Avian Diversity in Parks & Cemeteries

Gone birding in a park before? How about in a cemetery?! It all started out with Song Lin’s idea of surveying abandoned places in Singapore for our group’s urban ecology project, and after streamlining the idea into something more practical for us to complete within the time frame of this module, our group decided to compare avian diversity in 2 parks and 2 cemeteries (well, not exactly abandoned) in Singapore. The 2 parks and cemeteries are Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park, Tampines Eco Green (TEG), Lim Chu Kang Chinese cemetery and Lim Chu Kang Christian cemetery?

So why exactly did we choose parks and cemeteries? Both parks and cemeteries only occur in an urban landscape, with cemeteries receiving fewer visitors than park. Also, there is a gap in knowledge of avian diversity of both areas, especially on the diversity in both the cemeteries. As such, we identified 3 main objectives: 1) To investigate into the diversity of local
parks and cemeteries 2) Investigate if human disturbance affects diversity and to 3) Promote parks and cemeteries as pockets of diversity within the city.

Off we go!

                                                                                                                 Off we go!



Here are some key findings of our study that we hope to share:

  1. Christian cemetery has significantly higher abundance
  2. Chinese cemetery and Tampines Eco Green has significantly lower proportion of non-native bird abundance
    • For Chinese cemetery, this result is likely because it is connected to the Western Catchment
    • TEG was specifically designed for birds, and a lower proportion of non-native bird abundance could be because the non-native urban bird species are not able to exploit this habitat
    • Also, for TEG, our results show that proximity to buildup area does not affect proportion of non-native birds
  3. No significant difference in bird diversity (Shannon-Weiner Index) among the 4 locations
  4. No significant difference in richness (No. Of species) among the 4 locations
    • Similar diversity, but different assemblage (identity matters!)


With these results in hand, our group went on to create our deliverable, titled: Aviantures!

The aim of Aviantures is for our target audience (University students) to learn about our findings in a fun and interactive way. It is also to introduce the birds found in our parks and cemeteries as well as to learn about extent of human disturbance and impacts of urbanisation on bird diversity. It is a fun, engaging and competitive board game that we hope everyone will enjoy and learn something from this process. Here are some pictures of our game!

Our board

Players will answer questions and collect tokens to build bird hides. The first player with 5 bird hides with at least 1 on each color wins!

Question cards

                                                                   Question cards

A poster used to market our game

A poster used to market our game


Our group really enjoyed the process of surveying and making the game, and we hoped that all of you enjoyed our presentation too!

*Food for thought: We wanted to bring up the implications of developing Jurong area as the next industrial hub in our presentation, but did not have enough time. Renee has nicely summarised some of the information in her blog post here which you can read about and think about the possible implications for the avian biodiversity in the cemeteries.*

















Novel Solution to the “myna inconvenience”?

The issues we’ve been discussing in class are in the news!! (ok it’s not exactly news, more like a commentary… but still!)

I just thought it’d be interesting to share, because of the suggestion in the last few paragraphs. Can we create an “urban food chain” in which javan mynas are the prey, and we humans are the predator? Not the most appealing solution at first glance, but it got me wondering whether it might actually work…

Aside from being unappealing to the general public (why eat mynas when you can afford all this other more appealing food?), the main issue I can think of is probably a health issue, if the mynas have been rooting through our garbage (but wouldn’t that just be incentive for us not to expose our trash?). I suppose there might be other issues that I haven’t considered, but it really did get me thinking about whether the creation of “urban food chains” (involving humans) is possible, and whether that might alleviate the pest problem.

What do you guys think? I’d really like to hear some thoughts about this interesting proposal

What can you do for our food waste problem?

 Hi all!

I am an ordinary urbanite like you. I just wish to share about my personal journey with food waste, and what i think anyone and everyone can do about it.

I grew to be more respectful of food ever since my experience in dumpster diving and a farm stayover with a group of hippies (while in Sweden for my exchange). Many of my Singaporean friends were disapproving, or at least sceptical of picking food from the dump, it was purely fun and experience for myself to do that, and of course, free food! I remembered getting “scolded” in the kitchen when i cut away bruises of the ugly apple away, and unknowingly “wasting” some parts with my generous cut. Hippies described me as “city kid”  and “too picky” about how the apple looks.

My partner-in-crime digging in the dumpster

My partner-in-crime digging in the dumpster

My prized loot

My prized loot – do they not look edible to you?

