Birds of a feather flock together

Love is a powerful emotion and choice. It creates strong affection and builds the bonds of relationship. It embodies the virtues of loyalty, kindness, charity, compassion, and affection. Among 220 species of birds that fly in Langkawi, the Great Hornbill is the most incredible and absolutely amazes me. The Great Hornbill (Buceros bicornis) is a large, principally frugivorous, and endangered species of south- and southeast Asian rainforests. Their flight is often noisy as air rushes through the bases of the flight feathers which are not covered with stiff coverts. The plumage is black with patches of white on the neck, abdomen, wings, and tail; the tail has a subterminal black bar. Great hornbills feed primarily on fruits, especially figs. They also hunt actively for small animals, snakes, lizards, bird nestlings, beetles, and insects. It is interesting to note that they have never been recorded drinking water.

As we know, more than 90 percent of the world’s bird species are monogamous and same goes to Great hornbills. They will remain monogamously mated to the same partner for several years, possibly until death unless the pair is unable to produce chicks successfully. Mated pairs may return to the same nest-site year after year. Being monogamous means staying loyal to a mate during the breeding and nesting season from the time of courtship through laying the eggs, incubating the brood and caring for the young hatchlings until they leave the nest. Monogamous pairs of birds frequently share the duties necessary to raise their young. Building the nest, incubating the eggs and feeding the young birds will be done by both male and female parents, though not always in equal proportions. It is showed as the famous love quote “When you make a commitment to a relationship, you invest your attention and energy in it more profoundly because you now experience ownership of that relationship”.

In order to increase their population and avoiding from extinction, a lot of efforts and sacrifices had to be done. He was constructed the nests before she arrives is a way for him to claim territory and show the suitable nesting areas he can defend. He only choose the tree cavities high up in tall living trees that more than 20m high and  should be placed in a quiet corner with a visual barrier between the nest and the adjacent enclosure to prevent disturbance. The distance between the enclosure floor and nest bottom should preferably be more than 1.5 m, in order to give her and coming baby a safe feeling. A roof or screen above nests is recommended to protect the nest from direct sun, rain and may also encourage breeding. She may then choose the nest she prefers. I called it as ‘penthouse’ where he chooses the perfect location, comfortable and safety environment for her breeds their baby.

Offering food is another common part of the bird courtship behavior for many species. He will place a seed or insect directly in her mouth just as he might be expected to do when helping feed hungry nestlings. He regularly inserted regurgitated food in the female’s bill probably fruits, into the cavity. It is not easy as we think where he also facing the rejected proposal by her. A story from friend that stayed at Tanjung Sanctuary for several nights really make me shocked. A pair of Great hornbills was perched just in front of their balcony in between 5.00pm until 6.30pm everyday at the same spot. He try to propose her by offered the fruits (Ficus) but he been rejected where she does not accepted it. He tried really hard to get her attention in several days at the same spot and same times until my friend was leave. I do hope he already got her. I had seen a courtship behavior of a pair Wreath hornbill at Raya Mountain during bird watching trip. Its looked like watching romantic movie and be finished by happy ending where i saw he propose her by offered the Ficus and she accepted it and they shake the branch to show how happy they were.

Once she accepted the proposal, its mean she already choose him as mate for a whole life. Love is in the air. The female was sealed in a tree cavity and remains in confinement during incubation and for a period after hatching of the chick. He was plastered their penthouse with lumps of mud and also brought fruits that included fig (Ficus) that easily found abundantly in forest. These fruits were stored in his gullet, regurgitated and positioned at the tip of his bill before passing them to her. Depending on size, he would deliver 10–50 fruits at a time to make sure their penthouse was perfect. The room service was noticed when the first sign of the bird emerging was the tip of her bill poking out of the cavity. He was delivered figs where it was their favorites food due to rich in calcium. It is possible that during breeding, she needs more calcium than usual. Females are quite sensitive to disturbance during the pre-laying period and may abandon the nest if disturbed. The female and later her chicks defecate through the nest opening and toss remains of food brought by the male out of the cavity. These behaviors help to keep the nest free of infectious materials. A nest of Great hornbill with occupant inside can be seen at Raya Mountain nowadays, and probably can seen he come to his penthouse and feed her by passed the food from his bill to her bill through the small opening of their penthouse. He tried his best to search food for his family everyday to ensure they were safe and comfortable inside. Looks how responsible he is toward his family members.

Maybe some of us not realized that Hornbills are significant interest to field conservationists, as they can be used to indicate the health of a community and because they are seed dispersers, important for forest regeneration but nowadays it been threats to survival where it have been hunted traditionally in India, Indonesia and some part of Malaysia for both food and medicine. And deforestation is the main threat to their survival as it eliminates sites for nesting as well as territory for foraging.

Post By : Daia (Hidayah Husein) – Nature Guide