Rescued Bedok North goshawk released into the wild: WRS

Diane Leow, Channel NewsAsia 7 Mar 17;

SINGAPORE: A young goshawk that was rescued after it had trouble fledging from its nest in a built-up housing estate was released the day after it was picked up, Channel NewsAsia learnt from Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS) on Monday (Mar 6).

The chick belonged to a family of relatively rare crested goshawks that first came to the attention of Singapore's birdwatching community when they built their nest in a tree in a car park at Bedok North Avenue 4.

But it was the mother goshawk which had to raise the brood on her own. The father failed to return to the nest shortly after the chicks hatched, and birdwatchers speculated that it had been killed.

The Bird Group of the Nature Society (Singapore) said that a single parent would find it hard to raise two chicks alone, and that the mother was probably trying to get its chicks to fledge earlier, before they were ready.

Both chicks fledged on Feb 19 but ended up on the ground, birdwatcher Lee Li Er told Channel NewsAsia. The older one was put back in a tree and eventually managed to fly. The younger chick, which fell a few times, ended up on the ground again late in the evening, she said.

Ms Lee said that another birder asked animal rescue group ACRES to help, as it was getting dark and they were worried that the young bird might be attacked by cats or dogs.

She added that the ACRES officer said that the chick was healthy and that nothing was broken, although it was weak, exhausted and dehydrated.

The ACRES officer took the bird away and subsequently handed it to Jurong Bird Park's avian hospital for a more thorough check.

Ms Lee said that in the subsequent days, the mother goshawk was seen looking for the younger bird and leaving food for it.

Anxious for the chick to be reunited with its mother, enthusiasts told Channel NewsAsia that they had sought updates on the fate of the bird from Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS), which owns and manages Jurong Bird Park.

In response to Channel NewsAsia's queries, a spokesperson for WRS confirmed on Monday that the young bird was taken to Jurong Bird Park on Feb 20 and released back into the wild on the same day.

The bird received a full medical examination and was given a clean bill of health, WRS said, adding that the bird had been treated with fluids for mild dehydration and hypoglycaemia.

The Nature Society's Bird Group said it was glad to hear that the chick had been released.

"Hopefully it is released back at the same nest area," a representative for the group said. "It may need parents help to hunt for food for the first few days. If it can get hold of easy prey like mynas, rats, changeable lizards, pigeons and bats near where it was released, it will be fine."

The Bird Ecology Study Group echoed those sentiments. When asked about the chick's chances of survival after being released into the wild, the group's representative Dr Wee Yeow Chin said it depended on whether it was released near the nesting site.

"If so, the surviving adult would still be nearby with the other chick. If it was released elsewhere, chances of survival would be slim – (there would be) no one to teach it how to survive outside the nest," Dr Wee said.

'SUCH A RARE THING TO SEE'

The goshawk nest has drawn a lot of attention from bird lovers and Bedok North residents alike since the birds made their home in the housing estate.

"It’s such a rare thing to see," said Ms Lee. "Every day, if you go there, there’s a group of photographers trying to take action shots and watching what’s happening."

The Nature Society's Bird Group said that the crested goshawk was once listed as a rare resident bird, but that its numbers have been increasing over the past years.

The group added that goshawks have been known to nest at Bishan Park, Botanic Gardens, Sentosa and Kent Ridge, but that they are not easily seen.

Explaining why the goshawks could have chosen to nest at Bedok North, the group's representative said: "The crested goshawk nests where they can easily find food for the chicks. There could be a myna roost there at Bedok or pigeons around. Rats also form a part of their diet."

On how best to deal with fledglings that end up on the ground, the Bird Ecology Study Group's Dr Wee said that they should be left alone. "At the most they should be placed in a safe location by the nest, preferably on higher ground, away from stray cats and 'stray' people," said Dr Wee. "If necessary, be around but keep your distance, to see that no harm comes to them."

- CNA/dl

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