Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Anthracoceros albirostris convexus (Shaw & Nodder, 1790)

Species:A. albirostris convexus
Common Names:Oriental Pied Hornbill
Status:Rare resident


This is a large black and white bird with a large and prominent casque.

Adult: Whole upperparts deep black, glossed with green, feathers of the head narrowed and elongated. Flight feathers, except outer primaries are broadly tipped with white.  The centre pair of tail feathers is black, glossed green, very narrowly tipped with white; the rest of the tail feathers are pure white.  Throat and upper breast black.  The rest of the underparts and edge of wing is white.

Immatures have a varying degree of black on the basal portion of the tail feathers, greatest in extent on the pair next to the central ones.  

Soft parts:
Male: Iris red; bare skin behind eye and on the sides of throat silvery white; the skin in front of the eye is purplish cobalt.  The bill and casque is ivory-white, patched with black.  The casque is large, with the sides rounded, the top keeled and the front projecting and pointed. The back of the casque and a large patch at the anterior end is blackish. There is a black patch at the base of the lower mandible.  The feet are brownish.  

Female: The casque is smaller and less pointed in front. The tip of the bill and cutting edges of both mandibles is blackish. The patch at the base of lower mandible is brownish.  

Immature: The casque is reduced to a raised knife-edge on the bill, which is pale yellowish-green, with no black markings. 

Read more about the Bucerotiformes order.
Read more about the Bucerotidae family.


Malay Peninsula (north to Patani), Tambelan Is, Sumatra, Rhio Arch, Sumatra, Borneo, Java and Bali.


Changi, Pulau Ubin, St John's Island. This species has also been introduced into Singapore Botanic Gardens and Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve.

Locality Map

General Biology

The Oriental Pied Hornbills move in small parties and are rather noisy.

The largest population (more than 60 birds) of the Oriental Pied Hornbill is found in the offshore island of Pulau Ubin. These birds are thought to have come from the nearby Malaysian state of Johore. Breeding was recorded as early as 1997 and since then the number has increased. On mainland Singapore, there is a smaller population, originating from escapees with a few birds moving from Pulau Ubin and breeding in Changi (Wee et al., 2008). There is now a sizable population on the main island such that they are regularly visiting lowrise housing estates as well as highrise condominiums.

In the offshore island of Pulau Ubin, up to 19 birds have been seen gathering at the beach at low tide, either scavenging for food or for a pre-roost gathering.

Like most birds, these hornbills spend most of their time in comfort behaviour, sunning their wings and preening their feathers.

Two instances of deformed bills have been reported. A bird in Pangkor Island, Malaysia showed the upper mandible crossing over the lower like a pair of scissors. In Singapore, one bird was observed with "an extra ‘lance’ protruding from its bill, just in front of its right eye" in Pulau Ubin.


Most Asian hornbills are omnivorous, taking both plant and animal foods, although there is a preference for fruits and small animals like Changeable Lizard (Calotes versicola). Figs are a favourite among plants. Others include rambutan (Nephelium lappaceum), guava (Psidium guajava), papaya (Carica papaya), soursop (Annona muricata). MacArthur palm (Ptycospermun macarthuri), Benjamin Fig (Ficus benjamina), Noni (Morinda citrifolia) and Leucaena (Leucaena leucocephala). In Thailand, the fruits of up to 13 species of forest trees are taken by hornbills, including millipedes, caterpillars, grasshoppers, gecko, beetles and rats.

Animal food includes birds and their eggs, snakes, lizards, geckos, skinks, crabs, earthworms, spiders, caterpillars, beetles, butterflies, praying mantis, cicadas, and grasshoppers, even a bee. A pair was seen raiding the nest of Butorides striatus - the male hornbill chased the incubating heron off her nest, picked up an egg and fed it to his mate. He then ate up the remaining two eggs. The heron was helpless, showing her anger with her neck and head feathers raised.

