Birdmen of Penang

loading Tree sparrows on roof by Choo Beng Teong, watercolour on paper.

The battle for habitat between man and bird is an ancient one, and sadly, man is winning. In Penang, rare birds are getting rarer, and few would notice it as clearly and as early as meticulous painters of birds. There are a few left in Penang, and they are calling for action to be taken, not only by the government but by every Penangite, to entice birds to make the state their first home.

The bird population in terms of species and numbers is dwindling in Penang. Choo Beng Teong attributes the falling numbers to the destruction of bird habitats through rampant development.

“There are fewer birds now in Seberang Perai because of the rash of housing estates sprouting up,” he says. “Once I could easily find bird’s nests in certain areas but now they are nowhere to be seen. For certain species of bulbul and leaf birds, I have to go very deep into the jungles before I can find them. One other deterioration is how the rarer species of butterflies have become scarcer – butterflies are more sensitive to environmental changes.”

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