The Oriental Pied Hornbill (Anthracoceros albirostris) normally nests in tree cavities high up where it is safe from most predators – see here: 1 and 2. Lately, nesting boxes have been used in Singapore to provide scarce tree cavities for breeding.
On 20th February 2010, The Star Online carried a report of a pair of the convexus race using an earthen jar on the ground as a nest. This was in the rural village of Kampong Sungei Panjang in the Malaysian state of Selangor. The female hornbill apparently entered the jar which was lying on its side, sealed herself in with mud, leaving a narrow slit to communicate with her mate outside.
The male hornbill regularly flew to the jar to feed the female inside. But before flying to the ground, he would perch on the branch of a nearby tree to monitor human presence. Only when no one was near the jar would he fly down to feed the female inside the jar.
Food brought to the female included a centipede and palm oil fruits. This continued for about three months when the chick/s fledged. Obviously the villagers have learnt to coexist with the hornbills, not disturbing the breeding pair and allowing the breeding to complete its cycle.
This is not the first time the hornbills have nested in such a jar. Enggan, newsletter of the Malaysian Nature Society Bird Group had published an account of such an unusual nesting a few years earlier.
Image courtesy of The Star Online. Thanks to Allan Teo for alerting BESG to the account.