Story of a Baby Oriental Pied Hornbill
March 8, 2013 ~ I was told by some birders (bird watchers/photographers) that for the past 5 years, a pair of Oriental Pied Hornbills has been using a hole in a particular tree @Changi Village as their nest to rear their young. The Oriental Pied Hornbill is one of my favorite birds of Singapore & I could hardly miss the chance to see a baby hornbill. When we (my guy & me) arrived on Sunday (March 3rd), 2 of the chicks had already fledged the day before, leaving one behind. We waited, hoping the third chick will fledge. No such luck & all we saw was the tip of its beak poking out of the nest, but we did get to see Daddy Hornbill coming back with food for the chick.
Daddy Hornbill outside the nest.
Information: When the female Oriental Pied Hornbill is ready to lay her eggs, she will choose a suitable hole in a big tall tree. The male gathers and delivers mud & fibre to the female, which seals herself inside the hole. A narrow slit is left open so he can feed her & the chicks. She will be confined in that hole for 3 months or more. 3 eggs are laid. The female will stay in the hole, incubate the eggs & care for the nestlings. During these time, the female is entirely dependent on the male to provide food for her & the chicks. Only when the chicks are ready to fledge, she will then leave the nest by breaking the seal at the entrance. Usually, 2 chicks will fledged first, followed by the 3rd one later in a few days time. After leaving the nest, the female only come back now & then to check on the last chick. The male will continue to feed the remaining chick till it fledged.
More info on Oriental Pied Hornbill in Singapore: http://www.wildsingapore.com/wildfacts/vertebrates/birds/albirostris.htm
The Singapore Hornbill Project:
Male Oriental Pied Hornbill brought food to nest.
Daddy Oriental pied-hornbill Feeding its Chick @ Changi Village
Disappointed that I couldn't watch the last chick fledged, I wanted pics of it at the least. So, every morning, for the next few days, my guy kept vigil @Changi Village, taking pics & reported the day's event to me.
Day by day, Baby Hornbill grew stronger, sticking its head out more from its nest, curious about the world outside.
Oriental Pied Hornbill Chick.
And Daddy Hornbill will faithfully brought food to the baby.
Hardworking Daddy Hornbill.
Daddy feeding the Baby.
The male Hornbill fed the chick with a wide variety of food, mostly consisted of fruits, figs & palm dates. Occasionally, insects (beetles & locusts), scorpions, giant centipedes, spiders, snails & even lizards were added to the chick's diet. I believe all those food items are stored in a pouch inside the male Hornbill's throat & coughed out one at a time to feed the hungry chick.
The feeding at the nest went on for 5 days. During this period, my guy observed the female Hornbill visited the nest only twice & once, she brought the 2 older fledglings with her, perhaps to encourage the last chick to fledge.
One of the older Hornbill siblings.
The Baby Hornbill was sticking its head out further & more often, curious, but still refused to fly.
Cautious Baby Hornbill.
On the morning of the 5th day, Daddy Hornbill persuaded the Baby to get out of the nest, but failed. Baby refused to budge from its safe & snugly nest.
Why don't you come on out & play?
I'm afraid of the Hard & Cruel world out there!
Meanwhile, a few birdies had moved into the neighborhood, finding suitable nesting cavities in trees nearby the Hornbill nest.
Tanimbar Corella & Red-breasted Parakeet checking out nesting cavities.
A pair of Red-breasted Parakeets at their new home.
Sunda Woodpecker excavating a nest.
Sunda Woodpecker in their newly build nest.
As you know, there are always nosy neighbors, poking their noses… beaks into other's business. When Daddy Hornbill was away, a nosy Red-breasted Parakeet went check out the Hornbill nest.
Nosy Parakeet taunting Baby Hornbill.
And got promptly chased away by a Tanimbar Corella.
Tanimbar Corella on guard.
No, I didn't make that up. It did happened & my guy saw the whole thing. A Red-breasted Parakeet was hopping around the entrance of the Hornbill nest, trying to peek inside. The next moment, a Tanimbar Corella came shrieking & chased the Parakeet away. Tanimbar Corella & Red-breasted Parakeet are plentiful at Changi Village & it is one place in Singapore where you can easily see the Oriental Pied Hornbill.
No one likes nosy neighbors & gossips, do we? =P
Helpful Tanimbar Corellas
On the morning of the 6th day, Daddy Hornbill purposely fed the Baby just a tiny amount of food. Then it came back with a tasty fruit to lure the Baby out of the nest.
Daddy Hornbill tempted the Baby with this fruit & flew to another tree across the road.
Tempting The Baby.
At the same time, Mommy Hornbill returned, calling to the chick from another tree. There was a loud racket going on as both adult Hornbills were calling, joined in by the shrieking of many parrots. The Baby was hungry & kept calling to its parents desperately, but the adults refused to go to it.
