Nature lovers and bird watchers in particular were all in a tizzy when the Nature Society announced that the Crimson Sunbird was the national bird of Singapore at the 2015 Asian Bird Fair on October 31, 2015. The announcement was based on a historical 2002 poll where 38 per cent of the respondents chose the Crimson Sunbird as the feathered symbol of Singapore over other birds such as the white-bellied sea eagle, black-naped oriole and the greater racket-tailed drongo.

Those who voted for the Crimson Sunbird commented that it was small, active and red befitting the “Little Red Dot” coined by the former President of Indonesia. But most did not know that there was a historical link to our founder Sir Stamford Raffles. He was the one who collected, named this Sunbird, “Siparaja” and published the findings in a journal. The Nature Society (Singapore) has engaged the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth and other agencies on this matter and is hoping for their support on the official recognition which will enhance Singapore's image as a Garden in a City. While the decision is not entirely official yet, I hope this crimson breasted bird is made the official bird of Singapore. Singapore already has the Vanda Miss Joaquim Orchid has been Singapore's official national flower since 1981, approved by the then Ministry of Culture.

What is the Crimson Sunbird?

These gorgeous little birds are part of the sunbird family and they can be found in tropical regions in Asia stretching all the way from India down to Indonesia. Their colouring is what makes them particularly attractive, as the males have vibrant red breasts, heads and backs with olive bellies, a yellow rump and blue-green tail feathers. The females also have olive bellies with yellow breasts and white tips on their tail feathers. They can often be found hovering next to flowers to drink the nectar and catch small insects.

Sunbird Painting

In Singapore one of my favourite places to see Crimson Sunbirds is in the Botanic Gardens. Here there are plenty of blossoms for the tiny birds to flit among and snack on, which makes for a truly spectacular visual treat. In fact, I even created a painting dedicated to the Crimson Sunbird as part of my Botanicals collection. The Sunbird painting and limited edition prints of the original painting feature a Crimson Sunbird perched on a majestic pink ginger lily set against a background of green, the painting is part of a series I created on Ginger Lilies and all these are inspired by my visits to The Ginger Garden, where the Sunbird is drawn to this magnificent flowers of the tropics. I was absolutely delighted to be invited to exhibit this 'Sunbird' painting along with another in the series 'My Beautiful Ginger Lilies' in Italy recently at an art exhibition at Venice Art House and Palazzo Can Zanardi curated by architect Luca Curci. You can read more about that here.

My Beautiful Ginger Lily by Clare Haxby

Botanicals Collection

If you haven’t yet been to Singapore's Botanic Gardens, you are missing out on a wonderful place in the city to sit and enjoy the natural flora and fauna far from the crowds in the malls and along the streets. I love spending a morning there watching Tai Chi practised next to the lake or an or afternoon there soaking up the scenery of the lush gardens and watching birds and butterflies in the foliage. My visits here have been such an inspiration for my work, as you can see in my Botanicals collection, which consists of paintings and prints of ginger lilies, slipper orchids, the crimson sunbird and the Plantation House.

You can read more about my experience of painting scenes from the UNESCO World Heritage Singapore Botanic Gardens here.

And while the Crimson Sunbird may not be the ‘official’ bird of Singapore yet, I believe that this beautiful creature is a prime candidate to represent the country for its vibrant and varied plumage, small size, focused energy and gentle spirit.