14 March 2010

Hornbill figs out at Chek Jawa

Today the Jejawi fig at Chek Jawa was 'figging'! This bonanza attracts a whole horde of creatures.
We could hear the birds partying long before we got to the tree.

The Tower on the Chek Jawa boardwalk is wonderful for a closer look at this magnificent Jejawi fig (Ficus microcarpa). The tree was full of Glossy starlings. Debby told me the ones with the white streaky breasts are females.

But the star of the show was the Oriental pied-hornbill (Anthracoceros albirostris) that showed up quietly on the lower branches of the massive tree.
It used its enormous bill to delicately and efficiently strip the branch of all the edible figs.
It has fluffy white 'trousers' under its glossy black 'jacket'. And a blue face!
The wide long tail seems to help the bird balance on the skinny branches as it hops about. For a large bird, it seems to get around quite well among the dense branches.
After a while, it decided to leave. What a magnificent bird it is!
We also noticed that there were a lot of birds sitting on a nearby tree, almost queueing up for their turn at the fig tree. Like people waiting to park cars at a crowded lot, when a bunch of birds leave the fig tree, birds at the other tree swoop in to take their place.

We also dropped by the the NParks nesting box provided at Chek Jawa for the hornbills. It was nice to see signs that it might be occupied!
The Oriental pied-hornbills nest in a suitable hole in a tall tree. The breeding pair seals the female inside the hole with a plaster of mud and fibres. The male gathers and delivers earth to the female, which seals herself inside the hole. A narrow slit is left open so he can feed her and the chicks. This remarkable behaviour is believed to deter large predators.

The population of hornbills are limited by the number of suitable natural tree holes. The project to provide nesting boxes has had much success in raising the population of our Oriental pied-hornbills.

More about the Singapore Hornbill Project on the Bird Ecology Study Group blog.

I had a great day out with the folks from Omnitoons at Chek Jawa today.

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