There is a report that one bird forages just like the woodpecker, "hopping from branch to branch, sometimes vertically up the trunk, inspecting every nook and cranny on the bark that might hold a tasty morsel…"

Life Cycle

Mating begins with courtship feeding, as the male offers thef female a fruit or a an animal prey. Courtship may also include interlocking of bills. The male then will entice the female to enter an appropriate cavity in an old tree with food. If successful, they will proceed to seal off the entrance leaving a small slit when he can pass on food to her and her chicks. The male even pass on snail shells to the female, possibly as a calcium source.

The breeding cycle, worked out by Lim et al. (2009) is as follows: female takes 5–9 days to seal the nesting cavity, after which she takes another 4–6 days to lay her clutch of 3 eggs at intervals of 3 days; incubation period is 27–28 days; female breaks out of the next about 90 days after entry; fledgling may take place at the same time the female breaks out or at intervals of a few days.

One instance of breeding inside a large earthern pot lying on the ground was reported in Selangor, Malaysia.

The brooding adults have been known to indulge in parental infanticide in the enclosed nest chamber, killing the weaker chick for food. This is apparently a common practice as shown by video surveilance of the high-tech nesting boxes used.

After a period of about 3 months when the chicks are about to fledge, the femals will break open the seal from the inside and emerge.

Ecological Role

As hornbills swallow fruits with large seeds, the latter are regurgitated up to an hour later. With small seeds, these may be passed out with the faeces. As such they are important seed dispersers, especially forest trees with large seeds.

Human Uses

These hornbills are a big attractions in a mainly urban Singapore where the population is always thrilled to encounter them in wayside trees, eating fruits in private gardens, etc. Since the late 2000s, more and more are seen in our urban environment, even breeding on the main island as well as the offshore island of Pulau Ubin. They have thus an important role in Singapore's Garden City campaign in terms of wildlife among the urban forest. In fact we are actively encouraging their breeding, to the extent of providing nesting boxes at various locations.

In Pangkor Island, Malaysia, Oriental Pied Hornbills are a tourist attraction as many are lured there by the availability of free food provided by local traders.

A number of dangers exist for these big birds. Illegal trapping can be a potential problem as the birds become less uncommon. One problem already encountered is strangulation by carelessly discarded fishing lines.


Banwell, H. M. & J. C. W. Lim 2009. Observations on a successful nesting of a pair of Oriental pied hornbills (Anthracoceros albirostris, Shaw & Nodd, 1790) at Changi Village, Singapore. Nature in Singapore 2: 275–281.

Chasen, F. N. 1939. The Birds of the Malay Peninsula. Vol. IV. The birds of the low-country jungle and scrub. H. F. and G. Witherby, London.

Ng Soon Chye, Lai Huimin, Mark Lim Tee Sin, Sadali b Mohd. Tali & Marc Cremades 2009. Paper presented at the 5th Intn. Hornbill Conference, Singapore, March 2009.

Robinson, H. C. 1927. The Birds of the Malay Peninsula. Vol. I: The Commoner Birds. H. F. & G. Witherby. London. 329 pp.

Tweedie, M. W. F. 1960. Common Malayan birds. Longmans. 69 pp.

Wang, L. K. 2011. Hornbills. Pp. 343. In: Ng, P. K. L., R. T. Corlett & H. T. W. Tan (editors). Singapore Biodiversity. An Encyclopedia of the Natural Environment and Sustainable Development. Editions Didier Millet, Singapore. 552 pp.

Wang, L.K. & Hails, C.J. 2007. An annotated checklist of birds of Singapore. Raffles Bulletin of Zoology, Supplement 15: 1–179, Singapore.

Wee, Y.C., K.C. Tsang, Melinda Chan, Y.M. Chan & Angie Ng 2008. Oriental Pied Hornbill: two recent failed nesting attempts on mainland Singapore. BirdingAsia 9 :72–77.

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