Angie Ng was at the offshore island of Pulau Ubin on the evening (1815 hours) of 22nd January 2008 when she saw an unusual spectacle.
“The Oriental Pied Hornbills (Anthracoceros albirostris) had gathered below the jetty beside the police post at Ubin last evening (left). Managed to capture (of the total 15) only 10 on the rocks and 3 on the railing. Sorry, pics of poor quality; am sending my other camera for repair! Cheers for a wonderful day!”
These hornbills usually congregate high up on trees, moving to the ground to catch prey or collect lumps of mud during the nesting season. For them to gather on the beach in such number – can it be that there is food on the beach and the birds are scavenging there?
In Pangkor Island, Malaysia, these hornbills are doing just that – residents feed them with leftover food to attract them as a tourist attraction.
However, our bird specialist R Subaraj has this to say: “Possible but unlikely as the cleaners regularly remove all rubbish from there. Unless they were finding food brought in by the tide. Why so late then (low tide?)… just before roosting. They do probably gather and roost communally as I have seen a flock of 19 birds in a single flock at dawn… also at the police post. They possibly roost somewhere near there.”
When queried further, Angie has this to add; “We were on the jetty waiting to return to Changi when we saw the wave of hornbills descending on the rocks. They didn’t show signs of foraging; after a minute or so they flew off to the coconut (Cocos nucifera) and Sea Almond (Terminalia catappa) trees; then they came back to the rocks and a few to the railing. A few guides went closer to observe them and took a count, but the hornbills just moved about, flew to the trees and congregated on the beach again. We left the jetty a while later.”
Well, this may be a pre-roosting spot…
Image by Angie Ng.