Bringing back to home, i feel that what is missing in current measures is the lack of connection between people and the food waste. I don’t feel pain for the food i am wasting when i didn’t see for myself one huge truck of food wasted almost every night by the supermarket i frequent. This video describes the consumers’ standards of vegetables and thus 1 quarter of the fresh produce which does not make the mark gets thrown away.

National Environmental Agency (NEA) is encouraging food recycling in hawker centres (pilot testing stage) and pushing hotels and shopping centres to report food waste figures while private firms starting to adopt the idea of donating excess food (e.g. via FoodBank). ZeroWasteSG is encouraging donation / distribution of excess food by food caterers and restaurants and SaveFoodCutWaste is increasing public awareness to reduce food waste upon consumption.

Are these measures too unrelatable to the masses? Is food waste none of my business? It is easy for the masses to think of food waste this way since most are not involved in these measures at all.

Sometimes the simplest solution could solve the most complex issue.

Small simple efforts can begin from YOU AND ME !

As our group (Urban Solutions) have presented our  business proposal on DIY composting kit. Judging from the positive feedback, we hope we have succeeded in inspiring some people to take action, to help make our city more sustainable by closing  the loop of the ecosystembrochure

I started off experimenting in February with composting by simply burying (hiding it from the birds or insects) some chopped  up orange peel and banana skin in the soil of my potted mint leaves. I got hooked up from there because it was amazing to see the buried materials DISAPPEAR and make my soil smells fruity (citrusy).

Banana skin - into the soil !

Banana skin – into the soil !

I got greedy. I want to do MORE COMPOSTING.

Because composting:

  • Is fun when my waste “disappear” (my apple core disappear in 3/4 days)
  • Return nutrients back to the Earth for my garden plants
  • Makes me feel good when I generate less trash (I recycle 30% of my kitchen waste and 99% of my garden waste)
  • Is so simple (thrown in the waste and you are done)

When an organic material is incinerated and ended up in a landfill, we waste a valuable resource that is rich in nutrients. Composting helps to digest and process this material into the soil ready to be utilised by plants.

A small spending of $7.50 for a plastic bin goes a long way. I got a 30cm (height) x 28cm (diameter) bin with lid. You can get a transparent one at various prices if you wish to see what happens on the inside without having to open the lid.

Bin with lid with manually drilled holes

Bin with lid with manually drilled holes

Steps taken

Steps taken

Placed along the corridor

Placed along the corridor

Steps taken:

Composting manual

Purpose of adding soil is to activate the composting process using the living bacteria already present in the soil.
Covering the waste with soil is mainly to prevent pest (e.g. flies) to come.

General rule of thumb is to make sure you have 50% brown and 50% green everytime you add new waste. When I had too much green waste, i find water droplets forming on the lid, which indicates that it might be too wet, and more brown (e.g. dried leaves) should be added.

It is fun as you try to very resourceful and experiment what you add in and observe them. I would add in waste about every day or every other day.  If you do not have time to add in regularly, it is fine. It will decompose whatever is already added.

Having experienced this personally, I strongly think that providing a DIY household composting kit will be a good start to help bring down green waste in households, in a cost effective way. More importantly, it educates the public and helps to reconnect the masses with their own food waste generated from the kitchen. We are hoping to take this proposal (Pilot test household DIY composting: Slides here >> LSM4265 Food Waste & Composting Slides ) to NEA.


P.S. As environmental biology/ BES students, I strongly urge you to give it a try and explore the possible materials to use for composting. Me too, continuing to have fun experimenting.

Signing off (with love and hope)
Mioa Shan

Dawn chorus in an urban garden (Raffles Hall)

Have you ever taken notice of the birds singing in the morning as you leave your house for the 8am urban ecology lectures?

Dawn chorus is a phenomenon in which many birds have a peak in their singing activity during the dawn hours. Some researchers hypothesize that dawn chorus may play a role in territorial defense and mate selection. Others hypothesize that this phenomenon occurs because dawn is when microclimatic conditions are optimal for the propagation of sound over longer distances without being attenuation or disruption.

Though I have been staying in Raffles Hall over the past four years,  I realized it recently as I leave my room early in the morning for the 8am lectures there is actually a substantial dawn chorus in Raffles Hall. Raffles hall is found opposite Yusoff Ishak House, in the centre of NUS. Accordingly to my block residental fellow, Professor Yap, whom is also a nature lover, Raffles Hall is home to quite a diversity of plants, which may be a reason why it is also frequently visited by a diversity of birds.

