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Meet The (Unofficial) National Bird of Singapore, The Crimson Sunbird

Singapore, a bustling cosmopolitan city nestled in the heart of Southeast Asia, is home to more than just towering skyscrapers and mouthwatering cuisine. Amidst its urban jungle resides a tiny, radiant bird that beautifully juxtaposes the nation’s modernity – the Crimson Sunbird.

Though not officially recognized, this diminutive creature has garnered immense admiration from locals and has even been touted as the unofficial national bird. As we journey through this article, prepare to be mesmerized not just by its vibrant plumage but by surprising facts about its evolution and ecological significance.

Quick Info About The Crimson Sunbird

Scientific Name:Aethopyga siparaja
Average Size:11 cm (4.3 inches)
Average Wingspan:Approx. 16 cm (6.3 inches)
Average Weight:7-8 g (0.24-0.28 oz)
Average Lifespan:3-5 years
Geographical Range:India to Indonesia and Brunei
Habitat:Forests and cultivated areas
Conservation Status:Least Concern (IUCN Red List)

Meet The Crimson Sunbird, Unofficial National Bird of Singapore

The Crimson Sunbird, with its radiant crimson breast and maroon back, is a sight to behold. Unlike the large birds often chosen as national symbols, Singapore’s Crimson Sunbird is tiny, capturing the essence of a nation that might be small in size but is bustling with life and vibrancy.

The male is particularly dazzling with its shimmering green-blue tail (though this feature varies across regions), making it easy to spot amidst the green canopies.

Females, on the other hand, sport an olive-green back with a yellowish breast, a more muted yet equally elegant appearance. The bird’s slender down-curved bill and tubular tongue are special adaptations, perfected over time to feed on nectar.

In the ecosystem, the Crimson Sunbird plays a crucial role as both a pollinator and a prey. Its nectarivorous diet makes it an important agent for pollination, facilitating the reproduction of many tropical plants. Simultaneously, being on the smaller side of the avian world, it falls prey to larger birds and arboreal predators.

The bird’s diet isn’t limited to nectar; it also feeds on insects, especially when nursing its young. Though often compared to hummingbirds due to their size, appearance, and ecological niche, the two are products of convergent evolution, filling similar ecological roles in different parts of the world.

Despite its small size, the Crimson Sunbird stands tall in the hearts of many Singaporeans, representing the nation’s rich biodiversity and the coexistence of urban and natural worlds.

Singapore Crimson Sunbird

Where Does The Crimson Sunbird Live?

The Crimson Sunbird, an emblem of vibrancy and resilience, is typically found thriving in the tropical regions of southern and southeastern Asia. Within Singapore, this bird has adapted comfortably to various landscapes, including urban settings.

From pristine reserves like the Singapore Botanic Gardens to cultivated areas, the bird finds solace amidst flora, using them not only as nesting sites but also as food sources, primarily nectar. Outside of Singapore, its geographical range extends from the northwestern parts of India to the eastern bounds of Indonesia.

These birds are primarily residents of forests, but they don’t shy away from plantations and even gardens, especially if they are rich in flowers. The climate across these areas is predominantly tropical, characterized by high humidity, consistent rainfall, and warm temperatures, which provide an abundant supply of nectar throughout the year.

Why and When Did The Crimson Sunbird Become The (Unofficial) National Bird of Singapore?

The story of the Crimson Sunbird’s ascent to symbolic prominence in Singapore is both intriguing and a testament to its charm. Although it isn’t “officially” the national bird, it holds a special place in the heart of the nation.

The journey began in 2002 when the Nature Society Singapore initiated a poll to decide the country’s national bird. The Crimson Sunbird emerged victorious, receiving the most votes, primarily due to its small size and brilliant red plumage, which resonated with the Singaporean spirit: small but vibrant and active. Voters believed that just like Singapore, the bird, though tiny, left an unforgettable impression.

The narrative, however, took a turn in 2015. Dr. Shawn Lum, president of the Nature Society Singapore, announced that the Crimson Sunbird had officially been declared the national bird.

But, a clarification followed, indicating that while the sentiment was genuine, official recognition from the government was still pending. This stirred a wave of discussions and showcased the deep-seated admiration for the bird, reflecting its cultural significance.

Historically, while the Crimson Sunbird doesn’t have deep-rooted legends associated with it in Singaporean folklore, its dynamic presence and ecological importance have naturally rooted it into Singapore’s contemporary culture.

Some say that the Crimson Sunbird is a little red dot in the tree just like Singapore is a little red dot on the map.

Where is The Crimson Sunbird Featured in Singapore?

While the Crimson Sunbird may not grace Singapore’s flag or banknotes, its influence extends beyond just being a symbolic representative. Its name and likeness are often used in educational initiatives and campaigns promoting biodiversity, making it an ambassador for Singapore’s rich natural heritage.

Furthermore, as an emblem of the Nature Society Singapore, its image and name frequently appear in materials related to wildlife conservation, birdwatching events, and nature-themed activities.

While not directly, the Crimson Sunbird has indirectly inspired the nation’s emphasis on coexisting with nature amidst urban expansion. Although not embedded in the country’s official emblems or currencies, the bird’s metaphorical imprint on the nation’s heart is undeniable.

