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Tales of a Rhinoceros Hornbill

on 5th April 2006

Kwek Siew Jin, a member of the Nature Society (Singapore), had an exciting encounter with a Rhinoceros Hornbill (Buceros rhinoceros) while out walking with a group of friends in the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve one day. Below is Siew Jin’s account of the encounter:

“On 6th January 2006, our group of four hikers was on our normal weekly walk, this time going through the former turf club to the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve.

“On reaching Senapang Road at about 11am, I noticed a pair of Greater Racket-tailed Drongos (Dicrurus paradisus) flying around in an agitated manner and heard a loud honking noise coming from the tree tops. Within a short while a big bird that I recognised as a hornbill (but not which one) flew across an open space in the forest, chased by the pair of Drongos. I was thrilled to see such a large and beautiful bird in our forest! I chased and caught up with the birds when the hornbill landed on a tree and began to eat the fruits from the branches.

“Taking photos of the bird from below the tree with the hornbill hopping around plucking fruits was not easy, especially in the low light and without a long lens and tripod. However, it was certainly an experience to see this beautiful bird and to hear its loud honking calls. I only identified it as a Rhinoceros Hornbill when I got home and looked it up in the bird guide book.”

Ong Hui Guan similarly wrote on 19th March 2006: “I read about your project in Nature News. I shot a picture of a Great Hornbill on 18 Dec 05 – the bird flew into Dairy Farm Estate late afternoon. It visited Dairy Farm Estate subsequently with a partner a few weeks later and the two birds also hung around Bukit Timah Hill for a while – not sure if it is still there”

Comment by YC: This species is an escapee that has been sighted on an off in Singapore for some years now. See here for other sightings and here for an account of its possible mate.

Input by Kwek Siew Jin and Ong Hui Guan, image by YC (top) and Siew Jin (bottom).

An excellent video of a male Rhinoceros Hornbill feeding its family sealed inside the nest cavity, filmed in Thailand by our very own Prof. Ng Soon Chye, can be viewed here.

If you like this post please tap on the Like button at the left bottom of page. Any views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the authors/contributors, and are not endorsed by the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM, NUS) or its affiliated institutions. Readers are encouraged to use their discretion before making any decisions or judgements based on the information presented.

YC Wee

Dr Wee played a significant role as a green advocate in Singapore through his extensive involvement in various organizations and committees: as Secretary and Chairman for the Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch), and with the Nature Society (Singapore) as founding President (1978-1995). He has also served in the Nature Reserve Board (1987-1989), Nature Reserves Committee (1990-1996), National Council on the Environment/Singapore Environment Council (1992-1996), Work-Group on Nature Conservation (1992) and Inter-Varsity Council on the Environment (1995-1997). He is Patron of the Singapore Gardening Society and was appointed Honorary Museum Associate of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM) in 2012. In 2005, Dr Wee started the Bird Ecology Study Group. With more than 6,000 entries, the website has become a valuable resource consulted by students, birdwatchers and researchers locally and internationally. The views and opinions expressed in this article are his own, and do not represent those of LKCNHM, the National University of Singapore or its affiliated institutions.

Other posts by YC Wee

6 Responses

  1. Rhinoceros hornbills used to inhabit Singapore, right? Perhaps this could be considered the ‘return’ of the species to our forests…

  2. Yes, the rhino was originally found here. A return of the species? Maybe yes but most probably no. We are not sure whether there is only one bird that we see everywhere. Or whether there is more than one. It is probably an escapee. Or maybe it flew in from Johor for a visit? There is so much we do not know.

  3. Well, we can only hope that this rhinoceros hornbill isn’t alone, that they’ll be able to breed and settle here and become a part of our native avifauna once again. *keeps fingers crossed* Though I suddenly wonder about the possible impacts on oriental pied hornbills, considering nesting holes are in limited supply.

    Now, to see if we can bring back the pheasants and giant woodpeckers and trogons and broadbills. =)

  4. Not to mention that its partner is of a different species.

    *Crosses fingers and hopes a male flies over from Johor and seduces the female* But that would be heartbreaking for the female Great hornbill… =P

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