Sunday, March 21, 2010

5 Hornbills Around in Miri

One of my old friends who live at Pulau Melayu sent me an email of close-up photographs of 4 Oriental Pied Hornbills that have been visiting his garden. These birds also played on his balcony and were enjoying pecking at his house glass windows, fascinated by their own reflections. It was lucky that they did not crash at the glass window.

Actually, Steve last week called me to take photo of a Chestnut-winged Cuckoo that crashed at his house window and broke its neck. Sadly, the bird was found dead just under his glass window. I’ll talk about it later.

The hornbill at his balcony

Well, lets go back to the hornbills that frequently visited my friend’s garden. He has been watching these 4 hornbills, or rather, as he described it, the birds have been watching him in the morning through the glass windows, usually between 7.30 am to 11.00 am for around half an hour. These visits have been noticed for the last couple of months.

A few weeks ago there was a feature on hornbills in Semenanjung by the Star where one was noticed laying eggs in an egg jar. Using the same technique, my friend has placed 3 egg jars on his balcony. So far the birds have not shown any interest yet but he is hopeful and has been working hard in giving the birds a safe place to breed. Since the birds visit, his papaya fruit is now reserved for the birds and he and his family only eat the papaya if there are extras. He observed that the 4 hornbills are of 2 pairs. One of the females has one blind eye. The 3 juveniles seem to have grown up.

Incidentally, when my friend searched for more information on this type of hornbill, he stumbled upon this blog and sent me the email with the photos – hence this story.

Well, I do have some earlier knowledge on these hornbills. There were supposed to be five of them - two parents and 3 juveniles living somewhere in Piasau Camp (we are keeping the exact location a secret for the birds’ safety). As the juveniles grew bigger and the food in the Camp getting lesser, they have to go out of the area to look for food.

On June 26 2009, a friend of mine reported in facebook seeing them wandering out side their save haven. Later, another friend also noted in his facebook, seeing them at Piasau Jaya shophouses. Both reported 5 hornbills. There were also some reports from golfers, seeing them at some trees on the course.

Today's photograph with my HP camera

This morning I went for my routine cycling exercise toward the Miri river mouth. I brought my binocular but left my camera. As I was passing my friend house, I slowly get into his house compound. When I reached his car garage, there were 3 hornbills suddenly flew off from the garage to a large fruiting tree just 15 meters from where I was standing. I regretted that I didn’t bring my camera. But being that close, I really enjoyed watching the three birds eat the fruit. I watch the birds for half an hour and they were not frightened. When I became so tired standing, I went to my friend’s fishpond. The fishpond has some chairs where I could watch the birds with ease. What a lucky day for me, watching them playing and eating the fruit.

I could really see the male grooming the right-eyed blind female. After some time the right-eye blinded female flew off to another branch to get more fruits. Then the male went to the other one, I guess a female and it groomed this one too. That was how I made the conclusion that there are two females and one male. My friend usually saw 2 pairs, with the male almost double the size of the female.

At the moment, we know that the fifth one is breeding at the same nest where they were nested before. What we all should do now is to ensure Mirian know about these birds and let them roam free. The forests have gone. We must protect them in any way we could since they have chosen our city for shelter and they need a huge area to forage for food.

A unfortunate Chestnut-winged Cuckoo

I would now talk about the bird that crashed into Steve’s window and broke its neck. Normally birds do not understand glass window. They see reflections of trees and would just fly fast and crash on to the glass window, sometimes breaking their heads and/or necks. This happened to the Chestnut-winged Cuckoo at Steve’s house. The dead bird is now preserved in my refrigerator.

We are hoping to send it to an expert to preserve it. If anyone knows any taxidermist in Miri, please do contact us ASAP.

Musa Musbah, Mar 2010

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