On 28th February 2014, a Band-bellied Crake (Porzana paykullii) was sighted at Singapore’s Chinese Garden. This rare winter visitor comes from the Russian Far East (its breeding grounds), NE China and Korea (Taylor, 1966). In winters it migrates to Southeast Asia – Central Thailand, Vietnam, Peninsular Malaysia, North Sumatra, Java and North Borneo – now, Singapore.
Jeremiah Loei’s two images above and Lena Chow’s video clip below show the second sighting of this crake in three years.
First sighted in 2011 by wildlife consultant Subaraj Rajathurai LINK, it was seen just outside the gate to the Japanese Garden. Subaraj was then conducting a survey for the National University of Singapore. According to him, the crake was extremely skittish, appearing only for a short while, first flying across the road and then trying to shelter in vegetation in a flowerbed. It then scurried off and disappeared. All he managed to get was a poor photograph.
Subaraj wrote that Mike Price, a keen birdwatcher based in Singapore, believes that “…as there are now 2 records 3 years apart, the Band-bellied Crake may have been overlooked previously due to its similarity to the resident Ruddy-breasted Crake (Porzana fusca). I am not sure if that is true but as this species is usually more shy and retiring in swampy areas, it would normally be difficult to observe.”
Subaraj further added: “The current individual has landed on migration at the Chinese Garden, during a very dry spell. As such, the semi-dry swampy pond and the ditch are the only wet, vegetated areas there that are suitable for foraging, even if they are somewhat open and less than ideal for a normally secretive bird!”
Melinda Chan confirms the above observation: “This crake looks really tame, wandering/scurrying from one flowerbed to another but always foraging in the same man-made drain and a small ‘pond’ (part of a disused vertical water fountain?). With the resident waterhen chasing it away from the smaller ‘pond’ the crake returns there regularly, foraging for tiny snails. The crake doesn’t wander far, where there are bigger streams/ponds in other parts of the Chinese and Japanese Gardens.”
Jeremiah Loei, Subaraj Rajathurai, Lena Chow & Melinda Chan
Taylor, P. B., 1996. Family Rallidae (Rails, Gallinules and Coots). In: del Hoyo, J., A. Elliott & J. Sargatal (eds.), Handbook of the birds of the world. Vol. 3. Hoatzin to Auks. Lynx Editions, Barcelona. Pp. 108-209.