on 2nd December 2014

‘In 2009, my second son and his family went to stay at the Sterling Condominium located along Bukit Timah Road. The Sterling is next to the old railway track and is near to the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. It consists of two rows of low-density apartment units facing each other and separated by a swimming pool. One morning a few months after shifting into their apartment they heard loud squawking sounds and the flapping of wings approaching their apartment from the direction of the railway track. Then there was utter silence.

“When the family went to their balcony window to check, they were greeted by a pair of Oriental Pied Hornbills (Anthracoceros albirostris) standing silently on their balcony railing and looking into their apartment unit (top). The birds had a bird’s eye-view of the sitting room, the dining room right through to the kitchen of the apartment (above).

“My son got a plate of fruits from the fridge, cut them up and placed the morsels on the balcony railing. The birds flew to the opposite building and watched the action. Once my son retreated from the window, the birds flew back to the railing to enjoy the fruit while my son’s entire family watched from just a few feet away (above).

“Thus began a lasting relationship. Each morning at seven the birds would make squawking calls to announce their arrival. But the moment they landed on the wooden railing of the balcony there would be utter silence as the birds watched the activities in the apartment. Human movements indicated to them that their food was being prepared and they would soon have their breakfast. On the several occasions when I stayed at my son’s apartment, I considered it a real privilege to see the birds at close range and I had the opportunity to feed them. They were such majestic birds. The birds are monogamous and they made such a loving pair.

“In July 2014 the birds disappeared for a few months. This caused some anxiety as we had got accustomed to their visits. Then one day in October 2014 the two birds appeared and what a surprise. They had brought along their two chicks to introduce them to us (above). It was such a touching sight to see the family lined up in a row on the balcony railing.”

Ch’ng Eng Hock with Lily Ung & Lionel Ch’ng
30th November 2014

Note: All photographs by Lionel Ch’ng

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

7 responses

  1. A few months back, when someone asked on this website if hornbills would ever become established in the Bukit Batok and Hume Heights area, I replied with a confident “Yes”. The reason was, an experienced aviculturalist I know, who lives in a bungalow near the Sterling Condominium, has had hornbills visiting his garden over the past several years. He started feeding them, and also put up a nest box. Eggs were laid, and the chicks fledged while my friend was abroad on business. But he had instructed his foreign domestic helper to continue the feeding, and to take photos of the proceedings. I have seen the photos, which, even though they are of poor quality, clearly show a young hornbill leaving the nest.

    On the more general topic of where hormbills can be seen in Singapore, I have spotted them at Bidadari Cemetery, in the Seletar Farmway area, and one, outside the condominium in Serangoon where K C Tsang used to stay. I did alert KC of this sighting, but the bird did not return to sit for a portrait photography session with KC.

    A reliable source has also said that nest boxes have been installed on trees in the Istana grounds, and hornbills have been released there.

    Would anyone else like to report where hornbills can be seen in Singapore?

    1. “a pair from the JurongBP was released on the grounds in 2008. The birds are now resident in the Istana and have produced eight chicks from 2008 to 2012″quote from Nature Guided Walk at the ISTANA; organised by NParks and Community Chest with kind support from the President’s Office.

      A hornbill regularly visits Emerald Hill Rd. A pair also regularly seen in Kay Siang Road.

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