occasions.
On the whole, here and there we will have reports of sighting of 1 or 2 exotic birds either introduced or maybe a rare winter migrant that will trigger the call to action for many bird photographers. News indeed travel fast in this small island.
It is rarer to see a flock of exotic escapee birds though. I mean, it’s Singapore. Where do they hide from prying eyes for long? Do escapee birds of a feather somehow flock together? Do they breed and soon become a feral population?
Near where I stay, there is a small flat field that has been leveled and is probably slated for development, perhaps in anticipation of future demand for HDB flats. In the meantime, lalang and other grass species have sprouted in place of the bare ground. Mimosa bushes and acacia trees have grown as well. The place is wholly uninteresting to most people as there are many such plots of land nearby. To me however, it is a quiet, nearby training ground to learn bird photography.
I have noted for a long time the presence of a flock of Sooty-headed Bulbuls (Pycnonotus aurigaster) that have made this field their home. Well, just so happen this is a escapee species introduced here and have started breeding. They are considered a breeding feral population and just so happen, this plot of land is an excellent site to observe them.
Recently I made another discovery. Apparently there is another flock of birds that are also pretty exotic. When I first met them, I had trouble identifying them as the local bird guide book did not contain their description. With the help some bird ID experts, I found out that not only did I managed to find one species of bird, but actually two!
The first bird is the Yellow-fronted Canary (Serinus mozambicus), a native of Africa that is traded and prized as a song bird. Pictured below eating grass seeds.
The second bird is the White-rumped Seedeater (Serinus leucopygius), a relative of the Yellow-fronted Canary that is also an African song bird.
Racial Harmony Day
These two kind of birds somehow escaped from captivity, found each other in a tiny plot of land, and now live together peacefully.
There are currently 6 of them, three Yellow-fronted Canaries and three White-rumped Seedeaters scurrying around and foraging together in this grassland they call ‘home’. I hope they manage to survive and prosper.