Fine Art

Buceros bicornis

Buceros bicornis, Photo: Michael Lahanas

Superregnum: Eukaryota
Cladus: Unikonta
Cladus: Opisthokonta
Cladus: Holozoa
Regnum: Animalia
Subregnum: Eumetazoa
Cladus: Bilateria
Cladus: Nephrozoa
Superphylum: Deuterostomia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Infraphylum: Gnathostomata
Megaclassis: Osteichthyes
Cladus: Sarcopterygii
Cladus: Rhipidistia
Cladus: Tetrapodomorpha
Cladus: Eotetrapodiformes
Cladus: Elpistostegalia
Superclassis: Tetrapoda
Cladus: Reptiliomorpha
Cladus: Amniota
Classis: Reptilia
Cladus: Eureptilia
Cladus: Romeriida
Subclassis: Diapsida
Cladus: Sauria
Infraclassis: Archosauromorpha
Cladus: Crurotarsi
Divisio: Archosauria
Cladus: Avemetatarsalia
Cladus: Ornithodira
Subtaxon: Dinosauromorpha
Cladus: Dinosauriformes
Cladus: Dracohors
Cladus: Dinosauria
Ordo: Saurischia
Cladus: Eusaurischia
Subordo: Theropoda
Cladus: Neotheropoda
Cladus: Averostra
Cladus: Tetanurae
Cladus: Avetheropoda
Cladus: Coelurosauria
Cladus: Tyrannoraptora
Cladus: Maniraptoromorpha
Cladus: Maniraptoriformes
Cladus: Maniraptora
Cladus: Pennaraptora
Cladus: Paraves
Cladus: Eumaniraptora
Cladus: Avialae
Infraclassis: Aves
Cladus: Euavialae
Cladus: Avebrevicauda
Cladus: Pygostylia
Cladus: Ornithothoraces
Cladus: Ornithuromorpha
Cladus: Carinatae
Parvclassis: Neornithes
Cohors: Neognathae
Cladus: Neoaves
Ordo: Bucerotiformes

Familia: Bucerotidae
Genus: Buceros
Species: Buceros bicornis

Buceros bicornis Linnaeus, 1758


Linnaeus, C. 1758. Systema Naturae per regna tria naturæ, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis, Tomus I. Editio decima, reformata. Holmiæ: impensis direct. Laurentii Salvii. i–ii, 1–824 pp DOI: 10.5962/bhl.title.542: 104. Reference page.
IUCN: Buceros bicornis (Vulnerable)

Vernacular names
العربية: أبو قرن عملاق
български: Голяма птица-носорог
বাংলা: রাজ ধনেশ
brezhoneg: Kalao daougornek
català: Calau bicorne
čeština: Dvojzoborožec žlutozobý
Deutsch: Doppelhornvogel
English: Great Hornbill
Esperanto: Granda bunta bucero
español: Cálao bicorne
euskara: Kalao
فارسی: نوک‌شاخ بزرگ
suomi: Keisarisarvinokka
français: Calao bicorne
עברית: קלאו בכיר
magyar: Nagy szarvascsőrűmadár, homrai
Bahasa Indonesia: Rangkong Papan
italiano: Grande calao indiano
日本語: オオサイチョウ
Jawa: Rangkong Papan
ភាសាខ្មែរ: កេងកងធំ
ಕನ್ನಡ: ಗ್ರೇಟ್ ಇಂಡಿಯನ್ ಹಾರ್ನ್ ಬಿಲ್
lietuvių: Dviragis ragasnapis
മലയാളം: മലമുഴക്കി വേഴാമ്പൽ
मराठी: गरुड
Bahasa Melayu: Burung Enggang Papan
မြန်မာဘာသာ: အောင်လောင်ငှက်
नेपाली: राजधनेश
Nederlands: Dubbelhoornige neushoornvogel
norsk: Storhornfugl
Diné bizaad: Tsídii bichʼahtsooígíí
polski: Dzioborożec wielki
پنجابی: گریٹ ہارنبل
português: Calau bicórnio
русский: Двурогий калао
svenska: Större näshornsfågel
தமிழ்: மலை இருவாட்சி
ไทย: นกกก
Türkçe: Büyük boynuzgaga
Tiếng Việt: Hồng hoàng
中文: 双角犀鸟

The iris, underside of the casque and orbital skin colours vary between the sexes
Illustration by English zoological artist T. W. Wood showing the eyelashes, worn bill edge and the concave casque with ridged sides

The great hornbill is a large bird, 95–130 cm (37–51 in) long, with a 152 cm (60 in) wingspan and a weight of 2 to 4 kg (4.4 to 8.8 lb). The average weight of 7 males is 3 kg (6.6 lb) whereas that of 3 females is 2.59 kg (5.7 lb).[3] It is the heaviest, but not the longest, Asian hornbill.[3][4] Females are smaller than males and have bluish-white instead of red eyes, although the orbital skin is pinkish. Like other hornbills, they have prominent "eyelashes".

