Hornbills of India

Hornbills of India


In a country of 1.3 billion population, it is interesting to see how its diverse landscape has become the holy grail for the gorgeous yet vulnerable members of the Hornbill Family. Casting a magical spell inside the thick covers of the Indian Forest, Hornbill has always managed to dazzle people through its huge physic, striking feathers, and massive bill embellished with a bright casque. Its sheer presence not only heightens a healthy ecosystem. Considered as one of the biggest frugivores for having a unique taste in their food habits, a large patch of forest reserve creates a conducive environment for this colourful bird to thrive and reproduce their offspring. At a time when the Hornbill population is declining in several parts of the world, India is a humble abode to nine incredible Hornbill species.

 

1 Great hornbill

 

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Mostly found in the dense thickets of Northeast India and lush green forest of the Western Ghats, Great Hornbill, also known as Great Pied Hornbill has always managed to capture worldwide attention for its soaring flights and remarkable features. It is one of the largest members of the Hornbill family whose impressive size and colours have influenced many ancient rituals of tribal traditions. Although Great Hornbill is mainly frugivores in nature, sometimes it turns into an opportunist preying on small birds, mammals or reptiles. 

 

2 Rufous-throated Hornbill

 

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Rufous-necked Hornbill is rare but not an unusual occurrence in the alpine forests of Arunachal Pradesh and North Bengal. Part of Bucerotine Hornbills, this winged species has earned its name from the rufous colour that is spread around the neck, head and underparts of males. However, females are black, except around the end-portion of her tail and the tips of the middle primary feathers, which are white. Its beak is thick at the base, but one can observe the absence of casque, unlike the Great Hornbill. Currently, their population is less than 10,000 and the montane forests of Northeast India serves as one of the top perching ground for this incredible species. 

 

3 Malabar Grey Hornbill

 

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Native to the verdant hills of Western Ghats, Malabar Grey Hornbill is one of the smallest members of the Hornbill family whose body is grey with white tips around the tails. Mostly found in the dense forest of coffee plantations, this casque-less pale bill hornbill echos the valley with its series of distinctive calls that sound a burst of hysterical laughter. 

 

4 Oriental Pied Hornbill

 

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Sharing similar features like Malabar Grey Hornbill, Oriental Pied Hornbill is a large canopy dwelling bird mostly found in the tropical or sub-tropical lowland forests in India. While the large portion of its body is black, the underbelly, the edges around the wings and facial patches are white along with light yellow coloured casque sitting on its large bill. Unlike other Hornbills, Oriental Pied Hornbill (also known as Indo-Malayan Pied Hornbill) is more tolerant of Human habitation and can be frequently in the cities. 

 

5 Wreathed Hornbill

 

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Frequently spotted in the montane forests of Northeast India, Wreathed Hornbill is dubbed as a mystery bird for its peculiar style of nesting. Mostly sighted in flocks or pairs, the male has a yellow coloured face along with the throat patch whereas the female has a layer of red skin around the eyes with a blue patch on its throat.



 

6 Austen's Brown Hornbill

 

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Austen's Brown Hornbill is yet another species in the Bucerotidae family that finds tranquillity in the lush green mountains of Northeast India. Being a medium size Hornbill, the bird has a small casque on its bill and a patch of blue-grey skin around its eyes. It feeds both on fruits and small animals such as earthworms, snails, and chicks and eggs of small birds. Also popularly known as Brown Hornbill, the bird is named after Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Haversham Godwin-Austin who is the greatest mountaineer and naturalist of his time. 


 

7 Indian Grey Hornbill

 

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Being commonly found in the Himalayan Foothills and the Gangetic Deltas, Indian Grey Hornbill is a medium-sized bird who has a greyish-brown body with pale edges on the wings and tails. Often sighted in small groups or pairs feeding on fruit trees, moist forests, wetlands, and plantation areas are the perching ground for the winged species. 

 

8 Malabar Pied Hornbill

 

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Being a common resident breeder in the evergreen and moist deciduous forests of India and Srilanka, Malabar Pied Hornbill is a black & white Hornbill who has a large casque sitting on its yellow-coloured bill. Both male and female are alike, except that the female has a white patch around the eye. Popular by the name of Lesser Pied Hornbill, the bird has been very well described by one of the great French naturalists Georges-Louis Leclerc in his memoir Naturelle des Oiseaux. 

 

9 Narcondam Hornbill

 

Endemic to the Narcondam Island of Andamans, Narcondam Hornbill resides in the small region of the Island unlike other species of Asian Hornbill. Being small in size, the bird has a 

tiny brownish casque sitting on its orangish bill. While the male has a rusty-coloured head and breast, the female is all black. It predominantly feeds on berries and fruits hanging on large trees. 

 

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