Raffles Hall

Photo of Raffles Hall

So I  woke up earlier one morning before urban ecology lecture to record down the dawn chorus of Raffles Hall.  If you have never notice the dawn chorus in your neighborhood before, here is a 16 minutes sound recording of the dawn chorus in Raffles Hall for your appreciation.

Note: Try clicking along the recording at different timings to hear different species of birds singing. Some birds start singing earlier while others start singing later.

References cited:

Catchpole, C. K., & Slater, P. J. B. (2008). Bird Song: Biological Themes and Variations: Cambridge University Press.

Attack by birds? Its not so uncommon after all!

Hi everyone,

After sharing the incident of how I was attacked by sparrows during my time in United States, I thought it would be interesting to find out if any research have been done to understand if human subsidization have caused birds to behave more aggressively in cities.

Though I did not find any papers or articles of people being attacked by birds for food, I found an interesting paper titled  “Attacks on Humans by Australian Magpies: Management of an Extreme Suburban Human Wildlife Conflict ”

The authors found in their survey that approximately 80% of the 749 people reported to have been attacked by Australian Magpies (Cracticus tibicen) in their lives. Australian Magpie, similar to blue jay, is widely distributed throughout Australia. They also found that higher percentage of males in their survey were attacked by Australian Magpies. The magpies often attack the head of their victims and incidents have been reported that some humans have even been blinded by these attacks. Advertisements with preventive measures had been put up to increase the awareness of the pedestrians walking in the open areas. Most researchers hypothesize that these birds might be view walking pedestrians as invaders of their territories.

Warning sign

Warning advertisement: From: http://www.wildliferescue.net.au/help/living-with-magpies/

Though it is unrelated to the question that was brought up during the discussion, “If we put in more measures in canteens to reduce human subsidization, will Javan Mynas become more aggressive and attack humans over food ?”, It is still an interesting idea to ponder about since I have been attacked by sparrows over my sandwich before and this literature highlighted the problems that may arise if birds do start attacking humans frequently.

References cited:

Jones, D. N., & Thomas, L. K., 1999. Attacks on humans by Australian magpies: Management of an extreme suburban human-wildlife conflict.Wildlife Society Bulletin (1973-2006), 27(2), 473-478.


Singapore’s remaining natural patches and building new towns

Hi there everyone,

I wanted to bring up this topic with regards to urbanisation and clearing remaining forest patches in Singapore.

The Straits Times reported recently on 12 April 2016, Tengah located between Choa Chu Kang and Jurong West is going to be developed into a mixed-use housing town. The report by Straits Times here: http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/housing/tengah-to-be-developed-into-a-forest-town

Tengah is a secondary forest patch that connects the Western catchment area to the Central catchment. The plans for a new town means that the corridor connecting Western catchment and Central catchment will now be disconnected. Habitat fragmentation negatively impacts the biodiversity (or whatever remains of it).

There are plans to make the new town in Tengah a “forest town”. But we know that even a highly planted urban area will never be able to support the type and abundance of biodiversity that a healthy intact forest of the same size can. I commend HDB for trying to plan a residential are such that it somewhat mimics the natural area. This could benefit residents living there as they may feel that they are ‘closer’ to nature in a landscaped forest town and reduce the disconnectedness between nature and urbanites.  From my personal observations, many of the new upcoming residential and commercial buildings are marketing themselves as “close to nature”, “eco-friendly”,”amidst lush greenery” etc. There seems to be a trend or demand toward properties that are situated close to natural green spaces and environmentally friendly infrastructure. Does the demand for such ‘green’ buildings and nearby amenities reflect a change in the societal mindset toward one that values nature and understands the importance of exposure to nature? I would hope so. But the biodiversity of an urban area leans toward the urban exploiters and adapters (Javan mynas, anyone?) and not the original biodiversity that can be found in forests. So….. is it really a different town from what we already have in other non-forested housing towns? I feel that it is ironic to remove the secondary forests to be replaced by a manicured “forest” landscaped

I fully understand that there is an economic component in development of land, property values and construction. However,  how long can Singapore sustain building new towns and clearing natural areas?Eventually, we are going to run out of natural areas to clear. What are we going to do then? What will be left of Singapore’s natural/native biodiversity?

