S'pore lady tracks growth of 2 rare birds outside her house over 17 days, results are amazing

Almost an entire life cycle, happening right outside her window.

Zhangxin Zheng| March 30, 07:02 PM

There are only around 600 to 1,700 straw-headed bulbuls left in the wild globally.

The conservation status of straw-headed bulbuls was raised from "vulnerable" to "endangered" on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)'s Red List last December.

Of these, at least 200 of these rare song birds live right here in Singapore. Thankfully, this population is projected to increase.

Straw-headed bulbuls are globally threatened by poaching, which is in turn driven by the pet bird trade in places like Indonesia. It's a great thing, therefore, that they're protected here in Singapore, and are able to thrive. ( ᐛ )و

While most straw-headed bulbuls are found on Pulau Ubin, it is not difficult to find them on mainland Singapore too. If you are lucky, they might even make themselves your neighbours.

One member of Facebook group Nature Society (Singapore), Lai Kuan Chan, found a pair of adult straw-headed bulbuls nesting with two eggs outside her balcony in late January.

Excited as she was by her discovery, she took it upon herself to document the day-by-day growth of the two younglings — from hatchlings to fledglings.

Here's how it went down:

Jan 23

Photo Courtesy of Lai Kuan Chan

"Mama bulbul weathering the torrential downpour this morning — a mother's love."

Straw-headed Bulbuls in Singapore usually breed between February and April, with a clutch of just two eggs at a time.

Photo Courtesy of Lai Kuan Chan

Feb 4

Photo Courtesy of Lai Kuan Chan

"Checked out the two bulbul eggs just now. No sign of hatchlings yet. Mama bulbul and ME anxiously waiting."

Feb 6

Chan expected the eggs to hatch on Feb 4, but the first egg hatched only two days later.

And finally:

Photo Courtesy of Lai Kuan Chan

"Good morning everyone!!!"

Look how well-built and decorated the nest was, too.

On a side note, such close-up shots of the nest were done skilfully and carefully with a selfie stick, without alarming our little friends who can be really defensive parents and also shy to humans.

And shortly after:

Photo Courtesy of Lai Kuan Chan

Feb 7

Hungry hungry babies. Here's them stretching out their necks for food:


Feb 8

By Day 3 of these newborn birds' lives, you can already see wings growing on the older chick.

Photo Courtesy of Lai Kuan Chan

Feb 9

Photo Courtesy of Lai Kuan Chan


Feb 10

By Day 5, you can see wings on both chicks — and look at the rate by which they are growing, too:

Photo Courtesy of Lai Kuan Chan

"Day 5 - the quills on the wings are vastly different from yesterday. The chicks are slowly taking up more space. I wonder if the parents will 'upgrade' the nest. I will be away. Progress report will not be available for the next two days. Happy Weekend!!"

Feb 13

On Day 8, their bodies are developed enough to eat an entire insect at one shot:

Photo Courtesy of Lai Kuan Chan

"I think in two days time the whole nest will be covered up by these two."

Skip to 0:08 to see the parent coming back to feed the little ones with an insect:


Feb 14

Straw-headed bulbuls are poached for their melodious calling as you can hear in this video when Daddy bulbul called to Mummy bulbul while she was looking after the children in the nest.

What's Valentine's Day, now that they're parents?

You see changes to these babies every day. By Day 9, they can open their eyes wider, and they've grown olive-green feathers.

Photo Courtesy of Lai Kuan Chan

Photo Courtesy of Lai Kuan Chan

"Day 10 - The olive green feathers came out today."

Feb 15

The next day, the younglings started fidgeting and expressing curiosity about their surroundings.

Feb 16

Photo Courtesy of Lai Kuan Chan

"Day 11 - Their feathers are growing very fast."

By now, their parents can only stand on the edge of the nest to care for their children:

Feb 17

The children now bore much more of a resemblance to their parents, with olive-green coats and distinctive black streak across their cheeks by Day 12.

Photo Courtesy of Lai Kuan Chan

Photo Courtesy of Lai Kuan Chan

"Day 12 - taken at 11.45am."

Feb 18

Photo Courtesy of Lai Kuan Chan

"Day 13 - feathers getting fluffy!"

Almost ready for flight!


Feb 19

Besides the parents, it seems other bulbuls have also arrived to help watch over the nest. #communityspirit

Photo Courtesy of Lai Kuan Chan

"Three watching over the nest while waking up the whole estate with their morning call."

The parents take turn to take care of the children at the nest. This time is crucial — especially at this time when the younglings are on the cusp of making their first attempts at flying:

Photo Courtesy of Lai Kuan Chan

"Day 14 - One of the nestlings is able to perch on the edge of the nest."

The adult Bulbul sits on its children in a bid to shield them from predators as well as bad weather.

Feb 20

And finally, the next day, the nest was found empty. #长大了

Photo Courtesy of Lai Kuan Chan

"Day 15 - came home from my morning exercise to see an empty nest. But both mum and dad are nearby so the fledglings couldn't be far. Spotted them safely hanging on to the branches and leaves of the trees. I doubt they will return to the nest but I know they will be well cared for."

The adult bulbul watched the young ones trying to master the art of flying. One of them succeeded but seemed like the other needed a little more courage to take the leap.

No hurry, guys, no need to be competitive.


And they're still hanging out nearby:

Photo Courtesy of Lai Kuan Chan

Photo Courtesy of Lai Kuan Chan

Photo Courtesy of Lai Kuan Chan

Feb 22

Interestingly, the parents then started to destroy the nest they had built.

Photo Courtesy of Lai Kuan Chan

"Day 16 - one day after the fledglings left the nest. Looks quite damaged compared to day 15. In my previous encounter I saw the adult bulbuls came back destroying the nest. I thought this was because they had a unsuccessful hatching since only one of the two eggs made it last year. So I am quite surprised it happened again."


Okay, all clear!


Neat, science lesson right there.

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Top photo collage courtesy of Lai Kuan Chan

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