“I was travelling to this town to do a training session child rights and decided to bring my camera along. Just as I was coming into town, I spotted a flock of Oriental Pied Hornbills (Anthracoceros albirostris convexus). There were at least 15 of them. It was still a bit dark (before 8am) as the sun had not come
over the hills yet but the birds were magnificent.
“They were self-preening, allopreening as well as ‘locking bills’. This behaviour occurred between two males (top), two females (above) as well as between males and females.
“Many of the birds were engaging in this behaviour. It would happen in between allopreening, or suddenly as one bird moved to another branch and ‘confronted’ another, and even spectacularly in mid-air with loud cries (I bungled all these images).
“The locking of bills could be very gentle, a light touch (above)…
“…or very aggressive with an intrusion of the whole beak into the oral cavity of another (above). Either male or female could be the initiator or ‘aggressor’. At times one bird would hold the casque of the other (below).”
“I could only watch for 20 minutes due to my commitment but wonder about the significance of this social behaviour. When I first saw it, with ‘mid-air battles’ I thought it was aggressive behaviour, fighting for mates. But the more I watched I became uncertain. It certainly did look like courtship or pre-mating activities. But the same and cross gender activities and knowing how socially interactive these bird are, it is possible that this is a form of social bonding or play.
Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS
Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia
10th April 2014
Location: Outskirts of Tapah, Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia
Habitat: Trunk road through disturbed forest at the fringe of rural town