Tang Tsair Ching photgraphed a Great Hornbill (Buceros bicornis) eating a fruit of the wild durian (Coelostegia borneensis), possibly the first ever record. This was at the Hutan Lipur Bukit Pelindung (forest reserve) in Kuantan, Pahang, Malaysia.
The unripe fruits of this wild durian, commonly known as Black Durian, are usually reddish. On ripening these fruits turn brownish or purplish black, thus the common name.
Black Durian fruits split open on ripening, to expose the fleshy seeds while still attached to the branches of these huge forest trees. This allows the hornbills to pick the fleshy seeds while the fruits are still attached high up on the branches of the trees (below).
The kampong durians (Durio zibethinus) that we are familiar with will fall from the tree on ripening. The impact of the fall will split the thorny fruits, making the fleshy seeds accessible to animals. Thus if any hornbills wish to feed on these fruits, they need to descend to the ground to do so. However, we have yet to locate any evidence of hornbills eating the Black Durian or even kampong durian after checking with the following references:
1. Balasubramanian, P., R. Saravanan & B. Maheswaran, 2004. Fruit preferences of Malabar Pied Hornbill Anthracoceros coronatus in Western Ghats, India. Bird Conservation International, 14:S69-S79.
2. Chaisuriyanun, S., G.A. Gale, S. Madsri & P. Poonswad, 2011. Food consumption by Great Hornbill and Rhinoceros Hornbill in tropical rinforest, Budo SuNgai Padi National Park, Thailand. In: Davison, G.W.H. & C.S.W. Chia (eds.), Proceedings of the Fifth International Hornbill Conference, Singapor, 22nd-25th March 2009. The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology Supplement No. 24:123-135.
3. Cremades, M. & S. C. Lim, 2012. Hornbills in the city: A conservation approach to hornbill study in Singapore. National Parks Board, Singapore. 222 pp.
4. Davison, G.W.H. & C.S.W. Chia (eds.), 2011. Proceedings of the Fifth International Hornbill Conference, Singapor, 22nd-25th March 2009. The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology Supplement No. 24. 176pp.
5. Kemp, A.C., 2001. Family Bucerotidae (Hornbills). In: del Hoyo, J., A. Elliott & J. Sargatal (eds.), Handbook of the birds of the world. Vol. 6. Mousebirds to Hornbills. Lynx Editions, Barcelona. Pp. 436-523.
6. Kemp, A. & P. Poonswad, 1993. Life history of great hornbill Buceros bicornis. In: Poonswad, P. & A. Kemp (eds.), Manual to the conservation of Asian Hornbills. Hornbill Project, Thailand, Faculty of Science, Mahidol University, Bangkok. Pp. 100-113.
7. Ouithavon, K., P. Poonswad, N. Bhumbhakpan, & V. Laohajinda, 2005. A comparative study of the feeding ecology of two sympatric hornbill species (Aves: Bucerotidae) during their breeding season in Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary, Thailand. In: Lum, S. & P. Poonswad (eds.), The ecology of hornbills: reproduction and populations. Pimdee Karnpin Co. Ltd, Bangkok. Pp. 59-73
8. Poonswad, P., 1993. Aspects of the biology and ecology of some Asian hornbills. In: Poonswad, P. & A. Kemp (eds.), Manual to the conservation of Asian Hornbills. Hornbill Project, Thailand, Faculty of Science, Mahidol University, Bangkok. Pp. 76-97.
9. Poonswad, P. (ed.), 1998. The Asian hornbills: Ecology and conservation. National Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, Thailand. 325pp.
10. Poonswad, P., 2012. Hornbills: A Thai Heritage – A World Heritage. Thailand Hornbill Project, Faculty of Science, Mahidol University, Bangkok. 211 pp.
11. Poonswad, P. & A. Kemp (eds.), 1993. Manual to the conservation of Asian Hornbills. Hornbill Project, Thailand, Faculty of Science, Mahidol University, Bangkok. Pp. 76-97.
12. Poonswad, P., A. Kemp & M. Strange, 2013. Hornbills of the World: A Photographic Guide. Draco Publishing and Distribution Pte. Ltd., Singapore and Hornbill Research Foundation, Bangkok. 212 pp.
13. Poonswad, P., A. Tsuju, N. Jirawatkavi & V. Chimchome, 1998. Some aspects of food and feeding ecology of sympatric hornbill species in Khao Yai National Park, Thailand. In: Poonswad, P. (ed.), The Asian hornbills: Ecology and conservation. National Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, Thailand. Pp.137-157.
14. Tsuji, Atsuo, 1996. Hornbills – Master of tropical forests. Sarakadee Press, Bangkok and Hornbill Research Foundation, Mahidol University, Bangkok. 93pp.
15. Wells, D.R., 1999. The birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsular. Vol. I, Non-passerines. Academic Press, London. 648 pp.
Through Ng Bee Choo, we have made contact with Prof Pilai Poonswad, an internationally recognised researcher on hornbills who once operated in Thailand’s Khao Yai National Park. According to Pilai, Great and Oriental Pied Hornbills are most adaptable of the hornbill species. As such, they will most likely feed on durians, especially when the fruits are split open. However, she has yet to observe one eating such fruits.
We can thus conclude that the Great Hornbill feeding on the Black Durian is definitely a new food record.
Tang Tsair Ching & YC Wee
31st March 2016
This post is a cooperative effort between Birds, Insects N Creatures Of Asia and BESG to bring the study of birds and their behavior through photography and videography to a wider audience.