The Great Hornbill (Buceros bicornis) also known as Great Indian Hornbill or Great Pied Hornbill, is one of the larger members of the hornbill family. The Great Hornbill is found in the forests of India, the Malay Peninsula and Sumatra, Indonesia. Their impressive size and colour have made them important in many tribal cultures and rituals. The Great Hornbill is long-lived, living for nearly 50 years in captivity. They are predominantly frugivorous although they are opportunists and will prey on 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 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, a reference to which is made in the Latin species epithet bicornis. The casque is hollow and serves no known purpose although they are believed to be the result of sexual selection. Male hornbills have been known to indulge in aerial casque butting, with birds striking each other in flight. 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 back of the casque is reddish in females while the underside of the front and back of the casque is black in males. The male spreads the preen gland secretion which is yellow onto the primaries and bill to give them the bright yellow colour. The commissure of the beak is black and has a serrated and worn edge with age. The wing beats are heavy and the sound produced by birds in flight can be heard from a distance. The sound produced 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. They are sometimes known to fly at great height over forests.
BEHAVIOUR AND ECOLOGY
Food and feeding
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. 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 the water that they need entirely from their diet of fruits. They are important dispersers of many forest tree species. They will also eat small mammals, birds, small reptiles and insects. It has been observed that lion-tailed macaques forage alongside these hornbills.
They forage along branches, moving along by hopping, looking for insects, nestling birds, 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.