Hornbills in Singapore

Glenn has a little love affair with the Oriental Pied Hornbill. And why not.  They have an amazing story here in Singapore.

We are both very aware of the need to protect our environment and the wildlife that exists in the these environments. Maybe that's why Glenn has spent some time creating beautiful Hornbill artwork in a range of media, that could proudly hang on any wall, in any home, apartment, office or hotel lobby or room.

The Oriental Pied Hornbill (Anthracoceros albirostris) is a native bird of Singapore, and common to other areas of South East Asia.  This hornbill is a fascinating bird that is distinguished by its large down-curved yellow beak and unique hollow structure (casque) above their bills.

During the mid 1800s, the Oriental Pied Hornbill disappeared from Singapore, driven away by hunting, destruction of the natural environment, food supply and nesting trees through clearing of forested areas. Around 1994, almost 150 years later, a air of the Oriental Pied Hornbills were once again seen in Singapore, on the offshore island of Pulau Ubin, mostly likely having flown in from mainland Malaysia.

In 2004, the Singapore Hornbill Project was launched in collaboration with the National Parks Board (NParks) and Wildlife Reserves Singapore. The projects key objectives were to gain a greater understanding of the species and engage in its conservation.

In conjunction with Jurong Bird Park, breeding programs were introduced. Now birds are released back into the wild and to aid the breeding in the wild artificial nests have been created. It is amazing to see such a small place working so hard to ensure the growth of the Oriental Pied Hornbill population.

The nest selection and breeding process is quite interesting. Hornbills are generally monogamous and the Oriental Pied Hornbills typically commence breeding in February. This coincides with the onset of rain and peak abundance of fruit.

Hornbills are secondary cavity nesters, meaning that they typically do not excavate their own nesting sites but use those created by other birds or by branches breaking off. Because hornbills rely on pre-excavated cavities, selection of suitable nest-sites within their environment has major impacts on breeding success.

When females have selected and entered their nest, they seal the cavity with a mixture of saliva, mud, fruit, droppings and tree bark, leaving only a small opening through which food may be passed in.

The male forages for the female and chicks, and the female feeds the nestlings. Chicks remain inside the nest with the female for several months until there are ready to fledge. Oriental Pied Hornbills have shown to return to their previous nest for subsequent nesting seasons.

The increase in population and the efforts being made by various organisations in Singapore are proving that it may never be too late to repair damage to the environment and the possibility of animals and humans coexisting in a modern civilization can be achieved. We must balance the need for progress and prosperity with conservation of the natural world.

10 minutes from where we live, we often go walking with our dog, Nala. It is not unusual to spot flocks of these hornbills in the trees there. Unfortunately people apparently still try to hunt these amazing creatures and capture to either sell, or destroy for their casques and feathers.

For this reason when birds are released back into the wild their location is not publicised.

They are truly beautiful birds when you are lucky enough to see them in their natural environment. Thanks to the ongoing efforts of many people, we have been lucky enough to experience this and be inspired to create and share Glenn's impression of the Oriental Pied Hornbill.

If you would like to learn more about the Oriental Pied Hornbill conservation projects in Singapore, there is an amazing book called “Hornbills in the City. A Conservation Approach to Hornbill Study in Singapore, by Marc Cremades & Ng Soon Chye.

The artwork above and below, depict 18 Oriental Pied Hornbills (9 in each panel) against a backdrop of modern Singapore.  In Chinese culture, the number 9 represents eternal harmony. In a perfect world, modern civilisation and the natural environment would exist in eternal harmony. "Return of the Hornbill to Singapore " depicts this eternal harmony. Modern civilisation and nature coexisting in eternal harmony.

The media for all of the detail in this artwork is graphite pencil on paper. Pastel pencil was used to provide contrasting color for the background areas. This creates an interesting mood for the scene and highlights the detail. The framing method enables each piece to be hung separately or as a diptych (2 panels side by side).

Below is a snapshot of the hanging of 'Return of the Hornbill to Singapore Part 1 and Part 2' by the amazing William from Framing Angie (please excuse the quality of the images below, they were taken in very bad lighting on the iphone)

Hanging of Return of the Hornbill to Singapore by Red Brush Art Hanging of Return of the Hornbill to Singapore by Red Brush Art Hanging of Return of the Hornbill to Singapore by Red Brush Art Hanging of Return of the Hornbill to Singapore by Red Brush Art Hanging of Return of the Hornbill to Singapore by Red Brush Art