In early May 2007 an Oriental Pied Hornbill (Anthracoceros albirostris) visited Johnny Wee’s garden to raid his guava tree (Psidium guajava). The visit came one afternoon, after a prolonged period of a few days of rain. He was alerted to the presence of the bird by its characteristic call. Peering out of his bedroom window, he was visibly excited to have this large bird paying him a private visit.
The bird was quietly pecking the ripe guava fruits and taking pieces from them. As soon as it had a piece of the fruit at the tip of its bill, it tipped its head back to allow the piece to fall into its throat. Apparently the fruits are too large and possibly too hard for the bird to swallow them whole, unlike with the larger figs.
We now have on record for Singapore of the Oriental Pied Hornbill eating guava fruits and the bird is obviously another dispersal agent.
The guava tree is not native to Singapore (above). It was introduced to this part of the world a very long time ago probably by the Portuguese explorers. This exotic plant has now become naturalised all over the tropics and subtropics, in some places even becoming a weed. And birds play a leading role in its spread.
Once there were plenty of these trees around, especially in our rural farm areas. Nowadays a few may still be growing in private gardens, parks and wastelands. The tree is sun-loving, meaning that seedlings sprout in open areas. It is also fast growing, fruiting within a year or so. It fruits profusely and many birds are attracted to the succulent fruits that are full of numerous, small, hard seeds. These seeds pass through the alimentary tract of the birds to be deposited some distance away. In other countries cattle, horses and even pigs help spread the seeds. And these seeds remain viable in the ground for long periods.
This is another example of an exotic plant that has become useful to our birds.