A Haggle of Hornbills

…crash, crunch, munch.

Snoozing until daylight was a treat, but at dawn, unfamiliar noises seeping through our window made me sit up. A strange honking and squawking, foreign to our ears. The thuds and bizarre crashing of branches sounded like an elephant. My husband and I rubbed our eyes, looked at each other, and then hurtled out of bed toward the window. I gazed into the towering amla tree outside our window. Not an elephant, but a herd, or more correctly, a flock of Oriental Pied Hornbills. To call them a flock, however, completely misses the mark.

To me, it was a haggle. Haggle as in bargaining, bartering, quibbling, or arguing. Because that’s what they were doing. It was an “I got there first!” “That’s my bunch of amlas!” All the honking and squawking and commotion was a true haggle of hornbills. The amla tree was spanking full of bright green, round amlas, ripe and tasty, and the hornbills were really keen on them. Crunching away on the amlas, they rubbed their beaks on the leaves and branches as though they itched, or needed to sharpen them for eating. They were a gang, and chomped like gangsters. Three feet long, and having no way to gracefully slip through, they crashed through the branches.

Their enormous double-decker beaks are centred between their eyes. If that doesn’t make them unique enough, their huge bodies are draped in tuxedoes. They stand out like no other bird—except for penguins, with whom they share exceptional tropical/north pole similarity!

When I looked at the sky, the hornbills were there, too, flying as though they were having a lark in the park.

As for the hornbills feeding on almas, they finally lifted off and I watched them rise into the sky and land … Well, I’m not sure where.

But I did see one in the pear tree.

Creation has many mysteries. I love Hornbills.

If there were no birds, we may have to be resigned to flying foxes.

They like the pear trees too.

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