21 pied stilts appear on S'pore mainland for the first time

White, black and pink birds in your area.

Gawain Pek | May 26, 2023, 02:35 PM

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A couple of weekends ago, K-pop girl group Blackpink was all the rage when they were in town for their world tour for the first time in four years.

This past week, another black and pink group got all the attention from another horde of fans.

However, instead of singing or dancing, the performance by this week's group took things to new heights, quite literally.

The group in question are 21 pied stilts who flew into town for the first time on record.

Classified as a "very rare resident" by the Singapore Birds Project (SBP), this is the first time the birds have been spotted on Singapore's mainland.

Touched down on Monday, May 22

The pied stilts apparently landed in two groups — one group at Yishun Dam, and another at Marina East Drive.

One bird watching enthusiast, Dannis Soh, shared with Mothership that the birds likely arrived on Monday (May 22) evening.

Soh also updated that the pied stilts may have left the island as they can no longer be found at Yishun Dam.

"[The birds] left the area probably very early on Wednesday (May 24) morning," Soh told Mothership.

Nonetheless, photographs of the birds were shared on Facebook groups by birdwatchers in fond memory of the pied stilts' first outing to mainland Singapore.

All of the photos are dated Tuesday, May 23.

Here are the shots from birders who caught sight of the celebrity birds at Yishun Dam:

Photo courtesy of Hong Yijun/Facebook.

Photo courtesy of Shiang Kwok Ann/Facebook.

Look at this bird flying with ballerina-like finesse.

Photo courtesy of Hong Yijun/Facebook.

Now, in formation:

Photo courtesy of Herman Phua/Facebook.

One of the photographers, Hong Yijun, wrote in his Facebook post on the group "Singapore Wildlife Sightings" that the birds "probably arrived earlier this week". However, they likely went undetected as fewer birdwatchers were out as it is currently the non-migratory season.

The flock at Yishun Dam stayed there until dusk on Tuesday. A video of them roosting by the shore during sunset was captured and uploaded to Facebook by user MeiLin Khoo:

Over at Marina East Drive, birdwatcher Francis Yap caught the group in flight:

Photo courtesy of Francis Yap/Facebook.

According to Yap's post on Facebook group "Bird Sightings", the group at Marina East Drive was spotted first, while news of the flock at Yishun Dam came later.

"The stilts kept appearing and disappearing as more birders streamed in," Yap noted of his experience at Marine East Drive.

According to Herman Phua, he was taking a walk at Marina East Drive on May 23 when he first spotted a flock of pied stilts in flight.

Phua then informed the birding community about the presence of the birds.

Khoo noted in another post that there were seven individuals spotted at Marina East Drive, and 14 at Yishun Dam.

First sighting outside of Pulau Tekong

According to Movin Nyanasengeran, a member of the Singapore Birds Project (SBP) and PhD student at the National University of Singapore's (NUS) Avian Evolution Lab, Wednesday's sighting was significant because up till now, the pied stilt had only been recorded on Pulau Tekong.

The first record of the birds by SBP was in 2019.

The birds were then spotted again in Pulau Tekong in 2021 and 2022.

"We can’t confirm if the birds came from Tekong or elsewhere," Movin commented about the birds which were spotted on Wednesday.

However, Movin confirmed that the two groups belonged to different flocks as both were spotted at the two locations simultaneously.

The pied stilt has a known range that spans Indonesia to Australia and New Zealand.

Top image courtesy of Francis Yap/Facebook, Shiang Kwok Ann/Facebook