The Omnivorous Hornbill

Hornbills are quite a common sight in Brunei, especially in the district of Belait where they have learnt to blend themselves with the cities and its surrounding; flying across the road, jumping from tree to tree looking for food.

Many of us have the misconception that hornbills, as beautiful and elegant looking as they are, with their black and white coats, are herbivore.  Or at most, occasionally have some small insects such as grasshoppers or cicadas in its diet.  Read about my friend’s interesting account of that here: When Birds Get Territorial.

But did you know they are actually omnivores?  Behind that classy looking James Bond themed outfit, is a bird who can eat other birds!  I’ve seen it happen a few times before from the window of my room on the 1st-floor; and this time, I was lucky enough to capture the mighty hornbill show its true colours.

Please be advised that your perception of hornbills will never be the same ever again if you choose to read on.

Hornbills usually travels in pairs; the male and female.  The male is the one with the horn attached to its beak while the female is usually without the horn.

The Oriental Pied Hornbill
Here’s a picture of Oriental Pied Hornbills sitting on the lamp post right outside my window of my 1st floor room. Beautiful birds.
Stop Look Go
Another male Oriental Pied Hornbill, this time resting on a road sign.
All out defense
The hornbill are unwelcomed visitors to the swiftlets who have their nests nearby. I am always alerted whenever the hornbill is nearby as the first indication would be the noises made by these swiftlets as they make passes at the hornbills trying their best to deter the predator away.


In position
The hornbill is in position and is ready to take its meal; cute little innocent baby swiftlets still in their nest, too young to fly away.
Go Go Go
Go Go Go. The hornbill storms the front.
End of Days
The baby swiftlet is no match for the hornbill.
With the baby swiftlet in its beak, still very much alive and kicking, fighting for its life, the hornbill quickly flies to the nearest spot it can.
Not giving up without a fight
From here, I could see that the baby swiftlet was still concious, still flapping its wings trying to get away from the crutches of its prey.
Within seconds
The hornbill uses its strong beaks to crush the baby swiftlet rendering it motionlessly dead within seconds.
Second serving
Seems like one baby swiftlet is not enough to satisfy a hornbill’s hunger. The hornbill decides to go back for a second round.
A different approach
This time it chose to rest on the nearest signage.
Under attack
The adult swiftlet continues to make passes at the hornbill, still determined to defend its home. A female hornbill joins in the party.
Give me give me give me
This time the hornbill uses its strength to knock the poor helpless defenseless baby swiftlet unconscious with the signage. The female hornbill is hoping to get a share.
Into the air...
With the baby swiftlet already unconscious and probably dead from all that blunt force trauma, the hornbill swings its beak in an upward motion tossing the body of the baby swiftlet into the air….
Into the mouth
….. and into its mouth. Without sharing.

Still think the hornbill is beautiful and majestic?

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