If ever you are among the first of the general public to be admitted to the Honolulu Zoo, hurry to the Southern Ground Hornbill enclosure and be their first visitors of the day. That's what we did one day last week. (Not pre-planned, just turned out that way.)
Southern Ground Hornbills are great big black birds with scarlet fleshy facial features.
"One has something gross in its beak," our daughter said.
True. It was holding a dead hatchling bird, I'm pretty sure not a hatchling Southern Ground Hornbill, minus its head. The hornbill stuffed it through the metal mesh, as if presenting it to us.
Here. Have this.
The other ground hornbill seemed miffed. Something complicated and odd was going on.
Then we read the signage. (Only about 17% of zoo visitors bother to read the signage.)
The sign said, after covering discouraging conservation issues, "Entertaining birds to watch! Ground hornbills play with each other, mutually groom, intimidate each other and show off by displaying with leaves or food in their beak tips. These social behaviors serve to cement the bonds between the birds of a group, and motivate them to assist the breeding pair in raising their young..."
Something had gone awry here. The bird wasn't cementing bonds with his enclosure mate. He was cementing bonds with us. Hence the miffedness of the other.
Be among the 17%, read the sign:
Questions arise: Does the Honolulu Zoo supply the Southern Ground Hornbills with fresh decapitated dead baby birds every day to perplex and entertain the first lucky Southern Ground Hornbill visitors?
Do the birds regularly use them to miff each other?
Although we had no want or need of a dead, headless baby bird, we felt somewhat special because of the offer. (Especially after reading the sign. Please read the signs).
Zoo opens at 9AM sharp.