Since Tengah town is set to disconnect the Western from the Central catchment, Nparks had the foresight to try to mitigate the impacts of the fragmentation by building the longest nature corridor called Tengah Nature Way @ South West in 2014 (see below). The nature corridor is planted with mostly native plants and connects the western catchment to Bukit Timah Nature Reserve which is then connected to the Central catchment. While the efficacy of the nature corridor for the movement of animals and plants is still unknown, I would say this is a good initiative to mitigate the impacts of urbanisation.

TengahNatureWay map

Sorry for the poor image quality. The red lines denote the nature way that will link up Western catchment and BTNR.

(https://www.nparks.gov.sg/news/2014/2/singapores-longest-green-corridor-will-enhance-biodiversity-in-the-south-west-district ) 

We have learnt about the issues associated with urbanisation such as the loss of native biodiversity, nature deficit disorder and environmental changes like UHI effect. It is my hope that we use the knowledge gained to apply it to our daily lives, at home, at work and even in our political views to ensure the sustainability of our planet.


Sustainable eating in the city of Bollywood dreams

There is a lot of talk on sustainable everything – sustainable building, living, development, etcetera. But how about sustainable eating? In this blog post, I will introduce you to India’s dabbawalas, a symbol of enduring sustainable eating practices.

A burgeoning economy, modernization, and urbanization accompanying increased wealth of a city and its inhabitants can be associated with a change in eating patterns. Processed foods become prominent as time becomes scarce, along with the proliferation of fast foods from the Western world. An urbanized city, is, after all, a global one, and what ‘global city’ doesn’t have numerous McDonald’s, KFC’s and Pizza Huts? Foods, once farmed and harvested in or close to cities have to be transported over increasing distances. Additionally, with wealth comes the demand for and ability to purchase ‘foreign’ foods – this may include specialty items or seasonal produce to feed season-less cities (Singapore included). While it looks like our eating practices are all set to become more unsustainable as more people live in cities, Bombay, however, is somewhat an exception. Though there is no shortage of restaurants to feed the city’s professionals, tiffins remain ever popular, even with increased spending power.

‘Tiffin’ as Object and Concept

We know ‘tiffin’ the object (stacked steel containers), but ‘tiffin’ the concept, is not popularly known outside its country of origin – India. ‘Tiffin’ the word is an India-derived noun, much like ‘pyjama’. Its earliest recorded use was in 1811 British India, not too long after the British established themselves in India in the late 18th century.  English sahibs now had light lunches instead of afternoon tea, marking the birth of the ‘tiffin’, a term referring to this new practice. ‘Tiffin’ arose from two slang words, ‘tiff’ and ‘tiffing’, both referring to diluted liquor and the act of drinking it.  ‘Tiffin’ then evolved into a complex concept involving an array of dishes, equipment, dabbawalas, chaiwalas and the like. Today, ‘tiffin’ refers to both lunchboxes, typically consisting of 3 or 4 steel stacked compartments, and a packed lunch.

‘Tiffins’ as they currently are, is very a much product of Indian cultural practices. Lovingly prepared, home-cooked food is not only healthy, but is considered highly superior to purchased food. Tiffins are also highly suited for the thali-style eating practices in India consisting of a selection of breads, rice, vegetables and pickles, amongst others. And every day, dabbawalas (or tiffinwalas) tote thousands of tiffins to hungry office workers. Just who are the dabbawalas?

thali food

From thali to tiffin. Traditional thali lunches translate well into tiffins. From: http://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/Food/thali-tales/article4830624.ece (thali) and http://www.whatshot.in/mumbai/pre-diwali-gala-buffet-e-360208 (tiffin)

Dabbawalas and the tiffin distribution network

Dabbawalas are easily identifiable. Outfitted in white kurta pyjamas with a matching white Nehru cap, they arrive on bicycles, every morning at homes, and every afternoon at offices. Tiffins are collected from homes after office workers, who often live more than 50 km away from their workplaces, have left the house. There is simply no time for full meals to be prepared for very early, long commutes. Dabbawalas number in the thousands, forming an impressive, intricate food distribution network. Strikingly, almost all dabbawalas hail from the same small village near Pune, four hours away from Bombay. Most are related to each other, and families have had this profession for generations. Dabbawalas are mostly Hindus who belong to a lineage of warriors. Their customers, along with the tiffin contents though, reflect Bombay¹s mixed community including Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Jains.

