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Saturday, March 18, 2006

Oriental Pied Hornbills in urban Singapore

Oriental Pied Hornbills in urban Singapore


Once upon a time, there were three species of hornbills present in Singapore. However, due to rapid development and large-scale deforestation, all three species became extinct in the late 19th century.

One species, the Oriental Pied Hornbill (Anthracoceros albirostris convexus), has made a comeback. There are many of this bird in the offshore island of Pulau Ubin. The original nucleus probably arrived years ago from nearby Johor, Malaysia. On mainland Singapore they are also present, probably originating from a pair of escapees. These birds have now established themselves and are actively breeding.

Many sightings have been reported from mainland Singapore during the last few years, from areas around Kent Ridge, Bukit Timah, Sembawang, Seletar, etc. They often visit urban gardens, foraging for fruits like rambutans and figs. In most cases the birds were shy, flying off when approached.

This year alone there have been a number of sightings. In January, Fuhai Heng saw a family group comprising father, mother and a juvenile in Sembawang. In February, Johnny Wee encountered one feasting on rambutan fruits in Yio Chu Kang Gardens. And Angie Ng saw her pair in an angsana tree (Pterocarpus indicus) next to Changi Meridian Hotel. Similarly Goh Si Guim encountered a pair during his nature walk, examining a cavity in a pulai tree (Alstonia sp.). This pair was obviously looking for a sutitable nesting hole. Also in February, Vilma d’Rozario’s colleague Angelia spotted one flying across the Pan Island Expressway, along that stretch between Eng Neo and Bukit Timah exits. James Heng similarly saw a bird in Upper Seletar Reservoir.

Reporting from Binjai Park, Marisa Keller wrote in saying that the bird was commonly seen around her neighbourhood. She first sighted two birds in July 2005, some juveniles on 15th October and three birds on 30th October. Marisa says: "In the 13 years I live here I never saw or heard a Pied Hornbill."

Our bird specialist R. Subaraj has this to say: “There have been several hornbill sightings, of various species, over the years and from various parts of Singapore. While all are regarded as escapees, we cannot be entirely certain that we do not receive strays from Malaysia. Based on the locations of the above reports, it may be that most were Oriental Pied Hornbills as three have been seen off and on at the Bukit Tinggi/Binjai Park area. These may be part of a feral population that started years ago at Upper Seletar Reservoir. The other possibilities are Great Hornbill (Buceros bicronis) or Rhinoceros Hornbill (B. rhinoceros), as there appears to be one of each at the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve."

Hornbills are still around in Singapore. So the next time you see a large black and white bird with a large and prominent beak flapping noisily about, chances are that the bird is a hornbill.


Input by Fuhai Heng, Goh Si Guim, James Heng, Vilma D'Rozario, Johnny Wee, Marisa Keller and R Subaraj. Images from top down: YC, Johnny Wee, Fuhai Heng and Marisa Keller.

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19 Comments:

At 7:02 pm, Blogger Hai~Ren said...

I do wonder if there are adequate nesting sites in Singapore.

 
At 8:13 pm, Blogger YC said...

Yes, there would be a shortage of nesting sites. However, the Singapore Hornbill Project that is currently going on here is looking into the possibility of using artificial nests attached to tall trees.

 
At 12:28 am, Blogger smathi said...

Saw a group of 3 Oriental Pieds near a small park near the Vanda Rd area (? off Eng Neo Ave, Bkt Timah Rd). Didn't have my binoculars (shame, shame) so couldn't see further details. On 31 Jan 2006 while visiting a relative.

 
At 2:59 am, Blogger YC said...

Bukit Timah has proved to be an exciting area for hornbill sightings lately. There are also reports of a Great and a Rhinoceros Hornbill around this area that we hope to post soon.

 
At 8:43 pm, Blogger Jun Ying said...

I have observed oriental pied hornbills on ubin. A whole group of 7 of them, flying from coconut tree to tree, as if in courtship. They even chased away a nearby Black Baza. :|

 
At 4:44 pm, Anonymous brian said...

Hi, just thought you guys would be interested to know that, every evening, a Great Hornbill comes to rest outside my apartment window. I'll post photos soon.

Any behavioural patterns/details you'd like me to observe?

www.xanga.com/stasher

 
At 4:13 am, Blogger YC said...

