Brunei Darussalam


These are not the sort of Hornbill photos I had in mind when I decided to feature them here. These gracious birds can be seen in my neighbourhood every morning and their cries equally prominent at that hour of the day. Fast disappearing surrounding once the habitat of various wildlife, trees and forest gave way to housing development and roads. I’m glad my residence is in the daily flight path of these endangered species and also the Egrets that dominate our skies. As far I know in my limited knowledge of birds, Hornbills are native to Malaysia so perhaps our location close to East Malaysia has something to do with why they stay here this long. I’m also aware that due to their dwindling population, pro-active measures have been taken by the Panaga Natural History Society, University of Brunei Darussalam and Brunei Shell Petroleum with the installation of artificial nesting boxes.

Note: The bright orange bokeh to the right of its head is the distant flare from the Shell refinery that’s directly opposite the vegetable garden.

© Jan Shim Photography

I shot these on the 5D and EF100-400mm @ 400mm and while the 5D has a very quiet shutter noise, such is the sensitivity of the bird’s sense of hearing that it warranted a cautious stare just to see if the situation escalated to a threat. In my excitement I mounted the 100-400mm lens to the wrong body when I could have had more reach with the EOS 20D, a difference of 400mm vs 640mm. Big difference! So I was saying, these weren’t the sort of pictures I had in mind. Oh well, I guess that would be my next target, Hornbills in flight and that’s something I’ve seen—a display of grace and beauty.

hornbill-2.jpg hornbill-3.jpg
© Jan Shim Photography

A few days later, as I left the house, I came across a pair of them on a tree next to the road. So happens I had my 5D/70-200mm with me and I walked right under it and fired a series of shots (36 to be precise in case anyone was curious). Still no hornbill in flight photos as it flew off in the wrong direction!

© Jan Shim Photography


On April 24, 2008 returning home from a trip to the Temburong National Park on assignment at the ULU ULU RESORT it was good to be finally home after the 3-day mission to produce promotional images for resort operator Sunshine Borneo Tours. Less than eight minutes away from the door steps, I came across this hornbill that had just flew into this tree from a lamp post across the road in Kampong Baru in Seria.

© Jan Shim Photography

25 thoughts on “HORNBILLS OF BRUNEI

  1. The first picture is awesome… At first glance, i couldn’t tell whether its a real hornbills until i saw the second picture that the hornbills moves.. haha.. Well done Janshim ..


  2. Jan,

    This is so cool. I just finished watching a thing on TV about the puffin, and then I go to your blog and see the Hornbill. I love birds, and these pics are great. I’m off to NYC next week, so have a good week. Now sure how much internet I will have, but I might be able to upload a few pix.



  3. Like Alan, I was thinking the Hornbill was not real in the first place. However, it was a very eye catching picture. It will be a good addition to House Decoration items.


  4. Jan~! Quite surprised that you shoot birds too… it was nice to have spoken to you and you have taught me so much without reservation for the last couple of days.

    Right… back on topic, I think I shot the exact same species of hornbill that you have when I was on assignment over at Pangkor Island the other day.

    Here are some of my favorites I shot of them:

    The hornbills there can practically be photographed with a 35mm lens as the resort feeds them and they regularly stay around the area, on the trees, near the pool, everywhere!


  5. Like Alan, I was thinking the Hornbill was not real in the first place. However, it was a very eye catching picture. It will be a good addition to House Decoration items.

    I hope you mean a photo of the hornbill and not the bird that makes a good house decoration item 🙂


  6. Hi Jan,
    For a split second, my reaction mirrored those of your earlier readers; I thought it was a hornbill-head puppet! Of course it is a fantastic shot, like some photos one may see in the National Georgraphic. I’m pretty sure the hornbills are native to Brunei too as I used to obeserve them in the early 80s (mostly in flight) near the jungle in Mumomg, near Jalan Pandan Satu.


  7. hey,

    well I tend to feel impressed about horn bill around our envirinment. its unique and devastating. i’d seen that particular species but i would love to see the crested horn bill and the rhinocerous species.. hehehe well, yea amazing shoots though.. I love that shot.

    Farish Razali


  8. Great shots. I thought the bird was a toy at first!

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen a toy or replica hornbill sold anywhere not even from what’s left of my childhood memory.

    Very nice photos on hornbill. You are a good photographer and a bird lover.

    I never thought that someday I would be fascinated by wildlife not being the outdoor and certainly not the adventurous sort but their beauty and elegance have gotten my attention and at the very least, I owe it to them to capture a lasting memory to share with folks who are attracted by their grace and prominence in our dwellings.


  9. OOOOOH Very nice first image…*SMILE

    Just dropped in after looking for the National bird of Malaysia and found your site.

    I hope you mean a photo of the hornbill and not the bird that makes a good house decoration item


    How on earth did you not scare the Hornbill? Agree that shot though awesome does not look real..nice though!

    Nice garden too as Conny says.

    Nice place, i’ll be back soon Jan

    Greets from the UK to everyone.


  10. Hi Kate,

    Earlier this evening while driving the kids home from tuition, we came across a five Oriental pied-hornbills perched on the same coconut tree. My 8 year old daughter spotted them first and she’s gotten very good at spotting these after she learnt of my fascination and interest in photographing them.

    How did I not scare the hornbill? I shot with a telephoto lens and I believe my camera’s rather loud shutter noise got their attention and the bird was trying to assess the noise to see if it’s a threat. I’ve done a little research into their behaviour and it seems in the wild some species of hornbills are able to communicate with monkey calls when they sense danger.

    To get an idea of the surroundings and neighbourhood I live in, here are some links that may be of interests:






  11. Three years ago till today, the “forest” around and near your home has been developed. Beyond your residential area, a massive housing development is taking shape. Added to this is the expansion of the Seria-Lumut bypass. All these development, while is progress for humans, are not good for these majestic birds. It’s great you’ve documented these beautiful Oriental Pied hornbills. Not many have the opportunities you have to photograph them in their natural surroundings. Well done.


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