Ever heard of a bird with a goat like call?
After two days of long trekking across the rivers, up to the steep cliffs, and towering ridges of Culasi, in the northern part of Antique, I finally found it—the nesting place of one of the Philippines’ most elusive bird, the Writh-billed Hornbill (Aceros waldeni).
Also called Walden’s Horbill and known locally as dulungan, the bird was found on its nest, the topmost hole among the three holes of the balakbakan or tanguile (Shorea polysperma) tree. Endemic to Panay and Negros Islands, it is now considered as a critically endangered species.
The dulungan of the Central Panay Mountain Ranges expedition was part of the purposive search for the Big Five species for the Critical Habitat Establishment.
According to our local guide, during the nesting season of dulungan, the hole is usually full of fresh droppings and food leftovers, which were found on the bottom of the tree. Male dulungans look for food as the female is imprisoned in the hole until the chicks are semi-developed. Meanwhile, the female undergoes a complete moult.
As the male flies from tree to tree looking for food, mostly dipterocarp and fig species, it stores the food in a part under its neck and gives it to the female back in the nest through a slit on the hole. This motion goes on, and becomes more frequent when the eggs hatch and until the chicks are ready to fly.
Wearing semi-camouflaged shirts to blend with nature, the group stood silently without any sudden movement. As mosquitoes and leeches feast on us, we heard its goat-like call (literally). As cue, I readied my camera. And there was the male dulungan flying from tree to tree, nearer and nearer back to the nest hole. Finally, the bird spreads his wings, black and wide, as he landed towards the hole and large orange bill clipping a seed to be fed for the female.
I draw the camera to take a shot of, for me, the most beautiful bird in Panay. As I was about to take a peek at the eyepiece, one of our companions, in much excitement, yelled “Shoti! Shoti! (Take a shot!).” Hearing that scream, the bird flew away. And there it was, gone.
We waited again for some time, but the bird already knew we were there so he was cautious in going back to the nest. We know he is still around as we kept hearing his calls, he even flew in front of us, like he’s showing off but never came back to the nest hole for me to take that shot that I wanted.
That area could have been the perfect spot for the shoot, but we didn’t much time to capture a snapshot of dulungan. With other obligations and responsibilities awaiting us, we went forward to find the other wildlife species that we are looking for. Though we found a group of male dulungans the next day, the weather condition was bad and so for the second time, missed a good shot of the majestic birds.
But in the end, I am still glad that dulungans still exist in Panay Mountains despite its critically endangered status. They can only be found in Panay now, and not the whole mountain range of central Panay, for it is still conducive as a dulungan habitat. Forest destruction and hunting are the main reasons of the decline in number of these species.
Haribon Foundation has been working hard to educate local communities close to the Panay Mountains about forest and wildlife protection and the importance of our forests.
We are now receiving positive responses from the locals, the local government and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources regarding this. Let us help protect our fast declining forests not only in Panay but in the whole Philippines.
This purposive search is part of the Forest and Climate Protection Project in Panay, which aims to ensure total protection of the whole Central Panay Mountain that offers a globally significant biodiversity to its the adjacent communities through sustainable means. The project is funded by Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ).