Malabar Grey Hornbill

Ocyceros griseus

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

Distribution: Endemic to India; found in the Western Ghats of the south-west. 

Description: 45 cm. Male 238-340 g. Small grey hornbill with rufous vent; from similar Indian Grey Hornbill where they overlap in range best separated by yellow (not black) bill. The sympatric Malabar Pied Hornbill is much larger and has distinct pied plumage and much larger casque. Male has long curved yellow orange bill, paler at tip, with low casque; female is smaller with smaller dark-spotted casque and black base of lower mandible. Both sexes have a white broad supercilium stripe above the eyes running along the head to the hind neck, whitish streaks on head, crest, throat and upper breast. Juvenile resembles adult females, but with smaller paler bills and no casque. 

Voice: The call is an assortment of loud, harsh chuckles and squawks, varied by raucous cackling like mock laughter. 

Audio from xeno-canto

Habits: Occurs in evergreen and deciduous forests, especially riverine forest and in the hills above 500 m elevation, but also in the lowland. Where it overlaps with Indian Grey Hornbill, this species prefers the higher terrain with dense tree cover. It extends from forest into nearby cultivation and villages to feed. It flies with a strong flapping alternated with glides and hops among the branches on to the outer branches of large fruiting trees. The food is mainly fruits and berries, with Actinodaphne (Lauraceae) and Olea (Oleaceae) comprising 55% when breeding but particularly figs during the non-breeding season (3 species, 60%), also occasionally flowers. It also takes some animal prey such as insects and small reptiles. A study of a male feeding the female and later young at the nest found that it brought mainly lipid-rich fruits (37%), such as Aphanamixis polystachya, then figs (26%) and other fruits (23%). The remaining 14% was animal food such as insects, small reptiles and rodents; this part increased after the young hatched. This hornbill is apparently sedentary but will move around locally, especially within deciduous forest parts of the range; flocks of up to 20 individuals may gather at favourable feeding sites.