‘I felt awed’: Flocks of daurian starlings sighted in Yishun and Sengkang
Bird enthusiasts, wildlife photographers and residents have been treated to spectacular aerial displays in September as throngs of migratory birds danced in the skies above Yishun and Sengkang.
The daurian starlings were seen flying in huge flocks in formations, a phenomenon known as murmuration, for about 15 minutes at dusk before perching themselves on trees and calling it a day.
Hailing from north-east Asia, the birds, also known as purple-backed starlings, are visitors that have flown south to escape the harsh winter in the north.
Mr Tan Gim Cheong, the chairman of Nature Society Singapore’s bird group, said this is the season for migration when birds like daurian starlings leave the northern areas where summer is nearing its end, and fly to warm areas like South-east Asia.
“Some of them will stay in Singapore while others will continue south to Indonesia,” said Mr Tan, who said these birds typically arrive in huge numbers in September and return in March the following year. He added that the daurian starlings are common visitors here.
Avid bird watcher and photographer Hong Yijun, 29, who witnessed the mesmerising sight in Yishun Street 22 on Sept 21 evening, said: “I felt awed by the sighting as it is always amazing how Mother Nature can conjure up such spectacles.”
The fact that so many starlings can travel thousands of kilometres to Singapore in unison, leaving no bird behind, is “proof that birds also have a sense of belonging and tribal instinct built into their tiny bodies”, said Mr Hong, who is a process engineer.
Over at Sengkang, quality manager William Khaw, 53, first saw the birds in Sengkang East Way on Sept 17 on his way home after dinner.
The avid bird photographer said while he has seen these birds in other parts of the island, it was his first time seeing them near his home. “I don’t have to go further out to hunt for these birds, and I’m fortunate to be able to see their beautiful colours up close,” he said.
Sporting a pale grey head and underparts, the male daurian starling has glossy, iridescent feathers in dark hues of green and purple, while the female has duller plumage in shades of brown.
The bird is about 17cm to 19cm long, or slightly longer than a short school ruler, according to the Bird Society of Singapore website. They are found in places like Eastern Mongolia, South-east Russia, North-east and Central China and North Korea.