Oriental Pied Hornbills in Pangkor Island, Peninsular Malaysia

on 13th July 2006

Pangkor Island is a scenic island resort off the west coast of Peninsula Malaysia. And that was where Susan Wong was holidaying recently. What impressed her most was the Oriental Pied Hornbills (Anthracoceros albirostris). There were hornbills everywhere. On rooftops, perching on high-tension wires and along roads. She even saw one bird with a deformed bill. She thought that they were as common as crows that can be seen in many Malaysian towns.

We in urban Singapore consider ourselves fortunate to be able to see a pair of these hornbills flying overhead or even visiting our urban gardens. In Pulau Ubin we can see more, but as common as crows? Unbelievable to most of us! I have therefore managed to persuade her to share her images of these impressive birds from Pangkor Island for this post.

According to Susan: “The birds have been behaving this way for the last ten years.” They have been attracted to certain touristy areas where hotels and restaurants are plentiful. The residents feed them with leftover food as a tourist attraction. Because of this the birds have become so tame that it is almost possible to touch them. In fact Susan says that they look ”…more tame than the birds at bird parks and zoos.” In fact they have become as tame as the Eurasian Tree Sparrow (Passer montanus). Although there is a patch of lowland rainforest nearby, the hornbills were content to be around people.

Our bird specialist R. Subaraj has this to say: “Based on the timings for flock gatherings at Pangkor, given by Susan, I am of the opinion that while this hornbill is unquestionably common on the island, the larger gatherings are because they roost communally. From dawn onwards, they are together drying and warming up before dispersing to find food while in the evenings they probably start gathering until near dusk, when they go to roost together.”

Input and images by Susan Wong of Malaysia.

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

5 Responses

  1. Hi YC:
    I remembered at Taman Negara Resort around the year 2000, there was a young & friendly hornbill who would sometimes join me for breakfast. It would fly down from a big Raintree nearby & without a by-your-leave would feed off my plate of nasi lemak.

    The story I got from one of the waiters was that the mother was killed by poachers. The resort restaurant staff took care of the baby hornbill. It grew & got used to humans & would hang around them, I went back there 2 years later & the bird was gone. The waiters told me they don’t know why it disappeared. Sad, KF

  2. Hi Prof Wee,

    I did my final year thesis at Cherating. In the mornings, there too were hornbills, though I’m not sure what specie they belong to for a birder I’m not. Unfortunately, photographs of them I have none.


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