Birds of a feather make earthen jar a home together
AN earthen jar in the compound of a house in Kuala Terengganu remains a favourite nesting place for Oriental pied hornbills even after 10 years.
Malaysian Nature Society (Terengganu) vice-chairman Anuar McAfee, who had monitored the site since 2007, said yesterday a hornbill had laid two eggs in it in March.
Its male partner then searched for food, including fruits, bats, frogs and lizards, over the next three months.
Last month, the female hornbill flew out of the jar, located in the backyard of a house in Kampung Tok Jiring, with one fledgling. It flew out with the second fledgling a few days later.
The birds, said McAfee, were expected to return to the jar to nest again next year. Hornbills lay an average of two eggs a year, between January and March.
In 2007, the New Straits Times carried a report of an Oriental pied hornbill that had used the same jar to nest since 2002.
While the species usually nests high up in cavities found in older and larger trees, it has also used earthen jars in three places in the country to raise its young.
Apart from the one in Kampung Tok Jiring, the other jars are in Manir, Terengganu, and Sarbak Bernam, Selangor.
McAfee said: "These jars may provide clues about building artificial nesting boxes for these interesting and important birds.
"Hornbills are in decline and any area that supports their breeding is important."
He said nesting boxes were one way to reduce that decline.
Conservation of hornbills, he said, was especially important in Terengganu, seeing that the state had nine of 10 species found in the country, although two-thirds of the hornbills in the state were threatened.
Apart from the Oriental pied, the state also has the Wrinkled, White Crown, Great, Rhino, Bushy-crested, Helmeted, Wreathed and Black hornbill, most of which can be spotted at Kenyir Lake.
Many Asian hornbills, just as in Malaysia, are threatened because of hunting and habitat losses, with the latter affecting their breeding habits as the birds tend to return to their original nests.
Generally found in healthy forests in Malaysia, hornbills have a long, down-curved bill that is frequently brightly-coloured.
The bill sometimes has a casque on the upper mandible.