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N. Sivasothi,
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Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, Department of Biological Sciences, National University of Singapore. Since 1998 with origins from OneList.

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Thu 15 Jul 2004

Hornbills over Labrador Park

Category : nature

I received a pleasant surprise in my mailbox one morning two weeks ago. An amateur photographer had photographed an Oriental Pied-Hornbill (Anthracoceros albirostris) over Labrador Park!

Lee Eng Lock writes, "As an amateur photographer, I go to the places near my house. In May/June of this year I sighted a pair of big birds slowly flying across the open piece of land which is on the right of the road leading to Labrador Park. My eyesight is not too good as I am using glasses.

Finally last week I managed to shoot them near lunchtime (19 Jun 2004: 11.47 am); within less than 15 seconds the birds vanished from view. I was surprised to see on my monitor screen, a pair of hornbills!"

Hornbills of the Southern Ridges

In February and March this year, reports surfaced of a Great Hornbill Buceros bicornis in Kent Ridge.

Gan Cheong Weei said he probably saw a pair of these birds outside Science Park 2 around January 2004.

Lim Ye Chen says she saw a hornbill when "cycling home to Pasir Panjang one morning [2003/4]. It was perched on the antenna of the row of new looking white terrace houses past the Haw Par villa curve towards Clementi Road. The silhouette was huge and the unmistakable sound of the hornbill confirmed its identity."

We have been getting reports of hornbills in Pasir Panjang for more than a decade, and in an email exchange with Subaraj Rajathurai in March 2002, he wrote,

"There is an escaped Great Hornbill that is seen from time to time between Mount Faber and Sentosa. This individual may be the one now reported from Kent Ridge. Best to have a description or photo as there have been up to 5 other species of hornbills recorded as escapees in the past and this includes a Bushy-crested Hornbill that survived for 5 years at Gillman Park (Ulu Pandan Woods, opposite the poly)."

The Oriental Pied hornbill in Singapore

In the Nature-Singapore mailing list, Jonathon Foo reported seeing Ubin's famous residents, the Oriental Pied Hornbills, on 23 June 2004. They are almost a certainty these days for the observant visitor and very conveniently located near the old community centre's basketball courts! But can you see the species in mainland Singapore?

In response to Jonathon, Wang Luan Keng wrote in Nature Singapore,

"[The Oriental Pied Hornbills were] recently recorded from Pulau Ubin [at least] since 13 Mar 1994 (Iora 1, Lim 1998). Up to 15 were counted [in Singapore during] the 2002 mid-year breeding census conducted by the Singapore Bird Group. The birds from P Ubin are likely to be visitors from across the causeway. They were first recorded breeding on P Ubin in 1997, subsequently in Mar 2000 and annually since."

[The species is found in] forested coastal areas and cultivated areas, but never old jungle."

Subaraj had earlier (Mar 2002) suggested that,

"The only native population of hornbills are the Oriental Pied Hornbills found at Pulau Ubin. We also have a record of 3 Oriental Pied Hornbills at St. Johns for a week when a fig was in fruit (probably from Riau). There is however a feral population of the same species in the Central Catchment that originated from a pair at Upper Seletar Reservoir Park and now accounts for records from Lower Peirce, MacRitchie, Toa Payoh and perhaps even Bukit Tinggi."

Other hornbill species in SIngapore

Luan Keng continued on to say,

"The Northern Pied Hornbill (an escapee) has bred in Seletar."

"Most other hornbill species you see in Singapore nowadays are mostly escapees. You can see Black Hornbill, Rhinoceros Hornbill, Great Hornbill, Bushy-crested Hornbill, White-crowned Hornbill, even a Southern Ground Hornbill in just about any part of Singapore on various occasions. Most are escapees from the zoo, bird park or the pet trade. The Rhinoceros Hornbill was formerly recorded in Singapore but the population [apparently] died out in 1898."

Lee Eng Lock ended his email to me saying, "This month (June 2004), I have also seen a solitary hornbill sitting in a tree at Swiss Club Road, just at the boundary of the old Turf Club."

Whatever the origin, and no matter how frequently you have seen them, its a magnificent sight to see in Singapore everytime. Happy hornbill-sighting everyone!

For photos of most species of hornbills, see mangoverde, an excellent resource page for bird photos.

Posted at 4:37AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email | Raffles Museum news