The most prominent feature of the hornbill is the bright yellow and black casque on top of its massive bill. The casque appears U-shaped when viewed from the front, and the top is concave, with two ridges along the sides that form points in the front, whence the Latin species epithet bicornis (two-horned). The back of the casque is reddish in females, while the underside of the front and back of the casque is black in males.

The casque is hollow and serves no known purpose, although it is thought to be the result of sexual selection. Male hornbills indulge in aerial casque butting, with birds striking each other in flight.[5] The male spreads the preen gland secretion, which is yellow, onto the primary feathers and bill to give them the bright yellow colour.[6] The commissure of the beak is black and has a serrated edge which becomes worn with age.

The wing beats are heavy, and the sound produced by birds in flight can be heard from a distance. This sound has been likened to the puffing of a steam locomotive starting up. The flight involves stiff flaps followed by glides with the fingers splayed and upcurled.[7][8]

The species was formerly broken into subspecies cavatus, from the Western Ghats, and homrai, the nominate form from the sub-Himalayan forests. The subspecies from Sumatra was sometimes called cristatus.[9] Variation across populations is mainly in size, Himalayan birds being larger than those from further south, and the species is now usually considered monotypic.[10][11]

Like other members of the hornbill family, they have highly pneumatized bones, with hollow air cavities extending to the tips of the wing bones. This anatomical feature was noted by Richard Owen, who dissected a specimen that died at the Zoological Society of London in 1833.[12]
Distribution and habitat

The great hornbill is native to the forests of India, Bhutan, Nepal, mainland Southeast Asia and Sumatra.[13] Its distribution is fragmented in the Western Ghats and in the foothills of the Himalayas. Deforestation has reduced its range in many parts of India such as in the Kolli hills where it was recorded in the 1860s.[14]

It prefers dense old growth unlogged forests in hilly regions.[15][16] It appears to be dependent on large stretches of rain forests.[17]

In Thailand, the home range of males was found to be about 3.7 km (2.3 mi) during the breeding season and about 14.7 km (9.1 mi) during the non-breeding season.[18] Molecular approaches to the study of its population diversity have been attempted.[19]
Behaviour and ecology
Food and feeding
Close-up of great hornbill male in Mangaon showing red iris and black on underside of casque
Great hornbill eating a fledgling bird
A female great hornbill carries food (fruit of Myristica dactyloides) in her beak to feed the chick that is still inside the tree cavity nest
A female great hornbill (above) with a male (below) in Nelliyampathy

Great hornbills are usually seen in small parties, with larger groups sometimes aggregating at fruit trees. A congregation of 150 to 200 birds has been recorded in southeastern Bhutan.[7] In the wild, the great hornbill's diet consists mainly of fruit. Figs are particularly important as a food source.[20] Vitex altissima has been noted as another important food source. Great hornbills also forage on lipid-rich fruits of the families Lauraceae and Myristicaceae such as Persea, Alseodaphne and Myristica.[21] They obtain water entirely from their diet of fruits. They are important dispersers of many forest tree species.[22] They will also eat small mammals, birds,[23] small reptiles and insects.[24] Lion-tailed macaques have been seen to forage alongside these hornbills.[25]

They forage along branches, moving along by hopping, looking for insects, nestling birds and small lizards, tearing up bark and examining them. Prey are caught, tossed in the air and swallowed. A rare squirrel, the Travancore flying squirrel (Petinomys fuscocapillus) has been eaten, and Indian scops owl (Otus bakkamoena), jungle owlet (Glaucidium radiatum) and Sri Lanka green pigeon (Treron pompadora) have been taken as prey in the Western Ghats.[26]
Male feeding the female at the nest

During the breeding season (January to April[10]) great hornbills become very vocal. They make loud duets, beginning with a loud "kok" given about once a second by the male, to which the female joins in. The pair then calls in unison, turning into a rapid mixture of roars and barks.[26] They prefer mature forests for nesting. Large, tall and old trees, particularly emergents that rise above the canopy, seem to be preferred for nesting.[27][28] They form monogamous pair bonds and live in small groups of 2-40 individuals. Group courtship displays involving up to 20 birds have been observed.[29]