Names of The Crimson Sunbird

The Crimson Sunbird, scientifically known as Aethopyga siparaja, is a gem of avian biodiversity with a name that reflects its brilliant red appearance. However, depending on the region, it is recognized by a few other names:

  • Red-breasted Sunbird: This name stems from its distinctively red chest, particularly noticeable in the males.
  • In some parts of India, they are referred to by a name that translates to “Ruby bird” due to the gem-like quality of their plumage.
  • The subspecies found in the Western Ghats of India, previously regarded as A. vigorsii, is commonly called the Western Crimson Sunbird.
  • On the Nicobar Islands, the subspecies A.s. nicobarica is often recognized distinctly, although its specific local name varies.

While the Crimson Sunbird might have other regional names based on dialects and tribal languages, the overarching theme in its nomenclature revolves around its vibrant hue.

Is The Crimson Sunbird Endangered?

As of now, the Crimson Sunbird is classified as “Least Concern” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. This means that currently, it is not considered to be at immediate risk of extinction. However, like many wildlife species, it faces threats that could impact its populations in the future:

  • Habitat Loss: Urban expansion, deforestation, and the conversion of land for agriculture could reduce its natural habitat, posing a threat to its population.
  • Climate Change: Shifts in climatic patterns might affect the availability of their primary food source – nectar.

On a positive note, awareness campaigns by organizations like the Nature Society Singapore and conservationists work diligently to ensure that such birds and their habitats are protected. There is a growing emphasis on maintaining green spaces within the urban fabric of Singapore, and initiatives are in place to ensure sustainable coexistence.

Singapore Crimson Sunbird

Interesting Facts About The Crimson Sunbird

  1. Mistaken Identity: The Crimson Sunbird, due to its size and vibrant colors, is often mistaken for a hummingbird. However, this is a classic case of convergent evolution. While both birds feed on nectar and play a role in pollination, they are not closely related. In fact, hummingbirds are restricted to the Americas, whereas sunbirds are found in Asia, Africa, and Australia.
  2. Dynamic Feeders: While they predominantly feed on nectar, Crimson Sunbirds switch to an insectivorous diet, especially when feeding their young. This adaptability ensures that their offspring get the required protein for growth.
  3. Vibrant Plumage: Only the male Crimson Sunbird boasts the brilliant red plumage, while the females have a more muted olive-green hue. This sexual dimorphism is common in many bird species, where males are more colorful.
  4. Pollinators: Their brush-tipped tubular tongues are perfectly adapted for nectar feeding, and in the process of feeding, they aid in the pollination of flowers, playing a crucial role in the ecosystem.
  5. Cultural Resonance: Though not steeped in ancient lore, the Crimson Sunbird’s elevation to an unofficial national symbol showcases its contemporary cultural significance in Singapore. Its vibrant nature and agility resonated with Singapore’s ethos, making it an apt representation of the nation’s spirit.

Other Beautiful Birds Native To Singapore

  • Oriental Pied Hornbill (Anthracoceros albirostris): Once extinct in Singapore, these hornbills have made a comeback due to conservation efforts. They are striking with their large size, black-and-white plumage, and distinctive casqued bill.
  • Black-naped Oriole (Oriolus chinensis): Identified by its bright yellow body and contrasting black nape and eyes, this oriole is commonly seen in parks and wooded areas.
  • Sunda Scops Owl (Otus lempiji): A nocturnal bird native to Singapore, this owl has a distinctive, melancholic call and is characterized by its compact size and ear tufts.
  • Pink-necked Green Pigeon (Treron vernans): Sporting a colorful palette ranging from pink and green to blue and yellow, these pigeons are a sight to behold and are usually found in fruit trees.
  • White-bellied Sea Eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster): As Singapore is a coastal city, it’s no surprise that this magnificent bird of prey with a wingspan of up to 2.2 meters is native to the region, often seen soaring above coastal areas and reservoirs.

What Is Another National Animal of Singapore?

The lion, specifically the lion’s head, is a pivotal symbol for Singapore. Its very name, “Singapore,” is derived from the Sanskrit words ‘Singa’ for lion and ‘Pura’ for city, translating to “Lion City.”

Legend has it that a Sumatran prince, Sang Nila Utama, arrived on the island and spotted a majestic creature, which he later identified as a lion. Taking it as a good omen, he founded a city on the island and named it after the beast.

While there’s historical debate over the existence of lions in the region during that time, the symbolism of the lion represents courage, strength, and resilience for the nation.

The iconic Merlion, a statue with the head of a lion and the body of a fish, further exemplifies the blend of the country’s original roots as a humble fishing village and its lion-inspired name.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is the Crimson Sunbird the official national bird of Singapore?

No, the Crimson Sunbird is often referred to as Singapore’s unofficial national bird due to its popularity and significance, but it hasn’t been officially designated as such.

How can I see a Crimson Sunbird in Singapore?

The best places to spot a Crimson Sunbird in Singapore include nature reserves, parks, and gardens such as the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, and Singapore Botanic Gardens.

Why is the Merlion important to Singapore?

The Merlion is a symbol of Singapore, representing the city’s origins as a fishing village and its name, which means “Lion City” in Sanskrit. It’s a fusion of the city’s maritime heritage (fish body) and its ancient name (lion’s head).

Is the Malayan Tiger found in the wild in Singapore?

No, the Malayan Tiger is not found in the wild in Singapore anymore. It is native to the Malay Peninsula, and Singapore’s ties to the Malayan region make the tiger an important symbol, but they have been eradicated from the island a long time ago.

Apart from the Crimson Sunbird, are there other birds that are commonly seen in urban areas of Singapore?

Yes, in urban areas of Singapore, it’s common to spot birds like the Javan Myna, Common Myna, Black-naped Oriole, and Yellow-vented Bulbul, among others.

Other National Symbols of Singapore

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