If you have been walking around our “rural” parks and forests, you may have noticed a bright flash of red darting from shrub to shrub. What you have seen is most likely the crimson sunbird! It is an attractive and iconic species that can be found in Singapore.
What is the crimson sunbird?
The crimson sunbird, Aethopyga siparaja is a species of sunbird found in the Indian Subcontinent, Southeast Asia and Southern China . It inhabits a wide range of habitats ranging from parks and gardens to forests. Males have a distinctive crimson red plumage on the head, mantle and upper breast while females are drab, with olive green upperparts and yellower underparts . Its diet consists largely of nectar and insects .
Where can they be found?
While the more common sunbirds such as the olive-backed sunbird can be found in urban areas and parklands, the crimson sunbird is less commonly seen outside of rural parks and forests in Singapore. The best places to find them would be the Central Catchment Nature Reserve or Bukit Timah Nature Reserve  which are not too urbanised.
The national bird of Singapore?
Back in 2002 , this iconic bird was designated the unofficial national bird of Singapore after it emerged winner in a poll organised by the Nature Society. Although nature groups have pushed for its status to be made official, no relevant ministries have declared so. At a dinner held as part of the 6th Asian Bird Fair in 2015 , there was a short-lived euphoria when it was mistakenly declared as the official national bird of Singapore. However, the crimson sunbird remains a popular choice as the national bird among Singaporeans.
While this species is still quite common in Singapore, they are not as commonly seen as other bird species. Hopefully, with the ongoing greening efforts utilising more native plant species, we will see more of them in our neighbourhood parks and gardens. Giving such an iconic species the official status as the national bird of Singapore would also pique people’s interest regarding Singapore’s natural environment, helping to raise awareness about the rich flora and fauna we have on this sunny island.
I hope you have enjoyed reading this entry! Till next time!
Written by: Ke Yao
: B. C. (1992). A Guide To The Common Birds Of Singapore. Singapore: Singapore Science Centre.