Big Bird in the City: The Oriental Pied Hornbill

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Often thought of as a symbol of Sarawak, not many realise that at least one species of hornbill can be found in Johor. The Oriental Pied Hornbill (Anthracoceros albirostris) is the most common of all hornbill species as it is highly adaptable and happy to inhabit secondary forests. Frequently found in both Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, they could probably be spotted in Johor Bahru as well.

The photos here are from a kampung off Gelang Patah. You usually hear the bird before you see it – it seems to cackle across the rooftops in the morning and evening. It is easily identified given its size, large yellow casque (the helmet like extension on its beak – some have black marks depending on gender and age) and clear black and white plumage.

Oriental Pied Hornbills are usually found feeding on trees that have berries or figs, but it also eats insects, small reptiles, birds and mammals. Hornbills usually remain with one partner and have a unique breeding practice.

Hornbill pairs build nests in holes in tall trees and when they have chicks, they seal off the hole with mud, leaving a small space for the female to stick out her beak. The male will hunt for food for his mate and chicks until they are big enough to survive on their own.

The Malaysian Nature Society is Johor’s expert on birds and birding; tours can be arranged to find out more about Johor’s feathered residents.