Oriental Pied Hornbill: Female feeding male

“It is well known that Oriental Pied Hornbills (Anthracoceros albirostris) nest with the female sealed inside a nesting hole and will depend entirely on the male to deliver food to her and their chicks during their nesting HERE. The male is also known to feed the female during courtship HERE.

“A flock of Oriental Pied Hornbills were foraging amongst the matured trees at Pasir Ris Park recently. They were seen catching caterpillars from the foliage and even from the bark of trees. While photographing a pair, I was surprised to witness the female sharing her caterpillar with the male, which was conveniently perched just next to her. Sharing these images, which documented the sequence of the feeding:

“Female holding the caterpillar that it caught with male looking sheepishly at her and her catch (above).

OPH-m feed f [KwongWaiChong] 2

“Female turning to face male with caterpillar held high to showcase to the male which also turned to interact with her (above).

OPH-m feed f [KwongWaiChong] 3

“Female held the caterpillar low with male looking on (above).

OPH-m feed f [KwongWaiChong] 4

“Female twisted her head to offer and male accepted with both holding onto the caterpillar (above).

OPH-m feed f [KwongWaiChong] 5

“Caterpillar was snipped into 2 halves without much effort; with each half held at the tip of their respective bills (above).

OPH-m feed f [KwongWaiChong] 6

“Male could be seen with its nictictating membrane deployed for a split second (above).

OPH-m feed f [KwongWaiChong] 7

“The hornbills then proceeded to swallow their respective halves of the caterpillar without much fanfare (above).

“Seems strange for a female to feed its partner. Not sure if there have been other records of female hornbills feeding their male partners?”

Kwong Wai Chong
11th July 2016

6 Responses

  1. Daisy ONeill

    Lovely documentation Kwong!
    There is a Hokkien phrase for such behavior. ” Char Bor Tooi Tar Por’.
    Those not conversant in this Chinese dialect to find a friend to translate .
    It could apply to other bird species as well / under recorded as still many bird behaviors still yet tobe discovered by observers if care to look harder.

  2. Kwong

    Yes, possibly female courting male – although unusual for roles to be reversed.
    Ha ha! Can you imagine the male sealed inside the nest instead of the female?

  3. Nicky

    I love learning about the hornbills. We have a family near us which nest close to Tanglin Road. It is lovely seeing them flying around!

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