Did the Oriental Pied Hornbills caught a pair of Whiskered Myotis bats?

On the evening of the 8th June 2019, a family of Oriental Pied Hornbill (Anthracoceros albirostris) flew into my garden and one landed among the leaves of my banana plant (below).

It was seen pecking a large leaf cone that had yet to unfold completely. It used the sharp tips of its mandibles to tear pieces from the unfurled cone leaf as if searching for something or other. A few minutes later it flew off to join the other members of its family (video below).

I consulted with Morten Strange and he replied: “The only thing I can think of is that there were bugs/larvae on the leaf. When I had a garden here donkey-years ago, off Dunearn Road like you, I had Black-naped Orioles visiting young bananas and they pulled grubs from the leaves. Just a thought … hornbills do hunt for insects and small animals …”

I fully agreed with Morten. However, as far as I can ascertain, this particular young leaf was free of insects or their larvae/pupae. After all, there were no signs of Banana Skippers infesting my plant. However there may be other insects.

The matter may well end there except that about two weeks later the hornbills returned to my banana patch in the early evening. Generose V Acierto was then ironing clothes in her room overlooking the banana plants when she saw one female hornbill snatching a bat flying above the banana plants but the prey slipped from its bill. The hornbill flew down to the ground, picked it up and swallowed it. Another bat was flying around and the hornbill flew up to catch it. However, a second hornbill caught and swallowed it.

Two species of bats regularly visit these banana plants. The Cave Nectar Bat (Eonycteris spelaea) comes for the flower nectar. The Whiskered Myotis (Myotis muricola) on the other hand comes to roost inside the unfolding young leaves. At that particular evening none of the banana plants were in flowers. So this leaves out the Cave Nectar Bat. It is thus possible that the bat in the image above is a Whiskered Myotis. The fact that the hornbills were checking out the unfolding young banana leaves point to the prey being most likely a Myotis Bat. The hornbills checking out the leaves most probably disturbed the roosting bats which flew out and thus were caught by the hornbills.

The image of the hornbill with a prey between its mandibles clearly shows that it was a bat but not clear enough to identify the species.

YC Wee & Generose V Acierto with Morten Strange
Singapore
19th July 2019

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