Uncommon migratory kingfisher released back into Gardens by the Bay after recovering from bird attack

Toh Ting Wei Straits Times 9 Oct 18;

SINGAPORE - A migratory kingfisher that has been drawing flocks of photographers to Gardens by the Bay was released back into the area on Sunday (Oct 7), a day after it was rescued from an attack by another bird.

The oriental dwarf kingfisher, which is an uncommon migrant here, was seen struggling in the mud on Saturday after it was attacked by a larger white-breasted waterhen.

The waterhen had charged into the kingfisher from behind, leaving it stuck head first in the mud for a short time, according to nature watchers.

While it required rescue after the attack left it unable to fly, it has since been nursed back to health and released where it was found.

The oriental dwarf kingfisher is found in countries such as India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, as well as parts of southern China and South-east Asia, according to the Singapore Birds Project. It grows to a size of between 12.5cm and 14cm.

The Nature Society (Singapore) records fewer than 10 oriental dwarf kingfishers migrating here annually on average during the migration season, which starts in September.

Long-time birdwatcher Alan OwYong, 72, a committee member of the Nature Society's (Singapore) Bird Group, told The Straits Times that he took the injured bird back home and placed it in a dark box for it to rest.

He had wanted to hand the bird over to the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres). But as Acres' rescuers were occupied on Saturday, he kept the bird at home to nurse it overnight, with guidance from Acres staff via text messages.

Mr OwYong, who has previously taken care of other injured birds, said: "The bird was a bit traumatised and it was not trying to fly when we were transporting it. I put it in a box and kept it in a dark place with water, so it would not get spooked.

"By the next morning, the bird seemed much stronger and was flapping away in the box."

Mr OwYong then released the kingfisher into the area where it was previously spotted. This was done to give the bird a better chance of survival in a place where it has a food source and is already familiar with.

The bird has since been spotted resuming its normal activities around the area.

The kingfisher was first spotted near the Dragonfly Bridge at Gardens by the Bay last Thursday.

Around 50 photographers were snapping photos of the bird on Saturday at about 4.30pm, when the kingfisher was attacked by another bird.

Senior engineer Jeline Goh, who is in her late 30s, said: "The kingfisher was standing on a plant, when a waterhen suddenly came from behind and poked it, causing it to fall into the mud.

"It seemed to be injured as it tried to flap its wings a number of times, but was still unable to fly."

Workers from Gardens by the Bay then went down to rescue the stunned kingfisher, before handing it over to a Nature Society member at the scene. The member subsequently handed the kingfisher over to Mr OwYong.

Since the bird's recovery, nature photographers have turned out in numbers again to get a photo of the bird.

About 50 photographers were waiting at Gardens by the Bay at 6.30am on Monday morning to snap pictures of the bird, said Mr Jeremiah Loei, administrator of wildlife interest group Birds, Insects N Creatures of Asia.

Photographers are rushing to document the bird because of its beautiful colours and its status as a temporary resident, said Mr Loei.

Kingfishers of all species are generally popular because of their intriguing feeding process - they dive into the water to hunt before feeding on their prey in plain sight, he added.

He said photographers are advised to remain silent and stay a reasonable distance away from the kingfisher. They should also switch their cellphones to silent mode, and not surround the bird such that it feels threatened.

As the path near where the kingfisher feeds is narrow, photographers are also advised to make way for members of the public to walk past, and to give one another a chance to photograph the bird, Mr Loei added.

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