Rhinoceros Hornbill Fact File
The rhinoceros hornbill is named for the large projection which rests on top of the bill and is known as the casque. Their casque turns up at the end giving it a resemblance to a rhinoceros horn. The casque is formed from a thin layer of skin and bone which sits over a honeycomb structure.
Scientists are yet to agree on the purpose of the casque. It may serve to amplify their call or help to communicate their gender and age to other birds.
Across the majority of their body the rhinoceros hornbill is colored black with the vent and thighs having white feathers.
Their bill and the casque are colored a creamy-white with black at the base. The beak will be colored orangish-red by an oil which is exuded from a gland under the tail.
They have red eyes which are surrounded by a white ring in females and a red or orange ring for males. These are protected by long eyelashes which are made from feathers.
Rhinoceros hornbills have black legs and feet.
A rhinoceros hornbill will measure 80-90cm (31.5-35.4in) long. They have a wingspan of up to 150cm (59in) across. Their weight averages 2.6-3.4kg (5.7-7.5lbs) for males and 2-2.3kg (4.5-5.1lbs) for females.
Males tend to be larger than females.
The rhinoceros hornbill will disperse seeds from their food through the forest as they travel around.
Their long sharp bill is used to pick up and control their food.
Captive 90 years
— AD —
Asia is the native home of the rhinoceros hornbill. Here they can be found in Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.
The species has gone extinct in Singapore.
They make their home in forests including primary lowland, tall secondary and swamp forests. When foraging they may enter disturbed areas or man-made plantations.
This species is monogamous with pairs remaining together for life. Males court the female by bringing her food.
Egg laying can take place at various times throughout the year including January, March to June, September and November.
Rhinoceros hornbills form their nest in a hollow within the tree. Once the female has laid her egg she will seal the opening with mud and fruit leaving only a small opening. Through this the male will pass her food for the length of the 30 day incubation period.
Typically only a single egg is laid but two is possible.
30 days after the chick has hatched the female breaks the seal and leaves before resealing it. She will then work with the male to provide food to the chick for another 50 days till it too can emerge.
Fledging takes place between 78 and 80 days after hatching. They remain dependent on the parents for the first six months of their life.
When this species is foraging other small hornbill species tend not to feed at the same level on the tree. Often they wait on a nearby tree till the larger rhinoceros hornbills have left so they can feed.
In some areas they will form groups of up to 15 individuals who forage together.
Their call is a honking squawk used to communicate. During take-off a sharper version is used.
Predators and Threats
The species is hunted for its feathers and meat.
Humans further impact their population through removal of the trees which they need for nesting. This includes both legal commercial logging and illegal logging.
Rhinoceros hornbills are the national bird of Malaysia.
This species was revered by ancient people in their habitat as the "god of war."
Top, Middle One and Two
Public Domain. By Vassil.
By Bernard DUPONT from FRANCE – Rhinoceros Hornbills (Buceros rhinoceros), CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=40780023
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