Indian Grey Hornbill

Ocyceros birostris

Red List Status: LC – Least Concern, (IUCN 2020)

Distribution: Indian subcontinent; found from north-east Pakistan and south Nepal east to north-west Bangladesh and south throughout most of India except in Assam.

Description: 50-61 cm. Male 375 g. Small brownish-grey hornbill; from similar Malabar Grey Hornbill, where they overlap in west of range, best separated by black bill (not yellow without casque); tail long, graduated with black then white tip. Partly sympatric Malabar Pied Hornbill is larger and has distinct pied plumage and much larger white with black patch casque. Male has narrow black casque with pointed front and red-brown eyes with black orbital skin; female is smaller with smaller casque and dark brown eyes with dull red orbital skin. Juvenile like adults, except for being casqueless, smaller and with pale yellow bill, making it easily mistaken as Malabar Grey Hornbill. 

Voice: Vocal and noisy, especially in the early morning; the call is a variety of loud cackling and squealing notes, and some short, piping notes pi-pi-pi-pi .. pipipiew-pipipiew-pipipiew

Audio from xeno-canto

Habits: Occurs in deciduous forests, open woodlands and thorn forest as well as rural cultivation and urban gardens and parks, especially areas with many fig trees. It is often in the lowland plains up to 600 m elevation, but in the Himalayan foothills it has been reported to 1,400 m. Where it overlaps with Malabar Grey Hornbill, this species is more adaptable and prefers the lower, more open and less wooded areas. The food is mainly fruits, particularly figs, also occasionally flowers; in one survey 22 varieties of fruits were identified. It also takes some animal prey such as insects, small reptiles, rodents and bird nestlings. It is an active feeder that will move frequently from tree to tree; the flight is a characteristic undulating, rapid flapping interspersed with brief glides with wing-tips upturned. It feeds mainly in the canopies, but can drop to the ground and hop around with raised tails to pick up fallen fruits and the occasional animal prey. It is generally sedentary but will move around locally in search of fruiting trees; often in resident pairs or small groups of 5-6 birds, but flocks of up to 30 individuals have been reported at favourable feeding sites. Dust-bathing is recorded.