Interbreeding between a Northern and a Southern Oriental Pied Hornbill at Pasir Ris Park.
By Seng Alvin.
This may be the first record of a successful breeding of two races of Oriental Pied Hornbills in Singapore. In 1996, a pair of the northern race bred successfully in Upper Seletar Reservoir Park. These together with a small population of Southern Pieds were introduced after they went extinct in the last century. Our first pair of wild hornbills was sighted at Pulau Ubin on 14 March 1994 during a round the island survey by the NSS Bird Group.
In early November 2019, a park visitor told me that a pair of Pied Hornbills were seen at an old nest in an Angsana tree. On 11 November I went to check and found a pair of Pied Hornbills tidying the same nest hole that was previously used by another pair of hornbills. What was unusual was that the male was a northern race (A.a albirostris) and the female was our southern race (A.a. convexus). The southern race is found throughout extreme South Thailand and Peninsular Malaysia. This could be the same pair that nested there earlier this year from February to May.
I continued to monitor and document the nesting from the time when the mummy bird moved in around late November until the fledgling of both chicks on 20 February, a period spanning eleven weeks. The biggest excitement for me is to see which parent’s genes would the chicks take after. From the photos you can see that the chick has a black and white undertail pattern of the daddy instead of a all white undertail of the mummy southern pied. So if you visit the park, do keep a lookout for these hornbills to see which race are they.
( I received information from experience birders that both adults are Southern Pied Hornbills. Younger birds do have some blacks at the upper tail that will fade away as it aged. The Northern Pied race has two third of the under tail black.)
11.11.2019. Mrs OPH ( a southern race) checking out the nest hole. The male OPH, a northern race A.a. albirostris was watching nearby.
23.11.2019. Mrs. OPH decided to move into the nest to lay eggs. Mr. OPH started to bring back food like this lizard to feed her. The nest hole entrance was sealed in the next few days.
31.01.2020. Daddy bird working hard to bring back food for the Mummy bird and two chicks.
The black and white tail pattern of the northern race of the male can be seen in this photo.
20.2.2020. Taking its first flight but landed on the ground instead. Managed to regain its strength and confidence after 15 minutes and flew off to join the parents over at the toilet area. The encouraging calls by the parent did the trick.
20.2.2020. Mama OPH continued to feed her chick. From this photo you can see this fledgling taking the genes of the papa bird.
Lim Kim Seng. The Avifauna of Singapore. Nature Society (Singapore) 2009.
Craig Robson. A Field Guide to the Birds of Thailand and South-East Asia.
Boonsong and Round. A Guide to the Birds of Thailand.