These men, ranging from boys to the elderly, each carry in a basket, 45 tiffins on their heads weighing up to 90kg while food is transported and sorted at railway stations (this is why dabbawalas wear caps!). Tops of tiffins are colour-coded and hand-painted with home and office addresses and railway stations where they should be delivered and collected. This information is condensed into a small series of letters and numbers, forming a sophisticated code. Hot home-cooked meals are delivered to more than 200,000 hungry, desk-locked office workers by 12.45 pm, and empty tiffins are once more collected to be returned to their respective homes. Dabbawalas are so trustworthy that workers would rather bring home their wages through emptied tiffins on its return journey than carry money with them on their trains home. The error rate in this food distribution system is extremely low at 1 in 6 MILLION delivered tiffins. Bombay’s dabbawalas have even won international acclaim from Forbes, which awarded dabbawalas a 6 Sigma performance rating, a rating only given if success rate is 99.9999999 % or more. Motorola was given the same Sigma rating.


Coding on the top of tiffins. From: http://defiinnovationestrie.ca/archives/9753


How the tiffin is coded. From: http://bombayjules.blogspot.sg/2013/03/the-mumbai-dabbawalas-dabba-dabba-do.html


Dabbawalas in action. From: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-26128597

Tiffins in action

Tiffins spread across India, including into my mother’s Pakistani family. Tiffins are thus a familiar concept to me, though slightly tweaked to suit both my family and the local context. Instead of tiffin lunches, my family has tiffin dinners cooked by my grandmother daily. And just like the busy workers of Bombay, our tiffins were created for my working mother. Cereal prawns, char kway teow and other local fare share tiffin space, and have even more prominence in our tiffins than the traditional dals. And since there are no dabbawalas in Singapore, every evening, one of my brothers or I do the job of the dabbawala – collect and return, though not on a bike.

Traditionally, a tiffin is packed, from bottom up, with rice or bread, salads, a curry or dal, and, if lucky enough to have a fourth layer, something fried and crispy (my favourite).

Why tiffins are the way to go

Tiffins are the ideal sustainable lunchbox – compact, reusable, hygienic, and very long-lasting. It also retains the freshness and warmth of home-cooked foods so re-heating is unnecessary. It is no wonder these steel compartments are traditionally non-microwaveable – there is simply no need for it! Tiffins, through reducing takeout, reduce the need and use of Styrofoam, plastic, or paper containers. Single-use containers are almost necessary for takeout. Reusable containers are often not greeted with pleasure in restaurants because of possible health implications (who is to blame if food from reusable containers make you ill?). I also think reusable containers are unwelcome because restaurants do not want to ‘over-portion’ your takeout! But these single-use containers all have an ecological price. This includes the energy and (often non-biodegradable and non-recyclable) materials used to produce them and the resulting landfill waste they contribute to once used. And by reducing takeout, tiffins also reduce food waste.

The tiffin and dabbawala system is additionally sustainable as the process, involving the bicycle as the main mode of transportation, is sustainable and eco-friendly. It also provides lifetime employment for many. Sustainable livelihoods and lifestyles are thus supported by this system.

With tiffins, there is no excuse for measly sandwich lunches at our desks. Tiffins also beat Pizza Hut delivery, McDelivery, and other restaurant delivery systems (which come in countless polluting motorised vehicles) in terms of taste, selection, price and health value. Tiffins have an additional plus – they are prepared by someone who cares for you. Who wouldn’t and doesn’t crave a piping hot home-cooked meal from someone who loves them?

And as someone who enjoys dreaming up perfect meals (as all of us do), I look forward to planning and creating my own tiffins. Happiness to me, is, after all, loving and caring for someone, which includes feeding them well. Knowing that I am also living sustainably (at least for the eating part of my life) makes me even happier.

To end off, here is one of my dream tiffins, from the bottom layer up:

  1. Naan smothered in garlic butter
  2. Kachumbar
  3. Lamb Curry
  4. Vada Pav (with some to spare for the inevitable munchies)

All will be washed down with homemade lime juice! How would you sustainably eat, and what is in your dream tiffin?


