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A Birds and Bees Story

Try Explaining this to the Kids: How Irian Jaya's Hornbills Procreate.

(1/28/2002) Who said: It's not nice to fool Mother Nature?

Renowned in the bird world as "King" of the rainforest, an Oriental Pied Hornbill, a bird rarely bred in captivity, was recently born at the Bali Bird Park. Before Bali's home to birds from around the world succeeded in producing baby hornbills - nature and the peculiar habits of this large tropical bird offered a number of challenges to the Park's curators.

Difficult? How so?

The first part, where Papa Hornbill meets Mama Hornbill is a fairly universally accepted chain-of-events that, if you don't understand, you should ask your Mom to explain, even if that entails a long-distance telephone call. Tell her to skip the part about cabbage patches and storks and, p-l-e-a-s-e, get right to the point.

Actually, it's the part after the stuff that Mom or Dad should have explained to you long ago, that posed problems for the folks at the Bali Bird Park. Apparently, after the "Act" the female Oriental Pied Hornbill is not content to relax with a cigarette or merely abruptly leave, never to call again. Her demonstrated dislike for her male partner's continued company couldn't be more pronounced. Once impregnated, the mother Hornbill finds a hollow tree cavity and seals herself within for a period of six months in order to incubate her egg and raise her solitary chickling. To the female of the Hornbill family, it seems men folk are good for a single act, once completed, to be discarded until the next mating cycle.

Don't we know. It's tough being treated like a mere sex object; reason for our male readers to commiserate with our feathered-brethren of the jungle. But I digress: after all, this is a story about the Oriental Pied Hornbill.

Back to our story. In order to meet the needs for privacy of the female Hornbill, the people at the Bali Bird Park created a hollowed-out tree trunk, resembling the bird's natural habitat, where she laid her single egg. After a courtship display that lasted several days, the female hornbill was persuaded to enter the hollowed-out nest. Once inside, the female sealed herself in using a mixture of clay and rotten wood, leaving only a narrow vertical opening.

The male Hornbill then displays a noble and virtuous nature, despite an obvious degree of contempt from his former conjugal partner. Over the ensuing months, the male continues to feed fruit to his mate and their young chick by gently passing the food through the opening of the nest with his long bill. A few months later the young chick and its mother emerge from the nest.

And that, dear Reader, is how the Bali Bird Park managed to breed a rare captive Oriental Pied Hornbill.

Any other questions? Go, ask your Father.

 

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