Saving an endangered Changeable Hawk-eagle in Singapore

A couple of days ago, I was on my way to Dover forest after finishing my lunch shift when I met an eagle near the Greenway.

Now, it isn’t every day that I meet an eagle on my journey, so seeing one fairly up close is a treat for me.

But oddly enough, when I first spotted the eagle from a distance, I initially thought it wasn’t real.

I mean, it was perched on the ground, as still as a statue, resembling a painted sculpture.

Front view of the eagle, which wore a forlorn expression on its face

I took a photo of it with a camera, zooming in closely, and thought to myself, “That was a really well-made sculpture of an eagle.”

After taking its picture, I continued to recce the nice green meadow and surrounding trees, which for me was a much needed respite from the urbanised environment.

Lo and behold, when I crossed a drain with my bicycle to the other side, I heard a human voice calling, and I looked up.

It was then that I realised I had inadvertently gotten closer to the eagle, which was still stationary, several feet away to my right.

The passer-by was cautioning me to not disturb the eagle, I suppose.

“Oh, it’s real,” I exclaimed, upon realising it wasn’t a statue or a sculpture after all.

With my curiosity piqued, I parked my bicycle at one side and walked gingerly around the eagle and took some more pictures of it.

Diagonal back view of the eagle

The eagle remained motionless all this while, which seemed unusual to me, as I am used to see it flying or soaring in the air.

Even if an eagle needs to rest, it would usually perch on a tree, I thought to myself.

“Could it be unwell?” I mused, as I began to type a message to ACRES (Animal Concerns Research & Education Society) on my phone to report the eagle sighting and indicate the possibility that it might need help.

The passer-by seemed to echo my thoughts as she related how she came across a pigeon that seemed to have ingested poisonous food the other day.

Incidentally, she had also messaged ACRES about the eagle sighting earlier, and was advised to get a blanket and box to rescue it and deliver it to them.

The eagle looked in my direction with its eyes closed, as I zoomed the camera lens to have a close-up view.

While waiting for the passer-by to drive back with gloves, blanket and cardboard box, I continued to observe the eagle from behind.

I have read stories of how eagles renew their youth or strength on a mountain top, especially when they reach old age, but this eagle doesn’t really look that old, and the ground on which it stands isn’t a mountain.

I googled on my phone for answers, and some websites describe how eaglets may have difficulty learning to fly at first, but this eagle doesn’t really look that young either, as it lacks the fluffy down feathers that baby birds usually have.

I also posted a couple of photos I took of the eagle in some Nature groups on Facebook asking for identification, and the answers I got include red-tailed hawk, oriental honey buzzard and changeable hawk-eagle.

By then, it started pouring, and I sought shelter under a huge tree, but not before I took some more pictures of it from the front.

Eagle in the rain

Soon, the passer-by returned with the rescue tools, accompanied by her daughter, and I got a rare opportunity to watch a live demo of an eagle rescue in person.

I asked the passer-by, who later told me her name is Charlie, for permission to record the rescue operation on video, and so here we have this video, demonstrating how an eagle may be rescued safely and delivered to ACRES for their care and attention.

Source of map: Google Earth

This blog post also serves to raise awareness of the endangered status of changeable hawk-eagles in Singapore and our need to conserve these majestic raptors and their diminishing natural habitats and feeding grounds for their continual survival.

According to the Bird Group of the Nature Society (Singapore):

“It is listed in the Singapore Red Data Book as a nationally threatened, uncommon resident.… To ensure that large raptors such as the Changeable Hawk-eagle can continue to survive in the urban jungle of Singapore, it is important that our remnant woodlands, especially those with stands of Albizzia (Falcataria moluccana) trees be retained and conserved for their biodiversity value.

The final report for the Environmental Baseline Study for Dover/Ulu Pandan forest released this year has also recorded sightings of the endangered changeable hawk-eagles.

Let’s continue to cherish our endangered resident changeable hawk-eagles and save their threatened forest habitats and feeding grounds (such as Tengah Forest, Dover Forest, Clementi Forest, Bukit Batok Hillside Park area, etc) from destruction and urban/housing development in Singapore.

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2 thoughts on “Saving an endangered Changeable Hawk-eagle in Singapore

  1. Amazing work on helping a hawk-eagle! And for getting the word out. It did look pretty cozy in the photos, but I’ve also never seen the hawks out here act that way either. Have there been any updates since then on how the bird is doing? Or whether others have shown similar actions?

    1. Thank you. From ACRES’s last update on that day: “the raptor, a changeable hawk Eagle is with us now. We have checked and wings seem fine. Probably OK to be released in the morning. Not sure what caused it to be resting on the ground like that.” I haven’t seen or known of any other changeable hawk-eagle exhibiting similar actions so far.

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