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Great Indian Hornbill

Buceros bicornis

Greatindianhornbill Gallery

About the Great Indian Hornbill

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Geographic Range:

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Class: Aves
Order: Coraciiformes
Family:Bucerotidae
Genus: Buceros
Species: bicornis

As with all birds, the hornbill's beak is uniquely shaped to manage the foods it eats. The large casque (helmetlike structure on the bill) may play a role in resonating the bird’s calls. Unlike other birds, however, hornbills lack under-wing, covert feathers. This allows air to rush so loudly through gaps in their feathers that they can be heard from 60+ feet away. This scares other birds away from choice trees and helps maintain the birds’ territory and prime food sources.

Great Hornbill Facts

Appearance:
Great hornbills are tall with a large, lightweight casque on top of their bill. Their plumage is boldly patterned in black, white and yellow. The male has a larger casque (helmetlike structure on the bill), red iris and black around the eyes and frontal area of the casque. The female's irises are white, and there is no black around the eyes or frontal portion of the casque.

As with all birds, the hornbill's beak is uniquely shaped to manage the foods it eats. The large casque may play a role in resonating the bird’s calls. Unlike other birds, however, hornbills lack under-wing, covert feathers. This allows air to rush so loudly through gaps in their feathers that they can be heard from 60+ feet away. This scares other birds away from choice trees and helps maintain the birds’ territory and prime food sources. 

Size:
Head and body length: 3.3 feet long; tail adds 12 inches; females are smaller than males
Wingspan: approximately 5 feet
Weight: 5.5 - 7.75 pounds

Diet:
Fruits, insects and other small animals; they have been known to consume upwards of 150 figs in one meal. Interestingly, great hornbills have never been seen drinking water in the wild.

Reproduction:
Hornbills nest in tree holes, like other species of hornbill. The male barricades the female inside by building a mud wall to protect the eggs and chicks from predators. Generally, two eggs are laid, and the male feeds the walled-in female during her 40-day incubation. The female breaks out of the nest hole when the young are two to three weeks old, replacing the barricade after she leaves. Parents feed the young for the next month. Chicks fledge at about 30 days after chipping away the wall of the nest.

Behavior:
Great hornbills are highly social and form flocks of six to 21 members. Loud calls, squabbling and bickering can be heard as the birds perch in trees feasting on fruit. They may fly upwards of 19 miles in search of food.

They stay mainly in the forest canopy, but hornbills will go to the ground to collect mud for nests, to hunt, and to take dust baths.

Role in their Habitat:
As their range can span 19 miles, hornbills help maintain a healthy forest by depositing seeds in their wake.

Habitat/Range:
Forests of India, Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, Laos, Kampuchea, Vietnam, southwest China, Bangladesh, Malaya and Sumatra.

Median Life Expectancy:
27.2 years