With a Great Hornbill outside your window, keep a lookout for it's "mate" if one even appears. This species tends to move in pairs. There is a Rhino Hornbill around and it can one day visit. What you can do is to collect/study the seeds found below the tree that the bird regurgitates. A photo of the "droppings" is also useful. This will enable us to know what fruits (usually figs) it consumes. If it feeds around your area, what trees/fruits it go to. If you note down the time it comes and goes ie return to roost and leaves to feed in the morning, this will be valuable info - to coordinate its movements around the island. Well, you are one lucky guy to have such a beautiful bird outside your window.

 
At 4:04 pm, Anonymous rk said...

Saw 3 hornbills today (8 sept) just after 12 noon. They flew low over my head and landed in a low tree ahead of me while I was walking along Hillcrest Rd. Found this site when I was trying to identify the birds I saw. Could be the same group of 3 smathi saw in Vanda? Looked like the Oriental Pied in the pic on this page.

 
At 10:11 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

was walking around linden road when I chanced upon 2 huge hornbills. They were really big and had a very promiment red horn-like feature. When they flew overhead, you could hear the flapping of their huge wings. Then as I walked on, I noticed that seemed like 2 Oriental Pieds perched on top of the very huge tree.

 
At 10:18 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

yeap, surfed the web and I can confirm that the sighting today (14 October 07) at Linden Drive was that of a pair of rhinocerous hornbills. It was the distinctive red casque. A resident commented that this was the first time he saw this species. Usually, he would see the more common ones with whitish beaks, i.e. Oriental Pied Hornbill. It was truly an amazing sight!

 
At 6:12 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I saw them last year and today again. They were so beautiful especially when they gracefully took off from branch of a tree and glided down before meeting up with their mates. I live off Sembawang directly opposite Nee Soon Camp and there used to be a forested are behind my house. Now the forest is being cleared and trees are felled everyday. It's a pity since soon we won't be graced by the hornbills presence anymore since they'll soo be out of nesting sites. I wish someone woujld do something about this.

 
At 7:26 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A pair of Oriental Pied Hornbills visit Tanglin Park each morning and evening. Feb 2008

 
At 7:29 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A pair of Oriental Pied Hornbills hhave been visiting Tanglin Park each morning and evening for the past few weeks. Feb 2008

 
At 10:29 am, Blogger YC said...

We have shifted to http://besgroup.talfrynature.com/ and this particular post is at http://besgroup.talfrynature.com/2006/03/18/oriental-pied-hornbills-in-urban-singapore/

 
At 12:17 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One pied hornbill alone. Eating some berries off a tree, don't know which. Pasir Ris park, near kayaking and bars. Never seen one before. Amazing.

 
At 12:27 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A pair of Oriental Hornbills sighted atop the roof of a house at Hua Guan Crescent, Bukit Timah. Been staying here for 20 years and this is the first sighting (and hearing of their loud distinct calls). We suspect the birds are dealing with tree-pruning stresses in the area. 15 August 2011.

 
At 8:12 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

An oriental pied-hornbill landed on our balcony in Tanglin Park yesterday afternoon. It stood there for a few minutes allowing me enough time to take a picture with my iPhone. Truly amazing bird. My daughter and I research and found this to be the bird.

 
At 10:03 pm, Blogger Mel Syers said...

We have a couple of them that have been frequenting our condo on holland hill for the last couple of weeks. I have a great photo of one. Please let me know contact details if you would like me to send to you.

 
At 9:24 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

congress Hi, I am David N Chai a retiree and photography enthusiast. Just to fill in the report and conversation that I noticed no one has specifically mention "Oriental Pied Hornbill is being sighted at Pasir Ris Park, Mangrove area, SG. I first sighted it more than a year ago on a sunny afternoon while it was actively looking for food at low ground. And, I saw it again just April 6th, 2014 on some "Casuarina Trees" (long needle pine)presuming eating seeds. So, ceasing the opportunity I tooked quite number of shots of this great bird and follow it to the artificial wooden nest nearby. It stayed for very brief moment and flew to nearby tree and I took further shots of it stretching wings. Hoping this info be of useful, thank you. Note: If there's a provision I would greatly attach a photo of this bird for record purpose.

 

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