Caldicott, C., & Caldicott, C. (2014). Time for tiffin: the history of India’s lunch in a box. the Guardian. Retrieved 13 April 2016, from http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/aug/17/tiffin-the-history-of-indias-lunch-in-a-box-mumbai

Harding, L. (2002). A Bombay lunchbox. the Guardian. Retrieved 13 April 2016, from http://www.theguardian.com/world/2002/jun/24/worlddispatch.india

Alternative Wildlife Corridors

I just wanted to share this youtube video that expands a little on the topic of wildlife corridors we’ve been discussing.

While we discussed more about the physical corridors in class, this video also covers some interesting learned behaviour and other psychological barriers that animals have to crossing man-made structures that I was unaware of!

(Plus the videos from this channel have great explanations for lots of ecological concepts, and even greater puns, which I think Khairul will appreciate. Check out some of their other videos if you have time!)

A renewable Singapore?

Last week, we discussed how renewable energy can help reduce the carbon footprint of urban areas. In sunny Singapore, solar energy appears to have the greatest potential to offset our consumption of non-renewable energy sources. But how much energy can it provide? I looked up a few sources and did some simple math to figure out a rough estimate (hopefully my calculations are correct!).

First, let’s find out how much incoming solar energy Singapore receives:

  • This source by the Energy Market Authority (EMA) of Singapore estimates this at 1150 kWh/m2/year

Next, let’s see how much of that energy can be converted to a useful form:

  • This link reports that the most efficient rooftop solar panels are currently around 22% – this means we can get about 22% * 1150 = 253 kWh/m2/year

According to the Energy Market Authority (2015), Singapore’s total energy consumption in 2013 was about 156 TWh. Using this value, we would have needed:

  • 156TWh/(161kWh/m2) = 616.6 km2 of solar cells to sustain our energy consumption entirely in 2013

(Just out of interest, I did another calculation using the most efficient solar cells as reported by Shazan (2014). Even at 46% efficiency, we’d still need about 203km2 of land – just under a third of Singapore covered in solar cells.)

These values mean that we’d need to blanket most of Singapore in solar cells to sustain our current energy use. Of course, solar is not the only form of renewable energy but it does show the limit at which such alternative energy sources can support the population.

The main issue here appears not to be just the lack of land space but more so the density of our population and our high per capita energy consumption (Low Carbon Singapore, 2009). Together, these factors result in a high energy consumption density – meaning we need to provide more energy per area of Singapore. This has significant implications – and not just for Singapore.

As most of the world’s population moves into urban areas, population density in these areas will likely rise. By extension, it is also likely that the amount of energy we need to provide in an urban area will rise (as the energy consumption becomes more concentrated within the area). Denser cities could resort to importing renewable energy (just as we currently do with non-renewables) but transporting electricity generated in one place to another is not without its issues.

If we are to switch over to renewables then, it appears that we cannot simply increase renewable energy generation. Rather, we would need accompanying measures which help to reduce the overall consumption of energy and also improve the efficiency at which energy is used.


Energy Market Authority (2015). Singapore energy statistics 2015. Singapore: Energy Market Authority. Retrieved from https://www.ema.gov.sg/cmsmedia/Publications_and_Statistics/Publications/SES2015_Final_website_2mb.pdf

Energy Market Authority (2016). Solar photovoltaic systems. Retrieved 14 April 2016, from https://www.ema.gov.sg/Solar_Photovoltaic_Systems.aspx

Low Carbon Singapore (2009). Energy consumption per capita. Retrieved 14 April 2016, from http://www.lowcarbonsg.com/tag/energy-consumption-per-capita/

Shahan, Z. (2014). Which solar panels are most efficient? Retrieved 14 April 2016, from http://cleantechnica.com/2014/02/02/which-solar-panels-most-efficient/

Wesoff, E. (2015). ‘World’s most efficient rooftop solar panel’ revisited. Retrieved 14 April 2016, from http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/Worlds-Most-Efficient-Rooftop-Solar-Panel-Revisited

The making of a bird haven in my home city, Deyang

At the end of semester, I would just like share with you some interesting about my city. Hope you can relax and enjoy this post. Deyang is in Sichuan Province, southwest of China (Figure 1). It is located in the Chengdu plain, on the bottom of Sichuan Basin. It is a medium sized city, with an area of 5800km2 and a population of 3.9 million people. The metropolitan area is around the size of Singapore (650km2) and the urban with about 1 million people.


