Great hornbill

(Buceros bicornis)

Near Threatened

This is the largest of all the hornbills. Length: 95–110cm, Wingspan: 150cm. Weight: 2.1–3.4kg

35 years in the wild, up to 50 years in captivity.

Thick evergreen and mixed deciduous forests.

Mainly fruit, with some small mammals, insects, reptiles

Found in thick evergreen and mixed deciduous forests throughout southern and south east Asia, including India, Nepal, China, Malaysia, Indonesia, Bhutan and Thailand.

Bird Facts

  • Local tribes believe that the parts of the Great Hornbill carry great powers. The blood of chicks is said to have a soothing effect on departed souls and before marriage, tribesmen use their feathers for head-dresses. Conservation programmes have attempted to provide tribes with feathers from captive hornbills and ceramic casques/beaks to substitute natural ones.
  • They have a loud call which can be heard up to 800 metres away.
  • It is said that the wing beat of a Great Hornbill can be heard up to half a mile away!
  • Although its beak/ bill looks extremely large and heavy, it is actually quite light consisting of hollow, thin-walled cells a bit like sponge made of keratin (the same material human hair and nails are made of). Despite this, two of the neck vertebrae are fused to cope with the extra weight. A hornbill can eat up to 150 figs in one meal.
  • The breeding process can be so intensive for the male that they will sometimes die shortly afterwards of exhaustion.
  • It is not known what the exact purpose of the casque (the outgrowth on the bill) is for, but it is probably important as an indication of the age, sex and status of an individual bird.

Cotswold Wildlife Park and Gardens

Cotswold Wildlife Park and Gardens