At about 6pm on the 17th October 2008, a male (Anthracoceros albirostris) visited the apartment building at Transit Road where Morten Strange and Ng Bee Choo are residing. The large bird perched on the verandah railing and looked into the glass window of the apartment.
Before Bee Choo and son Mark were able to invite it in, the hornbill flew off to land on the roof of a nearby building.
According to Morten, “The exact origin of this bird is not certain. It is the male bird in a noisy family group that often flies around our estate, including the Sembawang Road roadside trees etc. They come out of the nearby Seletar Reservoir Park and forest area, a long-established territory for this species. A couple who ran a small food kiosk there for a while used to feed the group banana and papaya every evening and they quickly became quite tame and bold.
“With such mobile birds and an expanding population, it is a mystery to me why during the nine years when I was operating the Botanic Gardens Shop, I never saw or heard any hornbill there. There are so many fruiting trees there and nice open greenery with some large trees that this species likes. No-one has ever seen it there, as far as I know …?”
Our bird specialist, R. Subaraj has this to say: “…I have mentioned before that the Upper Seletar Reservoir population started in the late 1980s, with a mixed race pair (1 northern and 1 southern), indicating that they were escapees. They bred successfully at the park and the offspring spread down the eastern part of the Central Catchment Nature Reserve to Lower Peirce and MacRitchie. Subsequent sightings from Toa Payoh and the recent Woodleigh record are probably from this feral population. Morten and Bee Choo’s sighting is likely from this population too.
“Either birds from this feral population or from fresh introduction accounts for the birds seen at Bukit Tinggi and Binjai Park area.
“While this feral population may not have reached the Botanical Gardens yet, they could eventually. The Gardens have supported a couple of escaped Great Hornbills for many years in the past and there is a record of an escaped White-crowned Hornbill there too.”
Images by Ng Bee Choo.