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great hornbill, great Indian hornbill, great pied hornbill, large pied hornbill, concave-casqued hornbill
The great hornbill (also commonly known as the concave-casqued hornbill) is a large bird with a very large bill, which bears a sizable, brightly colored, horny growth - the casque. The body is mostly black with a white neck, wing coverts and flight feathers.
100-120 cm (40-48 in.); 150 cm (5 ft.) wingspan
Males grow larger than females
Averages 3 g (6.6 lb.)
Mostly feeds on fruit; diet also includes small reptiles, mammals and insects
35 or more years
Asia and India to Thailand and south to Sumatra
Inhabits evergreen and moist, deciduous forests
Lower Risk/Near Threatened
Hornbills' first two neck vertebrae have been fused to support their large bill. Though its bill looks quite heavy, is actually very light; it is made up of thin-walled hollow cells, somewhat like a hard sponge.
This species is the largest of the hornbill species found on the Indian subcontinent.
It is said that the wing beat of a great hornbill can be heard more than a half mile away!
This hornbill is able to consume as many as 150 figs within one meal!
Hornbills are famous for their nesting ritual. Once courtship and mating are over, the female finds a tree hollow and seals herself in with dung and pellets of mud. The male gathers the pellets from the forest floor and swallows them, later regurgitating small saliva-cased building materials. He then gives them to the female who stays inside the nest leaving a slit for a window big enough to receive food and materials. For the next 6-8 weeks the male feeds the female through this opening. She does not emerge until she has molted and re-grown fresh feathers and her young is feathered.
Some male hornbills are so exhausted after the nesting process that they may die.
ECOLOGY AND CONSERVATION
Because hornbills consume a large number of insects and small animals that are seen as pests, its future is important for a healthy ecosystem.
Population numbers for this species are declining in many areas of its range because of deforestation from logging. Due to their large size, these birds are also hunted for food and for their casques, which are considered trophies.
Austin, O. L.
Birds of the World
. New York: Golden Press, 1961.
Harrison, C.J.O., and Perrins, C.
Birds: Their Life, their Ways, their World
. New York: Reader's Digest Association, Inc., 1987.
Perrins, C. M.
The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Birds
. New York: Prentice Hall Press, 1990.
A Field Guide to the Birds of Southern Africa
. London: Collins Clear Type Press, 1976.
Birdlife International: birdlife.org