Then, at 9.50 am on Friday, March 8, the third Hornbill chick shot out of its nest like a rocket. It finally fledged!
Baby Hornbill coming out of its nest.
It flew across the street, tried to join its father. Suddenly, its flight weaken. The fledging made a u-turn, glided toward & crash landed at a roti-prata shop nearby, scattering some of their customers.
On that morning, there were about 20 birders waiting for the third chick to fledge. My guy is the one least encumbered by photographic equipments & reached the fallen chick first. He shooed the fledging out into the open hoping it could fly to its parents. Suddenly, a man (some said he is a taxi-driver) sitting nearby, stepped in & caught the Baby! As his camera was still switch on, my guy instantly snapped a pic, shooting from the hip & at the same moment, told that man to release the chick. That person refused & said he wanna keep it as a pet despite being told that it is illegal to catch/poach or harass any wild animal in Singapore.
Note: The Oriental Pied Hornbill is the only species of Hornbill in Singapore & is classified as a threaten species. Under Singapore's law, all birds are protected, except for a few like the Common Mynas, Crows & Rock Pigeons which are classified as pests.
There was a huge commotion as more & more birders screamed at or tried to persuade that man to release the chick. Meanwhile, up above the trees, the adult Hornbills were in a panic, hopping/flying from branches to branches, crying fanatically. In his frenzy hopping, the male Hornbill accidentally broke the fragile branch which the Sunda Woodpeckers had build their nest. Poor Woodpeckers suffered collateral damage, all due to that asshole!
That asshole is really stubborn, inconsiderate, selfish, self-centered & deaf to reason. He refused to release the chick in spite of the many people telling him to. Later, realizing he couldn't keep the Hornbill chick, that bastard restrained the chick till he has the satisfaction of taken many pics of it. The Baby Hornbill was freed only after that despicable moron had a final pic taken (by a shop staff) of himself holding the bird up like a slaughtered chicken!
Despicable Bastard mishandled & restrained Baby Hornbill.
*When my guy called & related the whole incident to me, I cried. I wanna scratch out the eyes of that complete asshole, chopped him up & feed him to stray dogs! But I believe even hungry strays would not want to eat such contaminated stuff!
The whole experience left the Baby Hornbill badly traumatized. In shock & in fright, it peed uncontrollably on the ground. Don't know what injuries that man might had caused to the chick by the way he was holding it. After its release, Baby Hornbill sat quietly on the ground for a long time. The adult Hornbills had to leave as they were caring for another two juveniles of the same brood. The group of birders formed a wide circle around it, preventing anyone or any stray cat/dog from approaching it.
Poor Traumatized Baby.
About after half an hour later, The Baby Hornbill gathered strength & courage to fly across the road with some birders chasing after it, trying to herd it to safer ground, away from the road. Its flight was feeble & low. Able to fly only about a meter above the ground & it can't perch well, always falling to the ground.
Feeble Baby Hornbill.
They shooed it further into a wooded area where it is known that the adult Hornbills usually forage, hoping its parents will find it. With many birders standing guard nearby, keeping away stray cats or dogs, it was safe. Eventually, Daddy Hornbills came by & spotted the fledging.
Daddy Hornbill spotted Baby Hornbill.
Even when the Baby saw its Daddy, it did not call out. I wonder if its neck or voice box was injured due to that idiot mishandling. As the male Hornbill approached closer, the birders backed off further in order not to alarm it or frighten it away. Encouraged by its Daddy, Baby Hornbill slowly inched its way higher.
Getting higher off the ground...
With Daddy watching & encouraging.
Finally, it reached a height where Daddy feel it's safe enough & let it rest for a while.
Then Daddy Hornbill flew to the Baby & fed it a long giant centipedes. Baby must be very hungry by then & Daddy knows best. Mommy Hornbill with the 2 siblings came later & they all flew away together. The Hornbill family were reunited at last! A happy ending to a near tragedy. Stay safe, Baby Hornbill & wishing you all the best!
Fatherly Love (Photo is used by courtesy of Billy Goh)
Hope the little Baby Hornbill grow up to shit many many times on that selfish & inconsiderate asshole who had abused it!
Note: An earlier write-up of this incident was put up in STOMP & my FaceBook for awareness. It was also reported to SPCA Singapore, NPark Singapore, AVA (Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority) of Singapore & ACRES Singapore. They are investigating & might take action against that person who mishandled the Hornbill fledging. NPark, AVA & ACRES had contacted us regarding certain details. My guy had given them his assurance of giving statement & providing his pics as evidence if needed. He also released the rights to his pics to certain news media for reportage. Reporters from some newspapers had found & contacted that person. I hope that if this case goes to court, the judge will throw the book at that Despicable Bastard!