About Us

The Singapore Bird Records Committee (SBRC) follows a comprehensive and detailed set of guidelines, summarised here. Please feel free to contact us if you require further information.

About the Singapore Bird Records Committee

What does the SBRC do?
The SBRC, established as a part of the Bird Society of Singapore (BirdSoc SG), seeks to lead the documentation, archival, and sharing of avifaunal records in Singapore through scientific and data-driven methods. We maintain the Singapore Bird Checklist as well as the Singapore Bird Database, and ensure that they are kept up-to-date and accurate. We also regularly assess the status of birds in Singapore and make relevant information easily accessible to the local and regional birding community.
What are the values of the SBRC?
Our members operate with integrity, transparency, and take care to present information accurately and objectively. To ensure transparency, we have procedures in place to prevent conflicts of interest in voting, and publicly display the results of our voting process for scrutiny. We will always maintain a strong relationship with regional experts in the field of ornithology to guide our decision-making.
Who are the members of the SBRC?
The current members of the SBRC are:
  • Keita Sin (Chair)
  • Raghav Narayanswamy (Vice-chair)
  • Dillen Ng
  • Jen Wei Yip
  • Movin Nyanasengeran
  • Richard White
  • Sandra Chia

Checklist and categories

Which taxonomy does the committee use?
The SBRC follows the latest taxonomy published by the International Ornithological Committee. The current IOC version used by both the Singapore Bird Database and the Singapore Bird Checklist, as well as any other works published by the Bird Society of Singapore, is version 14.1.
Why are there differences between the checklists?
There are two versions of the Singapore Bird Checklist. One is the live version, accessible on this site and on our main site. The other is a downloadable Excel version, which is accessed through our Downloads page. Our downloadable checklist is updated twice a year and is a "timestamp" that captures the list of species at that point, while the live versions are continually updated to include the latest Records Committee decisions.
What are the categories in which species are placed?
The categories are listed below. Species in Categories A and C are included in the Singapore Bird Checklist.
  • Category A Species that have occurred naturally in the wild within the last 30 years.
  • Category B1 Species previously placed in Category A but last recorded more than 30 years ago.
  • Category B2 Species that are most likely to have originated from captivity, formerly placed in Category C, but no longer have self-sustaining breeding populations.
  • Category C Species that are most likely to have originated from captivity, with self-sustaining breeding populations.
  • Category D Species that would otherwise appear in Category A, but with reasonable doubt that they have occurred naturally in the wild.
  • Category E1 Species that are most likely to have originated from captivity, with breeding populations, if any, thought to not be self-sustaining.
  • Category E2 Species that are most likely to have originated from human-assisted transportees.
  • Category E3 Species that would otherwise appear in Category A, but may potentially have been recorded as human-assisted transportees instead (e.g. ship-assisted birds).
  • Category F Species that have been formally reported but with no sufficient evidence that they have occurred in the wild.
  • Annex Species which have been recorded in an apparently wild state but not necessarily within Singapore's national boundaries.
The Annex is used to categorise pelagic species recorded in the Singapore Straits, where some records may be of birds outside of Singapore's territorial waters.
Why place species in categories?
We place species in categories to classify their occurrences in Singapore based on their likely origin, as well as based on the recency of their occurrences. The species categorisation is not linked to abundance.
How are species statuses defined?
We define the species statuses as follows. Species may each fall under one or more of these statuses.
  • Resident Species with populations thought to be in Singapore generally throughout the year
  • Visitor Species with generally resident populations within the Greater Sundaic region, but not regularly recorded in Singapore
  • Migrant Species that are known to undertake annual (or near-annual) migration to Singapore
  • Vagrant Species that are not known to regularly migrate to Singapore or the immediate region
  • Introduced All species in Categories C and E1
  • Introduced (ship-assisted) All species in Categories E2 and E3

