Green Broadbill spotted in Pulau Ubin, locally extinct since 1941

Before this year, the rare visitor was last seen in 2014.

Zi Shan Kow | June 29, 2021, 01:42 PM

Follow us on Telegram for the latest updates:

It's not everyday you encounter a bird that is practically extinct in Singapore.

On June 27, a unique sighting at Pulau Ubin caused a flurry of excitement amongst bird lovers and enthusiasts alike.

The Green Broadbill

The Green Broadbill is a bright green bird that used to be commonly found in Pulau Ubin.

A resident of Singapore until 1941, it is now considered a very rare non-breeding visitor, according to the Singapore Birds Project.

Male individuals have three distinct black bars on their wings and a dark “comma” behind the eye, while females are duller and without any dark markings.

Green Broadbill Green Broadbill spotted at Pulau Ubin. Photos courtesy of Trevor Teo

It has an umbrella-like head shape, with its luminous feathers concealing most of it beak.

Green Broadbill Photos courtesy of Trevor Teo

Birder Lee Chin Pong even managed to record a video of its call, a soft, bubbling trill.

Likely a visitor from Malaysia

For many bird lovers, this sighting is what is considered a "lifer", the first time that a birder sees a new bird species.

The bird was only documented once earlier this year in April, before which, the last time we saw the Green Broadbill was six years ago in 2014, the National Parks Board (NParks) told Mothership.

Despite its recent reappearances, it is largely believed that the bird is simply a visitor from nearby Johor, as the species is suspected to be a long distance disperser.

"Given the proximity of Ubin to Malaysia, it is possible that some of the rare bird species seen there, including the Green Broadbill has ‘dispersed’ from its habitat in Malaysia into Ubin," shared Yong Ding Li, an Asia programme manager for migratory bird conservation at Birdlife International.

He further elaborated that "there has been a lot of deforestation in the districts of Johor very near to Singapore, and bird species (including this) may be displaced as a result."

The species is distributed throughout Borneo, Sumatra, and the Malay Peninsula.

It is also speculated that the bird might not be wild, but rather an escapee from the bird trade.

Yong told Mothership that he has seen Green Broadbills for sale in the bird shops at Serangoon North.

Due to its sensitivity to habitat loss and degradation, the Green Broadbill is classified as Near Threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

green broadbill Photos courtesy of Art Toh

Observe the bird from a safe distance

To manage the crowd of bird enthusiasts gathered on the island, Lim Liang Jim, Group Director of Conservation at NParks, shared with Mothership that "staff were on hand to advise (the birdwatchers and photographers) to observe prevailing safe management measures, keep to designated trails and to observe the bird from far without disturbing it."

"We would like to advise the public to appreciate wildlife in our green spaces from afar and avoid disrupting their natural behaviours", he added.

"Park users are also reminded to observe prevailing safe management guidelines when carrying out these activities in our parks."

Top photos courtesy of Art Toh