Oriental Pied Hornbill eats rambutan

on 12th June 2009

Marcus Ng came across three Oriental Pied Hornbills (Anthracoceros albirostris convexus), one male and two females, feeding in a rambutan tree (Nephalium lappaceum) at Chek Jawa in Pulau Ubin near the NParks ranger hut. They spent about 15 minutes foraging near the canopy. The fruits were mostly green although a few were beginning to ripen. The birds were plucking and swallowing the mostly unripe fruits whole.

Is there any information on how hornbills eat rambutans? Do they remove the skin first before swallowing it? Apparently not in this case. What happens to the skin after the flesh is scrapped out in the gizzard? Probably ejected out together with the seed?

Can the hornbills be taking the fruits, storing them in the gullet before transporting them to the chick in the nest? Possible but not probable. There were two females and a male at the tree and one of the females may possibly be a juvenile. But there were no loud begging cries suggesting that it was not a recently fledged chick.

Prof Richard Corlett, who is studying seed dispersal by birds, believes that the skin would be regurgitated, as hornbills regularly do so with large seeds.

Image by Marcus Ng of The Annotated Budak.

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. I saw a house crow flying with a bright red rambutan in its beak the other day. It was a long way off, and until it landed in a tree and I got the bins on it I wondered what exotic black bird with a large red beak it might be. I guess the crow just tears off the skin before digging in, although it flew off again so I did not see how it does it.

  2. Pity it was not a black bird with white tail feathers and a large whitish bill tipped with red. Thanks for the note anyway.

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