“During a visit to the lovely island of Langkawi, Malaysia in October 2012, we were delighted to observe a huge and healthy flock of Oriental Pied Hornbills (Anthracoceros albirostris) regularly descending upon a fruiting fig tree (Ficus microcarpa) that was growing on boulders beside the beach. At any one time, between 15 to 20 Oriental Pied Hornbills would be hopping and flying amongst the leafy crown in search of the ripened figs. The soft figs were carefully selected and delicately picked with the tip of the hornbill’s beak (above). Their feeding frenzy was constantly accompanied by characteristic yelps and flapping of wings.
“This was in contrast with a pair of Great Hornbills (Buceros bicornis), male illustrated here (above), that fed quietly in the tree top without any fuss or fanfare.
“While these two species of hornbills were the most prominent avifauna feeding on the figs, other smaller birds also visited the same tree in search of food. These include the Asian Fairy Bluebird (Irena puella), Black-naped Oriole (Oriolus chinensis) and Orange-bellied Flowerpecker (Dicaeum trigonostigma). Native mammals were also inadvertently drawn to this same tree to partake of the fig feast. These include the Grey-bellied Squirrel (Callosciurus caniceps), Black Giant Squirrel (Ratufa bicolor), Dusky Leaf-Monkey (Trachypithecus obscurus), and Long-tailed Macaque (Macaca fascicularis). The Long-tailed Macaque would also regularly scavenge on the dislodged figs that had fallen onto the sand below (above).
“A video clip of such scavenging behaviour may be previewed above.
“Apart from the figs, the Oriental Pied Hornbill also readily consumed the red fruits of MacArthur Palms (Ptychosperma macarthurii) growing nearby (above).
Dr. Leong Tzi Ming & Dr. Vilma D’Rozario
23rd October 2012