Buceros bicornis, Great Hornbill, Rangkong Papan

Written by on November 19, 2010 in Bali Bird with 0 Comments

Buceros bicornis, Great Hornbill, Rangkong Papan The Great Hornbill, Buceros bicornis also known as Greater Indian HornBuceros bicornis, Great Hornbill, Rangkong Papanbill, Great Pied Hornbill and Two-horned Calao, is one of the larger member of the hornbill family. Great Hornbill is distributed in the forests of India, the Malay Peninsula and Sumatra, Indonesia. Their impressive size and colour have helped make them a part of local tribal cultures and rituals. The Great Hornbill is long-lived with a lifespan approaching 50 years in captivity. They are predominantly frugivorous but sometimes take small mammals, reptiles and birds.

The Great Hornbill is a large bird, 95-120 cm (38-47 in) long, with a 152 cm (60 in) wingspan and a weight of 2.15-4 kg (4.7-8.8 lbs). It is the heaviest, but not the longest, Asian hornbill. The most prominent feature of the hornbill is the bright yellow and black casque on top of its massive bill. The casque is hollow and serves no known purpose (?tame? hornbills are known to enjoy having them scratched) although they are believed to be the result of sexual selection. Male hornbills have been known to indulge in aerial casque butting flights. Females are smaller than males and have blue instead of red eyes. The male spreads the preen gland secretion which is yellow onto the primaries and bill to give them the bright yellow colour.

The species was formerly broken into subspecies cavatus from the Western Ghats, nominate form from the sub-Himalayan forests is sometimes named as subspecies homrai. Now largely considered monotypic.[4]

Food and feeding

In the wild, the Great Hornbill’s diet consists mainly of fruit. Figs are particularly important as a food sources.Vitex altissima has been noted as another important species. They also forage on lipid-rich fruits of the Lauraceae and Myristicaceae families such as Persea, Alseodaphne and Myristica.They obtain their water needs entirely from the fruits. It will also eat small mammals, birds, small reptiles and insects.

They forage along branches for insects 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 noted in the diet of the species while Collared Scops Owl Otus bakkamoena, Jungle Owlet Glaucidium radiatum and Grey-fronted Green Pigeon Treron pompadora have been noted as prey birds in the Western Ghats.


During the breeding season they become very vocal. They make loud duets. These calls begin with a loud "kok" about once a second given by the male and joined in by a female. The pair then calls in unison turning into a rapid mixture of roars and barks.[9]

Female hornbills build nests in hollows of large tree trunks and the opening is sealed with a plaster made up mainly of feces. She remains imprisoned in her nest until the chicks are semi-developed relying on the male to bring her food. During this period the female undergoes a complete moult. She is fed by her mate through a slit in the seal. The clutch consists of one or two eggs she incubates for 38-40 days. Once The female voids faeces through the nest slit and young follow the same nest sanitation behaviour after they are two weeks old. Once the female emerges out of the nest, it is sealed again by the chicks.

The Great Hornbills form monogamous pair bonds and live out their lives in groups of 2-40 individuals. Group courtship displays involving up to 20 birds have been observed.

In human cultures

Local tribes further threaten the Great Indian Hornbills with their desire for its various parts. The blood of chicks is said to have a soothing effect on departed souls and before marriage, tribesmen use their feathers for head-dresses, and their skulls are often worn as decorations. Conservation programmes have attempted to provide tribes with feathers from captive hornbills and ceramic casques to substitute natural ones.

The hornbills is called "homrai" in Nepal (giving the name of that subspecies) and "banrao" both meaning "King of the forest".

A Great Hornbill by the name of William (see pictures below) is the symbol of the Bombay Natural History Society. Sir Norman Kinnear described William as follows: ?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."

In captivity

Profile, by E. Comber (1897) of the Great Indian Hornbill, "William," who lived on the premises of the Bombay Natural History Society from 1894 to 1920 and who would later inspire the logo of the Society.

Approximately 60 hornbills are currently held in the US, and lesser numbers in other countries. While housing them and accommodating their diet holds little challenge, breeding them is notoriously difficult with fewer than a dozen successful attempts.

In captivity hornbills eat fruits and meat and a healthy diet is made up in most part, by fruit and some source of protein. A few have been tamed in captivity but hornbill behavior in captivity is described as high-strung. Captive specimens may bask in the sun with outstretched wings.The Great Hornbill is the State bird of Sarawak in Malaysia and Kerala in India.

Conservation status

Due to ongoing habitat lost and hunting in some areas, the Great Hornbill is evaluated as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.[17] It is listed on Appendix I of CITES.

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