The female hornbill builds a nest in the hollow of a large tree trunk, sealing the opening with a plaster made up mainly of feces.[9][30][31] She remains imprisoned there, relying on the male to bring her food, until the chicks are half developed. During this period the female undergoes a complete moult. The young chicks have no feathers and appear very plump. The mother is fed by her mate through a slit in the seal. The clutch consists of one or two eggs, which she incubates for 38–40 days. The female voids feces through the nest slit, as do the chicks from the age of two weeks.[26] Once the female emerges from the nest, the chicks seal it again.[10]

The young birds have no trace of a casque. After the second year the front extremity separates from the culmen, and in the third year it becomes a transverse crescent with the two edges growing outwards and upwards, while the anterior widens to the width of the rear end. Full development takes five years.[32]

Roost sites are used regularly and birds arrive punctually at sunset from long distances, following the same routes each day. Several tall trees in the vicinity may be used, the birds choosing the highest branches with little foliage. They jockey for position until late at dusk. When sleeping they draw their neck back and the bill is held upwards at an angle.[7]

The great hornbill is threatened mainly by habitat loss due to deforestation. It is hunted for its meat, fat and body parts like casque and tail feathers, which are used as adornments.[1] Tribal peoples hunt the great Indian hornbill for its various parts. The beaks and head are used in charms and the flesh is believed to be medicinal. Young birds are considered a delicacy.[7] Declines in population have been noted in many areas such as Cambodia.[33]

Tribesmen in parts of northeastern India use the feathers for head-dresses, and the skulls are often worn as decorations.[34] [35] The Sema Nagas consider the flesh unfit for eating, believing that it produces sores on their feet, as in the bird. When dancing with the feathers of the hornbill, they avoid eating vegetables, as doing so is also believed to produce the same sores on the feet.[36]

The great hornbill is listed in CITES Appendix I. It has been listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List since 2018.[1] Conservation programmes have attempted to provide tribes with feathers from captive hornbills and ceramic casques to substitute for natural ones.[37]
In captivity

Very few hornbills are held in captivity, and few of them breed well. Females at the nests are extremely easy to capture, and birds caught in the wild are mostly female. Breeding them in captivity has been notoriously difficult, with fewer than a dozen successful attempts. Their extreme selectivity for mates and their long and strong pair bonds make them difficult to maintain for breeding.[38][39][40][41]

Captive great hornbills eat fruits and meat, a healthy diet consisting mostly of fruit and some source of protein. A few have been tamed in captivity but their behaviour in captivity is described as highly strung. Captive specimens bask in the sun with outstretched wings.[42]
In culture

The great hornbill is called homrai in Nepal and banrao in Mussoorie, both meaning "King of the Jungle".[43] It is the official state bird of the Indian state of Kerala.[44]
Use as a symbol
William, a captive great hornbill

A great hornbill named William was the model for the logo of the Bombay Natural History Society and the name of the society's building. Norman Kinnear described William as follows in the obituary of Walter Samuel Millard:[45] "Every visitor to the Society's room in Apollo Street will remember the Great Indian Hornbill, better known as the "office canary" which lived in a cage behind Millard's chair in Phipson & Co.'s office for 26 years and died in 1920. It is said its death was caused by swallowing a piece of wire, but in the past "William" had swallowed a lighted cigar without ill effects and I for my part think that the loss of his old friend was the principal cause."[46][47]

