Tag Archives: Tuas Grassland

Plaintive Cuckoo in Singapore

The Plaintive Cuckoo (Cacomantis merulinus) is an uncommon resident in Singapore. In the past it was called the Malayan Brain Fever Bird. The Malay name is “Burung Anak Mati” which translate to dead child bird. All these names refer to the mournful sounding call that the adult male use to attract the female bird.

Although listed as uncommon, the male can be rather easily found during the breeding season if one recognises its call. And it can be found in many areas in Singapore. It is a brood parasite, with hosts reported including ioras, prinias, cisticolas and tailorbirds.

Below are some of my encounters with the species.

Plaintive Cuckoo
(A male at Tuas Grassland. Contrary to what some guide books mentioned, which is that the Plaintive Cuckoo is separated from the similar looking Rusty-breasted Cuckoo by the lack of yellow eye-ring, here this plaintive does have a yellow eye-ring. The difference is that it’s eye-ring is rather incomplete.)


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Zitting Cisticolas of developed grasslands in Singapore

One of the feature of Singapore birding is that the places for birding are getting less and less, and those that pops up temporarily eventually will give way to development.

Many of the mini patches of grassland that pops up are usually prior cleared land that is left temporarily untouched. These have finite lifetime as the land clearing is for developmental purposes.

While the grass grows, birds come and make it their home. And one of the most easily seen and heard is the Zitting Cisticola (Cisticola juncidis). Although often overlooked, they are in fact interesting birds. Their name is derived from the ‘zit-zit-zit’ sound that they make in flight.

Zitting Cisticola
Location name: Tuas Grassland
Previously status: A motocross venue
Current status: Being developed into a train depot.
Last accessible: 2011
Remark: The cisticola is holding a piece of material for nest building.

Zitting Cisticola
Location Name: Jurong West St 22
Previously status: Secondary forest cleared for development
Current Status: Partially developed as a building for a transport company
Last accessible: 2012

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Black-winged Kites of Tuas Grassland

In 2011, there was a disused plot of land at Tuas West Drive in Singapore that used to be a motorsport venue. Once abandoned, nature reclaimed it and it became a temporary grassland. That place was informally called Tuas grassland by those in the know.

As the grassland proliferated, birds and other creatures found the habitat useful. One species that came in was the Black-winged Kite (Elanus caeruleus), a handsome predator of small mammals and birds.

A family grew there and they became stars of the place with at least 2 broods raised. Many photographers went there specially to photographed them, including me.

Of course, all good things must come to an end somehow. The plot of land is now being developed and the habitat is gone.

Just wanted to share some pictures and videos that I took of the Black-winged Kites that used to populate it.

An adult having a meal of rat. The usual eat, wipe, poop and fly-away routine.

Black-winged Kite
A juvenile awaiting food from it’s parent. There were 2 other juvenile birds and each have to fight for it’s own share.

An adult hunting sequence:

Black-winged Kite
A typical hunting hover of a Black-winged Kite. Once it finds the prey with the use of it’s keen eyes, it will plunge down at high speed to catch and kill.

Black-winged Kite
A successful hunt, with what looks like an unfortunate White-breasted Waterhen chick. By the time it takes flight, the waterhen is likely to have been killed as a live prey would be too hard for it to handle in-flight.

Black-winged Kite
Settling down to a bare tree, it was rather unconcerned about my proximity. It proceeded to de-feather and eat the freshly killed prey as shown in the video below.

The video of a meal of juvenile waterhen.