The western Visayas, consisting of the islands of Negros, Panay and Guimaras, form a separate biogeographic region that hosts a number of animal species that are endemic to the region (i. e. that are only found naturally in that region and nowhere else). The islands were connected by a land bridge and formed a single island during the Pleistocene epoch (2.5 million to 12,000 years ago), which resulted in the evolution of animal species independently from the rest of the archipelago. The range of some of those species includes Masbate, an island that must have been connected for part of the period. Let’s take a look at five of those endemic birds.
The Visayan Hornbill Penelopides panini is endemic to Negros, Panay and Masbate. It was first described and illustrated by Scottish ornithologist Viscount Walden, in the 1875 issue of Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London. It lives in forests in noisy groups, flying between treetops, rarely above the canopy. The call sounds like a toy trumpet. The species is considered endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), meaning that it has a high risk of extinction as a result of rapid population declines, mostly due to habitat loss. I observed a few Visayan Hornbill in the forests of Negros and Panay, where it is still locally fairly common. I photographed a male near Lake Balinsasayao in Sibulan, Negros Oriental in 2011.