BirdLife International (2020). "Buceros bicornis". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2020: e.T22682453A184603863. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2020-3.RLTS.T22682453A184603863.en. Retrieved 18 January 2022.
Hodgson, B. H. (1833). "Description of the Buceros Homrai of the Himalaya". Asiatic Researches. 18 (2): 169–188.
Dunning, J. B. Jr., ed. (2008). CRC Handbook of Avian Body Masses (Second ed.). CRC Press. ISBN 978-1-4200-6444-5.
Holmes, D. A. & Nash, S. (1990). The birds of Sumatra and Kalimantan. Oxford, USA: Oxford University Press.
Shankar Raman, T. R. (1998). "Aerial casque-butting in the Great Hornbill Buceros bicornis" (PDF). Forktail. 13: 123–124.
Kemp, A. C. (2001). "Family Bucerotidae (hornbills)". In del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A.; Sargatal, J. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World. Vol. Volume 6. Mousebirds to hornbills. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions. pp. 436–523.
Ali, S. & Ripley, S. D. (1983). Handbook of the birds of India and Pakistan. Vol. 4 (Second ed.). Oxford University Press. pp. 143–146. ISBN 978-0-19-562063-4.
Blanford, W. T. (1895). "Family Bucerotidae". The Fauna of British India, including Ceylon and Burma. Vol. 3. Birds. London: Taylor and Francis. pp. 142–146.
Baker, E.C.S. (1927). "Genus Dichoceros". The Fauna of British India, Including Ceylon and Burma. Birds. Vol. 4 (Second ed.). London: Taylor and Francis. pp. 283–285.
Rasmussen, P. C.; Anderton, J. C. (2005). Birds of South Asia: The Ripley Guide. Volume 2. Smithsonian Institution and Lynx Edicions. pp. 273–274.
Deignan, H. G. (1945). "The birds of northern Thailand". Bulletin of the United States National Museum. 186 (186): 1–616. doi:10.5479/si.03629236.186.1.
Owen, R. (1836). "On the Anatomy of the concave Hornbill, Buceros cavatus, Lath". Transactions of the Zoological Society of London. 1 (2): 117–122. doi:10.1111/j.1096-3642.1835.tb00609.x. hdl:2027/hvd.32044107323750.
Robinson, H.C. & Chasen, F.N. (1939). The Birds of the Malay Peninsula (PDF). Vol. Volume IV: The Birds of the Low-Country Jungle and Scrub. London: Witherby. pp. 90–91.
King, W. (1865). "An account of the "Kolymullays", one of the mountain masses in the Salem district of the Madras Presidency". The Madras Quarterly Journal of Medical Science. 8: 266–282.
Datta, A. (1998). "Hornbill abundance in unlogged forest, selectively logged forest and a forest plantation in Arunachal Pradesh, India". Oryx. 32 (4): 285–294. doi:10.1046/j.1365-3008.1998.d01-58.x.
Whistler, H. (1949). Popular handbook of Indian birds (Forth ed.). London: Gurney and Jackson. pp. 304–306. ISBN 978-1-4067-4576-4.
Shankar Raman, T. R. & Mudappa, D. (2003). "Correlates of hornbill distribution and abundance in rainforest fragments in the southern Western Ghats, India". Bird Conservation International. 13 (3): 199–212. doi:10.1017/S0959270903003162.
Poonswad, P. & Tsuji, A. (1994). "Ranges of males of the Great Hornbill Buceros bicornis, Brown Hornbill Ptilolaemus tickelli, and Wreathed Hornbill Rhyticeros undulatus in Khao Yai National Park, Thailand". Ibis. 136: 79–86. doi:10.1111/j.1474-919X.1994.tb08133.x.
Chamutpong, S.; Saito, D.; Viseshakul, N.; Nishiumi, I.; Poonswad, P. & Ponglikitmongkol, M. (2009). "Isolation and characterization of microsatellite markers from the great hornbill, Buceros bicornis". Molecular Ecology Resources. 9 (2): 591–593. doi:10.1111/j.1755-0998.2008.02447.x. PMID 21564700. S2CID 31651064.
Datta, A. & Rawat, G. S. (2003). "Foraging patterns of sympatric Hornbills during the nonbreeding season in Arunachal Pradesh, Northeast India". Biotropica. 35 (2): 208–218. doi:10.1646/02103. S2CID 198159354.
Kannan, R. & Douglas A. J. (1999). "Fruiting phenology and the conservation of the Great Pied Hornbill (Buceros bicornis) in the Western Ghats of Southern India". Biotropica. 31 (1): 167–177. doi:10.1111/j.1744-7429.1999.tb00127.x.
Sethi, P. & Howe, H. (2009). "Recruitment of Hornbill dispersed trees in hunted and logged forests of the Indian Eastern Himalaya". Conservation Biology. 23 (3): 710–718. doi:10.1111/j.1523-1739.2008.01155.x. PMID 19220369.
Wood, W. S. (1927). "Is the Large Hornbill Dichoceros bicornis carnivorous?". Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society. 32 (2): 374.
Poonswad, P.; Tsuji, A. & Jirawatkavi, N. (2004). "Estimation of nutrients delivered to nest inmates by four sympatric species of hornbills in Khao Yai National Park, Thailand" (PDF). Ornithological Science. 3 (2): 99–112. doi:10.2326/osj.3.99.
Fooden, J. (1975). "Taxonomy and evolution of liontail and pigtail macaques (Primates:Cercopithecidae)". Fieldiana Zoology. 67: 84.
Kannan, R. & James, D. A. (1997). "Breeding biology of the Great Pied Hornbill (Buceros bicornis) in the Anaimalai Hills of southern India". Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society. 94 (3): 451–465.
James, D.A. & Kannan, R. (2009). "Nesting habitat of the Great Hornbill (Buceros bicornis) in the Anaimalai Hills of southern India". Wilson Journal of Ornithology. 121 (3): 485–492. doi:10.1676/08-022.1. S2CID 85207549.
Bingham, C.T. (1879). "Notes on the nidification of some Hornbills". Stray Feathers. 8 (6): 459–463.
Hutton, A.F. (1986). "Mass courtship display by Great Pied Hornbill Buceros bicornis". Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society. 83 (Supplement): 209–210.
James, D.A. & Kannan, R. (2007). "Wild Great Hornbills (Buceros bicornis) do not use mud to seal nest cavities". Wilson Journal of Ornithology. 119 (1): 118–121. doi:10.1676/06-064.1. S2CID 86507822.
Poulsen, H. (1970). "Nesting behaviour of the Black-Casqued Hornbill Ceratogymna atrata (Temm.) and the Great Hornbill Buceros bicornis L". Ornis Scandinavica. 1 (1): 11–15. doi:10.2307/3676330. JSTOR 3676330.
Tickell, S.R. (1864). "On the hornbills of India and Burmah". Ibis. 6 (2): 173–182. doi:10.1111/j.1474-919X.1864.tb07860.x.
Setha, T. (2004). "The status and conservation of hornbills in Cambodia". Bird Conservation International. 14 (1): S5–S11. doi:10.1017/s0959270905000183.
Hastings, J. (1908). Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics. Vol. 1. Edinburgh: T&T Clark. p. 505. ISBN 978-0-567-06512-4.
Hastings, J. (1910). Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics. Vol. 3. Edinburgh: T&T Clark. p. 442. ISBN 978-0-567-06512-4.
Hutton, J.H. (1921). The Sema Nagas. London: Macmillan and Co. p. 92.
"Artificial beaks save hornbills from extinction in Arunachal - Firstpost". Retrieved 3 April 2018.
Crofoot, M.; Mace, M.; Azua, J.; MacDonald, E.; Czekala, N.M. (2003). "Reproductive assessment of the Great Hornbill (Buceros bicornis) by fecal hormone analysis" (PDF). Zoo Biology. 22 (2): 135–145. CiteSeerX doi:10.1002/zoo.10083.
Bohmke, B.W. (1987). "Breeding the great Indian hornbill at the St. Louis Zoological Park, USA". Avicultural Magazine. 93: 159–161.
de Ruiter, M. (1998). "The great Indian hornbill: a breeding attempt". AFAWatchbird. 25: 34–35.
Golding, R.R.; Williams, M.G. (1986). "Breeding the great Indian hornbill at the Cotswold Wild Life Park". International Zoo Yearbook. 24/25: 248–252. doi:10.1111/j.1748-1090.1985.tb02548.x.
Ellison, B.C. (1923). "Notes on the habits of a young Hornbill". Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society. 29 (1): 280–281.
Bingham, C.T. (1897). "The great Indian hornbill in the wild state". Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society. 11 (2): 308–310.
"Symbols of States of India".
Spence, R.A. (1920). "The Great Indian Hornbill (Dichocerros bicornis)". Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society. 27 (1): 174.
Kinnear, N.B. (1952). "Millard, W. S." Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society. 50 (4304): 910–913. Bibcode:1952Natur.169..690K. doi:10.1038/169690b0. S2CID 29652369.

