There was once a time when the lush rainforests of Western Visayas were populated with the colorful dulungan. Today, their population has dropped to about a thousand and they are in real peril. Also known as the writhed-billed hornbill or the Walden’s hornbill, this boisterous bird is one that makes its presence felt. Aside from being incredibly loud and noisy, the dulungan stands out from the greens and earth tones of the forests. The colorings differ slightly between the sexes as males showcase red and yellow on their heads and beaks while the females boast a pop of blue against their crimson throats.

History and Status

Images: David Quimpo

The dulungan is one of the two species of hornbill found only in the Western Visayas regions and both of them play a big part in the maintenance of the forests. Known as big-fruit foragers, the hornbills have specialized and play a niche that very few other animals can play. With their huge beaks, these birds are able to digest fruit whole and the seeds go out with their waste. Unfortunately, due to the very consistent illegal logging activities in their home regions, the dulungan’s population has ceased tremendously.

They are also a popular exotic pet among collectors and so their chicks are often poached from their nests. Just in 2012, a dulungan fletchling had to be confiscated from a zoo in Boracay. The dulungan have been made restricted to its home islands and the individual was clearly poached from its nest at a very young age, which further reveals the weakness of the species’ protection.

Looking Forward

Image: Romy Ocon

As of 2018, the wild dulungan population is estimated to be somewhere between 1000 to 2000 individuals. Multiple foundations and groups like the Haribon Foundation are intent on helping the species recover. Let’s hope that one day their red plumage and massive bills will be a common sight once more.