Oriental Pied Hornbill – Ballistic transport feeding

One of the joy of birding is to observe behaviour of birds in the field and then having done so, be educated by a fellow birder as to what it all meant.

I had the opportunity to observe a family of Oriental Pied Hornbills (Anthracoceros albirostris) flying towards a kampung house at Pulau Ubin. One of the adult proceeded to land on a large papaya tree. This tree happen to have one ripe papaya fruit.

Soon enough the hornbill dug into the fruit itself and then retrieve the flesh. It the proceeded to flip the morsel and then with the mouth wide open, swallowed it whole. This method of feeding is call “ballistic transport” and is practiced by hornbills and toucans.

Oriental Pied Hornbill
The hornbill using its powerful bill to tear into the the papaya fruit.

Oriental Pied Hornbill
The flip and swallow routine

Oriental Pied Hornbill
A closer look at another instance. Notice the shape of the morsel is different.

Oriental Pied Hornbill
Yet another instance, this time at a different, steeper head angle.

Oriental Pied Hornbill
After one side is done, it goes for the other side. A messy eater.

Oriental Pied Hornbill
In between feeding time.

Oriental Pied Hornbill
All the while, the juvenile is perched quietly just below the papaya tree. As it has the same pose, you can compare its relative proportion.

Soon after these photos were taken, a group of weekend cyclist came by a bit too close. The whole family flew off to another location, and the papaya was left half eaten.

In summary, we know that Oriental Pied Hornbills like ripe papaya fruits, they tear into the fruit using their powerful bill to retrieve morsels of flesh, are messy eaters and then use ballistic transport to feed themselves.


Ballistic transport (“flip and catch”) feeding in hornbills


1 thought on “Oriental Pied Hornbill – Ballistic transport feeding

  1. Pingback: Oriental Pied Hornbill feeding on papaya at Pulau Ubin | Singapore Bird Group

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