Hornbills (scientific name: Buceros bicornis) are tropical birds native to Asia, Africa, and Malaysia. Hornbills have long, down-curved, bright yellow colored bill. They have characteristic casque – a helmet like structure, on the upper mandible. Unfortunately, these beautiful birds are poached for their casque as it is used for ornamental purposes. Therefore, some species are critically endangered. Here are some of exciting and interesting facts about hornbills you probably didn’t know before!
Top 10 mind-blowing and interesting facts about hornbills!
Hornbills are regarded as the symbol of peace, prosperity and luck. Therefore, the people of Naga culture celebrate the annual hornbill festival.
1. About the great hornbills!
Hornbills belong to bird family Bucerotidae. Their scientific name is Bucerotidae. The average lifespan of hornbills is about 35 to 50 years. The size varies in different species; it can be 12 inches to three feet in size. Similar, the average weigh in different species varies from three ounces to nine pounds.
There are more than 62 species of hornbill; all of which spend their time in the trees. However, the Bucorvidae family is the exception as they are ground-dwelling hornbills.
Interestingly, these are the only bird species in which the first two neck vertebrae; the atlas and axis are fused together. Thu, these fused vertebrae provides support and stability for carrying the bill.
2. Casque – the unique feature of hornbills!
Casque – a hollow structure composed of keratin, is one of the unique features of hornbills. The size and color of the Casque vary from one species to other. Some species don’t have this structure at all. For instance, the red-billed hornbills don’t have a casque.
Aside from adding beauty to this stunning bird, casque serves other functions as well. It helps to resonate sound, to attract mates and makes the birds’ territorial calls more audible.
Most of the 62 hornbill species spend their time in the trees, except for the family Bucorvidae, the ground-dwelling hornbills.
3. Rhinoceros hornbill is the National Bird of Malaysia!
The great rhinoceros hornbill is the national bird of Malaysia as well as the state bird of the Malaysian state of Sarawak in Borneo. You may not know but the Dayak people of Borneo believe that these hornbills are “supreme worldly bird” and thus it’s their national and state birds. In addition, they often place the statues of hornbills during certain celebrations as a sign of power and supremacy.
Also, the great hornbill is the state bird of Kerala and Andhra Pradesh, India.
4. Hornbill can be as much as three feet tall!
The hornbills vary in size from one species to other. The southern ground hornbill is the largest among all. It is three feet tall with a four-foot wingspan and is typically found in southern Africa. On the other hand, the red-billed dwarf hornbill is the smallest among all. Its size is just one foot and is native to East and Central Africa.
5. During nesting period, the male seals the female hornbill in a tree cavity!
After mating, the hornbill’s pair looks for an existing tree cavity. Then, the male barricades the female inside the tree cavity as it seals the opening using its dung, soil and other stuff. Moreover, it leaves just a small slit from where the male supplies food to female. Female hornbill lays two eggs. After the incubation period of 42 days, the female leaves the next and this time chick will barricade itself and stay inside.
Both parents provide food to chicks until they fledge after roughly 80 days.
6. Hornbill’s casque is used for ornamental purpose!
The casque is softer than ivory. Therefore, it is carved into jewelry and other ornamental items. This is really unfortunate because these birds are being killed for their casques.
7. A few fun facts about hornbills!
Hornbills are smart birds. Take into account the yellow-casqued hornbills. This species is native to West African rainforests. Interestingly, it eavesdrops on monkey warning calls and thus escapes the predatory crowned eagles.
During the nesting period, the male hornbill is responsible for food supply to female hornbill. You will be amazed to know that a hornbill can carry up to 60 fruits in its bill at once.
Interestingly, they have secret codes of communication. For instance, the male hornbill flaps it wings that produces a sound similar to a steam engine and it’s a signal to female during nesting period.
8. They can identify members of other species through their eyelashes!
Another fun fact! Hornbills sometimes recognize each other by their eyelashes. Some species such as the oriental pied hornbill and the southern ground hornbill have extremely long eyelashes. Therefore, the members of these species are distinct from other species. However, these long eyelashes are basically modified feathers. Such thick and long eyelashes protect their eyes from the sun.
Also Read: Interesting facts about Hummingbirds
9. Hornbills have loud calls!
Not all the hornbills have same vocalization. Overall, all species have quite loud calls but still distinct from each other. For instance, the Von der Decken’s hornbills make the clucking sound. On the other hand, Indian great Hornbills and the southern ground Hornbill, have so loud and resounding bass calls that they seems to be roaring like a lion.
10. Bad news is some species of this exotic bird are endangered!
About 51 of all 62 species of hornbills are decreasing in number rapidly. One major reason is their poaching for their casques. The forest-dwelling helmeted hornbill of Southeast Asia is critically endangered
for the same reason. Moreover, two other specie namely the rufous-headed hornbill and Sulu hornbill are also endangered.
These were some of amazing and interesting facts about hornbills. Stay tuned for more informative content.