Unusually coloured broadbill, considered extinct in S'pore, reappears at Pulau Ubin

Almost looks fake.

Ashley Tan | May 11, 2022, 06:06 PM

Follow us on Telegram for the latest updates: https://t.me/mothershipsg

Birdwatchers and photographers in Singapore were treated to a remarkable sight recently when a rare feathered visitor dropped by our shores.

The Black-and-red broadbill might be found across Asia, but sightings of it in Singapore have been few and far between.

Thus, when local photographers caught wind of its arrival on Pulau Ubin, they rushed to the offshore island with equipment in tow.

Distinctive plumage

One photographer, Chris Ang, told Mothership that he immediately headed to Chek Jawa on May 5 to hunt down the colourful bird.

Upon arriving there at around 2pm, he recognised its call within the mangroves.

The bird would fly out intermittently, and it was seen eating some seed as well.

In the one-and-a-half hours spent there, Ang managed to snap some clear shots.

As its name suggests, the Black-and-red broadbill has distinctive black and red plumage, save for its bright turquoise-blue and yellow bill.

Its coloration is so unique, to the point that it almost looks like a toy.

Photo courtesy of Chris Ang Photography

Photo courtesy of Chris Ang Photography

Here's an up-close look at that bright bill.

Photo courtesy of Chris Ang Photography

Photo courtesy of Chris Ang Photography

Used to be a Singapore resident

Another photographer, Andy Chew, managed to capture the broadbill mid-flight. He revealed that he had shot a few thousand photos during his visit to Ubin.

Speaking to Mothership, Chew shared that few photographers were around when he arrived in the morning. When more arrived in the afternoon, the bird had moved to a more secluded area.

"It was such a delight to encounter this very rare visitor especially the colours on its bill. It was refreshing, for a change," he said.

Photo courtesy of Andy Chew

Photo courtesy of Andy Chew

Photo courtesy of Andy Chew

The Black-and-red broadbill was formerly a resident bird in Singapore.

Although it was uncommon on the mainland, it was "quite numerous on Pulau Ubin", according to the Singapore Bird Group.

However, it was considered extinct in Singapore by the 1980s.

It was then spotted in 2004, and bird was speculated to have likely arrived from southern Johor.

It was not seen for another 13 years, until a dead individual was found on Pulau Ubin in 2017.

In 2019, one individual was caught and tagged at Sungei Buloh, making for the first modern day record of the Black-and-red broadbill on the mainland.

The Singapore Birds Project defines this species as a "rarity", and a very rare non-breeding visitor.

More colourful birds in Singapore

Top photo courtesy of Chris Ang Photography