Oriental Pied hornbill

Anthracoceros albirostris

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

Photo by Kalyan Varma

Distribution: Occurs throughout the Oriental region from northern India and south Nepal, south-east Tibet to south Yunnan and south Guangxi, China, across South-east Asia east to Java and Bali as well as many offshore islands within this range. 

Description: Male 70-85, female 60-65 cm. Male 680-907 g; female 500-879 g. Medium sized hornbill; black with white underparts. White on outer tail tips and trailing wing edges show in flight. The male has a large creamy bill with large black base on lower mandible; the casque is large, cylindrical with projecting compressed anterior part marked black. The female’s bill and casque are smaller, marked with black, and without the anterior blade; the lower mandible has a dark red spot. Both sexes have pale blue bare skin around the eyes and on the throat. Juvenile is less glossy black, bill is smaller and pale with undeveloped casque. 

Voice: Vocal, noisy and often located by call; the voice by both sexes is a characteristic variety of squeals and chuckles described as kleng-keng ….kek-kek-kek-kek

Audio from xeno-canto

Habits: Apart from maybe the Indian Grey Hornbill, this is the only Asian hornbill that does not depend on primary forest for habitat, not even for breeding. It does occur in closed deciduous or evergreen forest, but it prefers forest edges, open woodlands and even coastal and riverine scrub and cultivation. Occurs in the coastal lowlands and extends inland up to 700 m elevation. In South-east Asia it can be seen at close range, coming to feeding tables in beach resorts and villages near forested areas where it will feed on papaya, rambutan, mango, banana and other readily available fruits. It feeds mainly on fruits; in Thailand 49 different fruit varieties have been identified with more non-fig (47%) than fig species (33%). Wild fruit of preference other than figs includes Polyalthia (Annonaceae), Horsfieldia (Myristicaceae), Strombosia (Oleaceae) and Dysoxylum (Meliaceae). It will also take animal food and a large variety of prey has been identified (56 species) including various insects, centipedes, millipedes, scorpions, spiders, snails, earthworms, lizards, small birds and eggs, and rats; occasionally it even takes snails, crabs and fish from the water’s edge. It feeds mainly in the canopies of trees but will also drop to the ground to pick up fallen fruits or prey; it uses its large bill with finesse to grab, tear and swallow small food objects. Moves in pairs or family groups and is largely sedentary and territorial. Outside the breeding season, flocks of up to 170 birds have been recorded in Khao Yai NP; they move around to favorable feeding habitats and fruiting trees. In non-breeding season they may be seen dust-bathing to repel ectoparasites.