Yellow-billed hornbills enjoy a rather catholic diet, eating anything from fruits to small mice that they will raid from any nest they happen to discover. They can grab quite large food items with their formidable beaks, but before swallowing, a little repositioning of the item might be required.
A couple of days ago I came round a corner and saw a female hornbill hopping around on the road with something in its beak.
I quickly reached for my camera and snapped a couple of shots:
These days it’s fashionable to use human emotion to talk about animals’ struggles for survival, and while I’m in no way suggesting that there isn’t emotion involved when it comes to many animals’ day-to-day, I do think we tend to ascribe them more than they are due. I guess as humans, our ability to think cognitively will necessarily lend us more choice when it comes to our own struggles, a luxury – or not, depending on circumstance – that many animals don’t possess. We can think, we can get swayed by emotion, we can witness another’s struggle – even one of something so seemingly insignificant as a beetle – and as a result we tend to be slightly awed by the creature’s tenacity, its sheer dogged determination to never give up.
In reality, though, I think the beetle had no choice here. It was simply riding on instinct. As long as there is fight left in it, keep fighting. There is no mechanism in whatever neurological system it has that would ever give it the option of quitting.
That is real nature, and something many of us have lost touch with.
In modern, western society, it can be all too easy not to have to struggle these days, to coast along, and especially to not commit to something when the odds seem overwhelmingly against us.
For us – well, for me certainly – there’s something enviable about that tiny little beetle simply continuing his own struggle, without even having to give it a moment’s thought.