Let’s Learn About Birds!

The Black-naped Oriole is one of many bird species that can be spotted in the Singapore Botanic Gardens.

My 11-year old daughter loves animals. We like to spend time outdoors as a family, and we get particularly excited when we spot animals in the wild. However, until recently, we did not know much about Singapore’s birds.

When the Singapore Botanic Gardens organised a new bird identification workshop last December, we knew it was right up our alley. Though this programme is targeted at upper primary children, it was also a great opportunity for for parents to learn a thing or two about the birdlife in Singapore.

The session was held at Jacob Ballas Children’s Garden, and it lasted for about 1.5 hours with a short break inbetween.

The first portion was set in the classroom, and covered important terms such as ‘resident’, ‘migrant’ and ‘vagrant’ (this last one was new to me – a vagrant bird is one that is outside of its native range, often because it was been blown off course due to bad weather). We also learnt the basics of bird identification using important characteristics such as size, shape, colour and habitat.

The instructor, Low Bing Wen, was very knowledgeable and captured the attention of the kids through a question and answer session, awarding correct answers with small prizes.

We were given a run-down of the 10 most common birds in the Singapore Botanic Gardens, along with some interesting bird facts.

For example, we learnt how to tell the two commonly spotted Myna birds apart; the Javan Myna, which was originally brought to Singapore by Indonesian traders, has a black body, while the Common Myna, a Singapore native, is brown.

We also learnt that the colourful Black-naped Oriole preys on other birds. It waits for the parents to leave the nest, then steals the eggs and young chicks and feeds them to its own young! For the second part of the programme, we went out into the Garden to put our new knowledge to the test.

Around Jacob Ballas Children’s Garden, we saw at least four of the common birds that we had just learnt about. We also had the added treat of seeing a male jungle fowl, the ancestor of domestic roosters!

Participants observing a Pink-necked Green Pigeon in Jacob Ballas Children’s Garden.

Spurred on by our successful bird-spotting, parents and kids alike were excited to continue our bird search into the Eco-Garden. Around the Eco-Lake, we saw an Oriental Magpie Robin, Lesser Whistling Ducks and two migrant bee-eaters.

One of the Lesser Whistling Ducks gliding across the Eco-Lake

The children enjoyed being outdoors and had lots of fun spotting a variety of other wildlife.

Some of the young participants spotting turtles in Eco-Lake.

One of the other moms told me that she thought the workshop was both educational and fun, and that she and her two children learnt a lot about how to identify birds.

Her 11-year-old daughter Eleanor is a budding wildlife photographer and took some really great photographs during the field session. She summed up the workshop as “exciting”. Eleanor’s 8-year-old brother Elliot is more interested in insects than birds, but also enjoyed the workshop and being outdoors.

“Let’s Learn about Birds” is well-targeted to older children (P5 and P6), but also captures (and holds) the attention of younger participants (P3 and P4) while being informative for parents. This great nature-related workshop was a very fruitful experience for me, as I not only learnt how to identify some of the more common birds that can be spotted around the Gardens, but I discovered how great the diversity of birdlife is in Singapore.

Text and photos by Ada Davis except for photo of the Black-naped Oriole.

Singapore Botanic Gardens, including Jacob Ballas Children’s Garden, offers a variety of workshops.
Here are some upcoming events that will be held at the Children’s Garden:
Date & Time Title of Programme Synopsis
7 February 2015(10am – 11am) Chinese New Year Special: Plants & Their Uses Guided Tour Did you know that many plants play an important role in Chinese culture? Throughout Chinese history, many plants have had symbolic meanings that represent good fortune and prosperity. Join us on this tour and learn about the important uses of plants and their significance as we celebrate Chinese New Year!
14 February 2015(10am – 11.30am) Chinese New Year Special: Floral Arrangement Workshop During the upcoming Chinese New Year festive season, attend this workshop at Jacob Ballas Children’s Garden and create your very own floral arrangement. Impress your relatives and friends with your children’s creation and liven up your house with the colours of nature!
  For more workshops or for information on registration, visit the Gardens website and click on the ‘Learn’ tab.
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