Figure 1 Location of Deyang in China, from Google Map

Deyang is one of the national centers for heavy machinery manufacturing. Some of the most renowned factories such as Erzhong Heavy Machinery Company and Dongfang Eletrical Company are operating in Deyang, which makes Deyang the major producer for oil rigs, steel and power generating equipment (including both hydropower and nuclear power) in the country

What is interesting about Deyang is that despite it being one of the most industrialized cities in the region, it is surprisingly clean and green by the national standard. In the center of the city, is an artificial lake, named Jinghu Lake. It used to be a natural river but since 1990s the water level reduced significantly and the flow has become seasonal. As part of urban landscaping, several dams are built to retain the water and Jinghu Lake was therefore created. Now, it is certainly the most beautiful urban park in the city. My house is also nearby the lake and my family always takes a walk around the lake after dinner. Below is a photo I took from my kitchen window (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Jinghu Lake as an urban park

The creation of Jinghu Lake maintains the water level even during dry seasons. The water body and the grassland in some segment of the lake provide ample food for avian species. Over the years, more and more birds fly from Northern China to spend winter in Deyang. Now, there are more than 260 bird species in Deyang, including winter migratory birds, transit birds and resident birds. Some common species of migratory water birds include black headed gull (Larus ridibundus), mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) and little egret (Egretta garzetta). Figure 3 and 4 are photos I took.


Figure 3. Flocks of black-headed gull.

The name of the birds can be misleading because adult black-headed gull actually have a chocolate-brown head in summer. In winter, this brown color fades away and birds have a white head with a dark spot behind the eye. These gregarious birds are usually seen in flocks. They tend to be very daring in terms of interaction of human and are substantially feed by locals.


Figure 4. A group of mallards.

Males are more colorful, possessing a distinctive bottle-green head than the dull brown female. However, female are noisier and makes the well-known ‘quack-quack’ call.

There are also a few very rare species such as Scaly-sided merganser (Mergus squamatus) and black stork (Ciconia nigra), for which both are Class I Nationally Protected Species. Scaly-sided merganser is especially celebrated because of its beautiful look (Figure 5). There are only about 1000 individuals in the wild and it is classified as endangered on IUCN Red List. In 2012, Nigel Marven, a famous BBC narrator, also visited Deyang in hopes to see those mergansers.

scaly-sided merganser

Figure 5. Scaly-sided merganser. Photo from http://www.arkive.org/mallard/anas-platyrhynchos/

The great avian diversity has drawn many bird lovers, even including some from overseas, to Deyang. Every winter, there would be plenty of bird watchers with binoculars or telescope lens around Jinghu Lake. In this way, ecotourism also contributed to the local economy.

Locals also love these birds. Bird Lovers Association has been established as a sharing platform as well as a conservation group. They have successfully pushed forward the “Deyang Bird Nest Project” to build artificial nest around the city. In addition, they also give advice on bird-friendly urban landscaping and greening. The general public is involved as well. During winter, lots of residents would bring bread crumbs and left-over rice to the lake and feed the birds. In 2015, the municipal government also invested 40000 RMB (equivalent to about 8500 SGD) to enrich the diet of wild birds by providing them a variety of bird meals. Although I am not sure of the ecological impact of large scale subsidization of birds in the urban area, I still feel positive about those action because if reflect a deep love for the birds. The love can also be translated into wider environmental awareness such as conservation of water resources and the abolition of consumption of wild birds.

However, in my opinion, the public need to know more about the birds. I vividly recall all the birds are either referred as “sea gull” and “wild ducks” by the general public. Probably public signboards can be built around the lake to introduce the species, habitat requirement and conservation concerns.

In conclusion, we have seen how even an industrial city can become the haven for birds and how the process of proper urban landscaping can create conducive habitat for wildlife.  Now, birds have gradually become a part of my city and I hope I can continue to see them around in the future.



Birdlife International. (n.d.). Black-headed gull. Retrieved from


Deyang Public Information Website(德阳市公众信息网). (n.d.). Retrieved April 12, 2016, from http://www.deyang.gov.cn/

Wildscreen Arkive. (n.d.). Mallard. Retrieved from http://www.arkive.org/mallard/anas-platyrhynchos/


Wildscreen Arkive. (n.d.). Scaly-sided merganser. Retrieved from



Zhu, F. (2013, March). Deyang, birding watching in an industrial city. Chinese National Geography.