An adult male Pied Hornbill Anthracoceros albirostris feeding on unripe Ficus microcarpa figs at the entrance to the Tabin Wildlife Resort in East Sabah.
In August 2023 a family party of three Pied Hornbills made up of an adult pair and a youngster frequented the area around the Tabin Visitor Centre at the entrance to Tabin Wildlife Resort. Food was locally abundant and the whole family appeared to spend most of the day admiring themselves in the mirror windows of the visitor centre.
At night the hornbill family roosted in a nearby tree.
At the beginning of August a large Ficus microcarpa fig growing next to the visitor centre had just started to fruit and the hornbills were leisurely snacking on the unripe figs.
A number of animals have previously been recorded feeding on unripe figs including squirrels, orangutans, barbets and hornbills.
It is believed that the primary attraction of unripe figs for these animals are the pollinating fig wasps which leave the figs just before they ripen.
Ripening in figs takes place with a change of color, a cessation of sticky white latex in the fig and a change in taste from sharp to sweetish.
In bird dispersed figs the change in colour progresses in a sequence normally green-red-black or green-yellow-orange , or white-pink purple.
In bat dispersed figs the colour change is more subtle; green-yellow green accompanied by a change in smell which can be detected by bats but not necessarily by humans.
Langurs eat both unripe and ripe figs but in different ways. Unripe figs are eaten as a standard part of their leafy diet whilst ripe figs are eaten very very slowly like a sweet treat.