'Intelligent nests' for pied hornbills in Singapore

Grace Chua, Straits Times 8 Jan 09;

ORIENTAL pied hornbills in the Singapore Hornbill Project now have new 'condominium-style' homes.

The 'intelligent nests', with cameras, sensors and scales, give researchers new ways to monitor these once-endangered birds.
The project, which began five years ago to study the birds' breeding and nesting, has been a success according to the researchers involved.

In previous years, researchers from the National Parks Board (NParks), Jurong BirdPark and Nanyang Technological University (NTU) mounted artificial nesting boxes high on trees and equipped them with simple infrared cameras to monitor each breeding pair.

The oriental pied hornbills are known to be picky about their nesting sites, laying their eggs in cavities in old and diseased trees, high off the ground.

This breeding season, the researchers have added two 'intelligent nests' kitted out with temperature and humidity sensors, weighing scales to monitor the chicks' growth and high- definition cameras which can zoom in for greater detail.
'They are like condominiums, with a security system,' quipped Mr Robert Teo, NParks' assistant director for Pulau Ubin.

The Singapore Hornbill Project is a collaboration between NParks, NTU, the National University of Singapore, Wildlife Reserves Singapore, which oversees Jurong BirdPark, and other sponsors.

For its pioneering studies of hornbill breeding, the project won a prestigious international award for achievements in avian research and conservation last year.

Project consultant Marc Cremades, a French researcher who initiated the project, believes this is the only study worldwide to monitor wild hornbills in their nests during breeding season.

The group first placed nesting boxes on mainland Singapore last year, and hopes that future generations of young hornbills will move in.

'We want to make a hotel chain for them,' Mr Cremades said.

The nesting boxes are placed 2km to 4km apart to avoid competition for territory.

With the aid of man-made nesting boxes, which are bigger than natural nests, the wild hornbills' population has more than doubled since the study began in 2004.

More than 50 oriental pied hornbills now roam Pulau Ubin, Changi and other parts of mainland Singapore, up from about 20 in 2004.

In the early 1900s, the oriental pied hornbills had completely disappeared from Singapore.

However, since 1994, when a pair was spotted on Pulau Ubin, they have been making a comeback.

Singapore's mainland areas can sustain up to 200 oriental pied hornbills, Mr Cremades believes.

A video clip of hornbills' breeding behaviour can be seen online at www.youtube.com/user/NParksSingapore

Birds have 'condo-style' home
Grace Chua, Straits Times 7 Jan 09;

ORIENTAL Pied Hornbills in the Singapore Hornbill Project now have a new, 'condominium-style' home.

The 'intelligent nests', with cameras, sensors and scales, give researchers new ways to monitor these once-endangered birds.

The project, which began five years ago to study the birds' breeding and nesting, has been a success according to the researchers involved.

In previous years, researchers from the National Parks Board, Jurong BirdPark and Nanyang Technological University mounted artificial nesting boxes high on trees and equipped them with simple infrared cameras to monitor each breeding pair.

The Oriental Pied Hornbill are known to be picky about their nesting sites, laying their eggs in cavities in old and diseased trees, high off the ground.

This breeding season, they have added two 'intelligent nests' kitted out with temperature and humidity sensors, weighing scales to monitor the chicks' growth and high-definition cameras which can zoom in to great detail.

'They are like condominiums, with a security system,' quipped Mr Robert Teo, NParks' assistant director for Pulau Ubin.

The Singapore Hornbill Project is a collaboration between NParks, NTU, the National University of Singapore, Wildlife Reserves Singapore, which oversees Jurong BirdPark, and other sponsors.

For its pioneering studies of hornbill breeding, the project won a prestigious international award for achievements in avian research and conservation last year.

Project consultant Marc Cremades, a French researcher who initiated the project, believes this is the only study worldwide to monitor wild hornbills in their nests during breeding season.

The group first placed nesting boxes on mainland Singapore last year, and hope that future generations of young hornbills will move in.

Read the full report in Thursday's edition of The Straits Times.

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