generally feed alone or in small, spread out parties. At most times of year,
they defend some kind of territory. On migration, they maintain a feeding
territory that is guarded against other Whimbrels. But Whimbrels roost and
migrate in large flocks. They prefer to roost on exposed shoals, tops of
mangrove trees or in shallowly flooded clearings in mangroves which face
the open sea.
Kedidi Pisau Raut/Burong Gajah (Malay)
are large waders with distinctive long down-curved bills. These bills
allow them to probe deeply into mud for titbits. And possibly gave
rise to one of their Malay names which means "elephant bird"!
eat mostly burrowing crabs. The next major item on the menu are fish.
But they will eat a wide variety of crustaceans, aquatic invertebrates,
insects, worms and molluscs. They also snack on seeds, berries and
leaves, particularly in late summer as insect populations begin to
Whimbrels probe deeply and move as they feed. They may also pick off
food found on the surface. They can take large prey, tearing it to
pieces before eating it. In India, they pull fiddler crabs out of
their burrows, tear off their larger claw before swallowing the titbit.
A muddy food item may be rinsed before it is eaten.
Whimbrels forage on both mud and sandy surfaces, but avoid very soft
mud. They are only found in coastal areas and do not forage inland.
and wetland wildlife at
Sungei Buloh Nature Park
features: Large (40-46cm); neck longish; bill long
(5-9cm), very decurved, pinkish at base; legs medium length
bluish-grey; crown dark with prominent whitish supercilium
and narrow buff crown stripe.
Adult: Crown-stripe more
prominent. Upperparts paler with little contrast. Females
slightly larger (400g) than males (350g). No different
N. p. phaeopus adult
p. variegatus adult
Rosair and Cottridge
Darker crown with indistinct crown-stripe; scapulars,
wing coverts and tertials blackish with prominent buff
Call: Described as a fluty
rapidly repeated tu; one-tone multiple trill; a
loud clear whinnying trill in flight. Alarm call is a
In flight: Above brown with
blackish outer wing, feet just reach tail. N. p. phaeopus:
white rump with V up the back and underwing coverts whitish;
N. p. variegatus: barred, brown back and rump,
and underwing coverts brown.
Sandpiper (Calidris ferruginea) The Whimbrel
has a shorter bill, dark cap and striped head; underwing
Status in Singapore: Common winter visitor to coastal
mudflats on the island and most offshore islands.
World distribution: Worldwide.
Classification: Family Scolopacidae.
World 88 species, Singapore 34 species. There are four
races: phaeopus which breed in Iceland-Western
Russia; alboaxillaris in south Urals and migrates
to East Africa; variegatus in Eastern Russia; hudsonicus
in Alaska and Canada. Order Charadiiformes.
Breeding (May-August): Whimbrels breed
in the subarctic and arctic from Iceland across Eurasia, Alaska and Canada.
They prefer to nest in boreal or low-arctic moorland and tundra next to
the treeline. The male's courtship includes a high circling song flight
comprising a prolonged bubbling. They don't have different summer and winter
Whimbrel nests are just a shallow depression on the ground, usually concealed
in low grass or heather. They may also make a nest on top of a mound of
moss or grass that is surrounded at the base with water. The hollow is lined
with soft grasses, mosses and lichens. 2-5, usually 4 eggs are laid; these
are bluish green to a light olive green with lavender and brown markings.
Both parents incubate (22-28 days) and raise the young. As soon as the chicks
are dry, they leave the nest and stay hidden among the surrounding vegetation.
Both parents care for the chicks until they fledge in 35-40 days.
Migration: Those Whimbrels that visit
Singapore breed in Northeast Asia, migrating in winter to India, southern
China, Southeast Asia to the Philippines and the Sundas. They migrate with
other shorebirds, and often act as a sentinel species. Very wary, Whimbrels
are often the first to alert the other birds to danger. Their peak arrival
in Singapore is September-November, although a small number may be found
throughout the year. Probably because many first year birds may remain in
their wintering quarters throughout the summer. During migration, the Whimbrel
roosts in mangroves, feeds on mudflats at the tideline with other waders.
They may also be found inland, both around wetlands as well as short dry
grassland, farmland, golf courses, parks.
Status and threats: Whimbrels are among
the most abundant Curlews because of their extensive breeding range. Adult
Whimbrels have few natural predators, aside from foxes and larger raptors.
Few succumb to predation during migration, probably because they are very
vigilant. Human impact is the biggest threat. Whimbrels are affected by
habitat loss of nesting sites and refuelling staging posts along the migration
route, and pollution of shorelines. In the early 1900s, they were hunted
in the US as they migrated south. The slaughter had reduced populations
there from thousands to a few hundred. Although hunting is less widespread
now, there has been no apparent recovery to pre-hunting levels. They continue
to be hunted in their wintering grounds, such as in Thailand.
- Morten Strange,
"A Photographic Guide to Birds of Malaysia and Singapore: including
Southeast Asia, the Philippines and Borneo", Periplus, 2000
(p. 108: description, voice, habits, distribution, status, photo).
- David R Wells,
"The Birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsula: Vol. 1 (Non-Passarines)",
Academic Press, 1999 (p. 221-223: identification, distribution map,
habits, habitat, migration, conservation).
- Lim Kim Seng and
Dana Gardner, "Birds: An Illustrated Field Guide to the Birds
of Singapore", Sun Tree Publishing Ltd., 1997 (p. 53-54: identification,
status in Singapore, distribution, diagram, number of species).
- G W H Davison
and Chew Yen Fook, "A Photographic Guide to Birds of Peninsular
Malaysia and Singapore", New Holland Publishers Ltd., 1995
(p. 35: identification, status in Singapore, distribution, photo).
- Morten Strange
and Allen Jeyarajasingam, "Birds: A Photographic Guide to the
Birds of Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore", Sun Tree Publishing,
1993 (p.119: description, distribution, habits, habitat, photo).
- Clive Briffett,
"A Guide to the Common Birds of Singapore", BP Science
Centre,1992 (p. 58: habit, habitat)
- Lim Kim Seng,
"Pocket Checklist of the Birds of the Republic of Singapore",
Nature Society (Singapore), 1999 (Abundance, status, Chinese and Malay
- Christopher Hails,
"Birds of Singapore" illustrated by Frank Jarvis, Times
Editions, 1987 reprinted 1995 (p. 73: habits, description, status in
Singapore, and lovely drawings of the birds).
- G C Madoc, "An
Introduction to Malayan Birds", Malayan Nature Society, 1947
(p. 44: description, Malay name).
- David Rosair and
David Cottridge, "Photographic Guide to the Shorebirds of the
World", Facts on File, 1995 (p. 106: photos of adults).
- Peter Hayman (et.
al), "Shorebirds: An Identification Guide to the Waders of the
World", Christopher Helm, 1986 (p. 317: identification, distribution,
habits, movements, diagrams).
of the Birds of the World: Vol 3: Hoatzin to Auks", Lynx Edicions,
1996 (p. 503: identification, distribution map, habits, habitat, migration,