Records in the Singapore Bird Database

Which records are assessed by the SBRC?
Records must meet a number of criteria to be assessed by the SBRC. Firstly, they must be from within Singapore's national boundaries - although we generally do assess records of pelagic birds which may not be strictly within Singapore's maritime waters (see our list of categories below). For defining Singapore's maritime waters, we use the boundaries defined in OpenSeaMap, which are available online. Secondly, the species must be either of the following: (1) a Review Species, or (2) a species new to Singapore's avifauna. Lastly, the species must not be one that the committee has categorised as an "obvious escapee" (e. g. several seed-eating birds such as waxbills and bishops from Africa that are most unlikely to occur in Singapore under normal circumstances). In due course, we will publish the full list of species which fall under this category (category E1 of our extended Singapore Bird Checklist). In most cases, these species are deemed as such because they do not migrate or migrate only short distances, or generally because traits of the species would not be compatible with wild occurrences in Singapore.
Which species are categorised as Review Species?
Review Species (formerly "rarities") are determined generally based on their rarity in Singapore. The rough quantitative guidelines for such birds are: Less than 4 independent records per year and less than 10 independent individuals on average in the past 5 years. We also consider species with an annual average of less than six records and less than 20 individuals for inclusion in the Review List if they are of conservation/research importance, or if they present considerable identification challenges. Additionally, taxa with subspecific interest also contribute to the determination of Review Species.
How are records added to the database?
Our committee members will make every effort to reach out to those who have reported sightings of Review Species; our preference is to have record submissions from observers, as these serve as important primary documentation for future generations. If this is unfeasible, or if no submission is received, we will collate all available information and upload the record through the admin interface, with media files not publicly displayed unless permission is granted by the observer.
What about species which are added to the Review List in the future?
The SBRC will assess whether to compile all documented records available for the species, or to compile only records from the five-year period leading up to the addition. This assessment will be based on the historical rarity of the species in Singapore.
Are some records hidden or kept confidential, and why?
Although we wish we could make all records publicly available, it is not possible for us to do so in some cases, as they may have been recorded on official surveys. Such records are kept confidential until they become publicly available in a report or publication.
How are conflicts of interest handled?
If a record is submitted and only observed by a single person who is an SBRC member, that member will abstain from the vote. If the same bird is subsequently observed by the community before the vote is closed, the committee member who abstained may add a vote.
How do we assess records of Review Species?
It is often tricky to assess the legitimacy, identity, and origin of rare birds found in Singapore based on limited information and knowledge. SBRC decisions are based on what the committee thinks is the most reasonable and likely explanation for the sighting. To provide further insight on the process, we have included several of the key factors which may influence our assessment of records, causing them to not be accepted or to be considered as likely escapees:
  • Bird trade The species is popular in the trade, commonly found in the market or known to be kept in local collections. Songbirds are especially hard to assess given that many of the species that are sold come from surrounding regions, which could be within range of the species’ natural dispersive or migratory movements.
  • Physical condition The bird shows signs that hint at possible captive origins e.g. exhibiting unnatural behaviour, damaged or abnormal plumage/moult/bare parts, tags or rings attached to bird.
  • Vagrancy Species is not known to be a long-distance migrant and does not exhibit dispersive/irruptive/nomadic behaviour. There are also no verifiable records of this species in neighbouring countries.
  • Timing of sighting Bird was spotted during an unlikely time of the year based on its ecology and range e.g. long-distance migrant spotted in Singapore in June, outside of the typical migratory months.
  • Location/habitat Species was found in a location that does not match its typical habitat preferences or suggests captive origins e.g. forest specialist found in an urban park.
  • Identity Species is difficult to separate from its congeners and may require additional information such as morphometrics, genetic samples, diagnostic calls/songs, breeding plumage to confidently identify.
How does the SBRC assess difficult records?
Our Records Committee contains members with expertise not just in Singapore, but also in various other parts of the Southeast Asia and the world. However, there are several species groups that are notoriously difficult to identify, and for such species, we often collect opinions from our panel of experts from the region:
  • Dave Bakewell
  • James Eaton
  • Ayuwat Jearwattanakanok
  • Martin Kennewell
  • Frank Rheindt
The final review is then conducted by our Records Committee. The assessments and opinions listed on our website are solely by the SBRC and do not reflect the opinions of our panel members.
What is the timeline for record review?
The SBRC aims to finalise final verdicts for all records within four weeks. In some records, this is not possible as the sighting might merit a lengthier deliberation period. For instance, if the committee needs to consult regional or global subject-matter experts to come to a conclusion on a record, the timeline may be extended. We strive to close all records in a timely manner despite these constraints, and will update observers in cases of excessive delays.
Does the SBRC really review every single record that is submitted?
Yes, through two different methods. A first group of species consists of birds that are either very rare or difficult to identify. SBRC members will explicitly cast a vote for these species. The second group of birds are Review Species that are slightly less rare and do not pose significant identification challenges. For these records, a vote for acceptance is assumed unless any SBRC member voices objection within 14 days, in which case an explicit vote will be carried out.
What does the message displayed for some records, "This record was not put through an explicit vote, but the SBRC has evaluated and verified the record", mean?
This message appears for records that were verified through non-explicit votes as elaborated in the previous question.
What are votes on records and votes on categorisation?
Individual records of species which are in the Singapore Bird Checklist are typically voted on as "votes on records", where the veracity and provenance of the record are evaluated. Votes on categorisation, however, are used in cases where the SBRC evaluates the categorisation of a species on the Singapore Bird Checklist. Records of species new to the checklist, for example, are votes on categorisation. Reclassification of an escapee species due to a population increase (from Category E to Category C) is similarly considered a categorisation vote.
How is voting on records conducted?
Members of the SBRC are required to vote on the identification and veracity of the record, as well as on its origins/provenance. Members also should enter a rationale for their vote, as well as any references considered when making the vote. Any changes made after the initial vote was cast will be automatically tracked. Once 80% of the committee has voted, the record can be closed, although in cases of narrow margins, the Chair may wait for all members to cast votes before closing the record. In cases of ties, the more conservative option is always chosen. For example, in case of a tie between For and Against votes, the record will not be accepted. The definitions of each possible vote are as follows.

