“I went on a river safari along the Kinabatangan River, Borneo in late June 2011 to photograph wildlife. My boat was cruising along the river in the late afternoon when we were alerted by another boat of a hornbill sighting. We saw four adult White-crowned Hornbills (Berenicornis comatus) on the tall trees along the side of the river where the sun was setting. The back light was still strong which made bird photography very challenging. These were active birds that flew around several trees frequently before disappearing. I felt happy to see them for the first time which was unexpected. But the second round of sighting was about to take place within the next couple of minutes.
“As we headed back to the centre of the river, our boatman saw more White-crowned Hornbills across the other side of the river bank. We saw three adults, one of which was a female. This time, the light conditions were perfect. When the male and female perched together, they looked like a royal couple (above right). Was able to take some flight shots (below left). These hornbills are real attention-grabbers because they look distinctly different from other hornbills. On one hand, they look majestic with their delicate and feathery white crown in addition to their long white tails. But on the other hand, they look evil with their heinous looking eyes that were surrounded by dirty, dusty specks on the face and beak (above left). Their tail feathers are totally white, unlike other hornbills that are either black or has white and black bands on them. The line between the upper and lower mandibles are jagged, enhancing their heinous look.
“One interesting behavior I noticed was the way the female hornbill flew (above right). It literally dived down in a suicidal fashion from its perch along the tree trunk which was rather dangerous as it might hit the low branches, bearing in mind that it was as big as a domestic chicken. I only noticed this act when I reviewed my photos in the computer. I consider myself fortunate to see seven White-crowned Hornbills in one afternoon.”
Thong Chow Ngian
16th July 2011