Phipson, H.M. (1897). "The great Indian hornbill in captivity". Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society. 11 (2): 307–308.

Other sources

Kannan, R. (1993). "Saving the Great Indian Hornbill". Hornbill magazine. Bombay Natural History Society 1993(4):4–7.
Kannan, R. (1994). "Ecology and Conservation of the Great Pied Hornbill (Buceros bicornis) in the Western Ghats of southern India". Ph.D. Thesis, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.
Kannan, Ragupathy (1994). "Conservation ecology of the Great Hornbill in the Western Ghats, southern India". OBC Bull. 19: 13.
Kannan, R. and James, D. A. (2007). "Phenological studies of hornbill fruit trees in tropical rainforests: methodologies, problems, and pitfalls". pp 155–166 in Kemp, A.C. and M.I. Kemp (Eds.). The Active Management of Hornbills for Conservation. CD-ROM Proceedings of the 4th International Hornbill Conference, Mabula Game Lodge, Bela Bela, South Africa. Naturalists and Nomads, Pretoria.
Kannan, R. and James, D. A. (2008). "Fig trees (Ficus), captive elephants, and conservation of hornbills and other frugivores in an Indian wildlife sanctuary". J. Bombay. Nat. Hist. Soc. 105(2):238-242.
Poonswad, P. (1995). "Nest site characteristics of four sympatric species of hornbills in Khao Yai National Park, Thailand". Ibis 137: 183–191.

Birds, Fine Art Prints

Birds Images

Biology Encyclopedia

Retrieved from ""
All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

Home - Hellenica World