Great hornbill Great hornbill
Great Hornbill

Scientific Classification

Common Name
great hornbill, great Indian hornbill, great pied hornbill, large pied hornbill, concave-casqued hornbill
Genus Species
Buceros (big horn) bicornis (two horns)

Fast Facts

The great hornbill is a large bird with a very large bill, which bears a sizable, brightly colored, horny growth known as the casque. The body is mostly black with a white neck, wing coverts, and flight feathers.
100 to 120 cm (40 to 48 in.); 150 cm (5 ft.) wingspan; males grow larger than females
Averages 3 g (6.6 lbs.)
Figs comprise a major part of the diet but the species also takes eggs, amphibians, reptiles, insects, mammals, and small birds.
25 to 40 days
Clutch Size
1 to 2 eggs
Life Span
35 or more years
The great hornbill has a wide distribution and can be found in China, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, and Indonesia. The large majority of the population is found in India.
The Great Hornbill frequents wet evergreen and mixed deciduous forests, ranging out into open deciduous areas to visit fruit trees and ascending slopes to at least 1,560 m (5118 ft) in southern India and up to 2,000 m (6562 ft) in Thailand.
Global: Due to consistent population densities within protected areas in west and northeast India and Thailand, their population is currently estimated at 23,000 to 71,000 individuals. This roughly equates to 13,000 to 27,000 mature individuals.
IUCN: Near Threatened
CITES: Appendix I
USFWS: Lower Risk/Near Threatened

Fun Facts

The first two neck vertebrae of the hornbills 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.

This species is the largest hornbill 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!

The greater hornbill is able to consume as many as 150 figs during 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 and later regurgitates small saliva-covered 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 grown fresh feathers and her young is also feathered.

Some male hornbills are so exhausted after the nesting process that a few may die.

Ecology and Conservation

The abundance of this species tends to be correlated with the density of large trees, required for nesting, and it is therefore most common in unlogged forest. 

Hornbills consume a large number of insects and small animals that are seen as pests, so its future is important for a healthy ecosystem.

Population numbers for this species are rapidly declining in many areas of its range because of deforestation from logging. Due to their large size, these birds are also hunted for food, the pet trade, and for their beautiful casques.

A casque can fetch up to $90 and a single tail feather $15 in northeast India.


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.

Prozesky, O.P.M.  A Field Guide to the Birds of Southern Africa. London: Collins Clear Type Press, 1976.

Birdlife International:

Sacramento Zoo:

BirdLife International. 2017. Buceros bicornis (amended version of 2016 assessment). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2017: e.T22682453A111254552. Downloaded on 01 November 2018.

Photo Credit: Great_hornbill_(Buceros_bicornis)_flying.jpg. Source: Wikimedia Commons. Image by: lip kee. Year Created: 19 October 2010. Website: License: CC by SA 2.0.