  • For Member agrees with the veracity of this record
  • Against Member disagrees with the veracity of this record
  • Abstain Member declines to vote on the record

  • Wild Member believes record pertains to a wild bird
  • Escapee Member believes record pertains to an escaped bird
  • Limbo Member believes provenance of bird is ambiguous
  • Annex 1 Member believes record pertains to a wild bird, but outside of Singapore's national boundaries
  • Annex 2 Member believes record pertains to a wild bird, but status within national boundaries unconfirmed (e.g. carcasses found within national boundaries)
  • Ship-assisted Member believes record pertains to a ship-assisted bird
How is voting on species categorisation conducted?
Members of the SBRC will vote on the categorisation of the species in the Singapore Bird Checklist. The categories used by the checklist are listed in this methodology page. Just like for voting on records, members will also enter a rationale and any relevant references for their vote.
What happens after voting is complete?
We will reach out to the submitter to thank them for their submission, and update them on the verdict that was reached. As needed, we will also update the Background section of the relevant record to include an explanation of the committee's rationale, for particularly contentious records.
How does the process for importing historical records work?
Historical records are not formally evaluated by the entire SBRC and are collated by compilers in the Bird Society of Singapore's records gathering team. The first batch of over 1000 historical records were collated by Sin & Ng (2021) and imported to the Singapore Bird Database. Additional historical records continue to be collated and imported to the database.
It feels like different records are treated differently. Why?
Different records may be placed under a different level of scrutiny depending on factors like the rarity of the species in Singapore, difficulty in identification from similar confusion species, and whether the record is from a well-established location for the species in question. Our committee aims to determine the likelihood of validity for each record, which is only possible when such factors are considered in addition to the evidence for the record itself. Additionally, for historical records, given that nearly all primary documentation was either never made available, made available but subsequently lost by other records-keepers, or of poor quality, it is impossible to apply the current high standard of evidence to these past records. We mostly defer to Wang & Hails (2007) for assessment of most of these historical records.
Why do some species not have records compiled over all time?
In general, we only compile records of species for periods when they are scarce to rare. The main reason is that less rare species are less likely to be documented adequately in the original literature or on online platforms. Many records of these birds would also go unreported. Compilation for these species would not be meaningful and may even give a false representation of abundance over time.
Is there a process for inactive (closed) records to be re-evaluated by the committee?
Yes. If an SBRC member feels that the information presently available would change the committee's perception on a past record, they may request a revote for that record. The entire committee will be notified, and will consider whether to reopen the vote. For historical records (i.e. records not evaluated by the whole committee), the record will be reopened for revoting if 50% of the committee agrees to proceed with a revote; for other records, the record will be reopened if more than 50% of the committee agrees to proceed.
What are Subrecords?
Records are classified as Subrecords if the SBRC is confident that they refer to the same record (same bird, or same flock of birds). In cases where the multiple records are submitted for the same sighting, the discoverer’s record is set as the parent record. Otherwise, the earliest submission will be the parent record.
Records should be classified as Related Records if the SBRC suspects that they refer to the same individual as another record. For example, if an individual of a rare species is sporadically sighted at the same area every few months, such records should be classified as Related, unless the SBRC has reason to believe that certain records are of unique individuals (e.g. different sex, distinct plumage etc). By definition, marking a record as a Subrecord means that the bird was present between the date of the parent record and the Subrecord. Accordingly, the last date of the parent record will be automatically extended, if needed, to include the Subrecord. This is not the case for Related Records.
How are the last dates for records updated?
The SBRC monitors platforms like eBird and Facebook for sightings of continuing birds, and extends records accordingly, assuming reliable information is available. No voting is required unless a sighting is dubious.
What is the important information displayed for each record?
  • Species
  • First and last date
  • Location
  • Number of individuals
  • Verdict of record
  • Voting results
  • All relevant references
  • Any media (images or audio files) If unavailable, descriptions entered by the observer are displayed instead
  • References
  • Relevant background For contentious records (e.g. difficult to identify species, contentious provenance) the rationale behind the SBRC votes should be included in an objective manner.
  • Verdict of record
  • Any revisions made to the record details To be displayed transparently in the Record Revisions section
What are Record Revisions?
In some cases, more information may become available to the committee after a record is published on our website. We will update the relevant section(s) on the record page, and also note the specific changes which were made in the Record Revisions section. This section may also be used to indicate corrections made to incorrect information.

Other matters

How do the monthly reports and other SBRC reports work?
We use data from our Singapore Bird Database as well as eBird data to compile our monthly reports. eBird data becomes available for download on the 15th of the following month, and after a brief editing period, we use the downloaded data to generate the report for the month. We also publish reports for checklist updates, and on an ad-hoc basis as needed (i.e. when updating the Review List).
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