The hornbill is a big, spectacular bird with a massive "double-story" bill consisting of a long, deep beak with a projection (known as a casque) on top.
Hornbills usually have large heads, thin necks, broad wings and long tail feathers.
There are 46 species of hornbill in Borneo, with the four most prominent being the black, pied, rhinoceros and wreathed hornbills.
All are basically blackish or dark brown in color, and most have markings of white and other colors.
II. GEOGRAPHICAL RANGE AND HABITAT:
- The hornbill is a big, spectacular bird with a massive "double-story" bill consisting of a long, deep beak with a projection (known as a casque) on top.
- Hornbills usually have large heads, thin necks, broad wings and long tail feathers.
- There are 46 species of hornbill in Borneo, with the four most prominent being the black, pied, rhinoceros and wreathed hornbills.
- All are basically blackish or dark brown in color, and most have markings of white and other colors.
- The best known of all the species is the rhinoceros hornbill. Four feet long from the tip of its bill to the end of its tail, this bird has a whitish belly and white tail with a black band through the middle. Its bill and casque are yellow, with bright red coloring at the end.
- The pied hornbill — the smallest member of the hornbill family — only reaches 2.5 feet in length.
- With its raucous call (the casque on its beak amplifies its voice), striking features and jaunty disposition, the hornbill is one of the rain forest's most distinctive residents.
- Ten of the world's 46 species of hornbill are found in Malaysia, with many of them endangered or only present in small, isolated populations. Hornbills also inhabit parts of Africa and other areas of Asia.
- Besides Gunung Mulu National Park, good places to spot hornbills elsewhere in Malaysia are Taman Negara, Fraser's Hill, Langkawi, Sabah's Danum Valley and Mount Kinabalu National Park.
IV. LIFE CYCLE/SOCIAL STRUCTURE:
- Although they are partial to figs, hornbills are known to eat other kinds of fruit, as well as insects, lizards, small birds and even small mammals.
V. SPECIAL NOTES/ADAPTATIONS:
- During mating season, male hornbills reportedly use their casqued bills for spectacular head-on collisions in mid-air.
- A month or more before mating, the male hornbill begins courting the female by bringing her food. When ready to lay her eggs, the female will enter a nest hole high in a hollow tree. The pair will then spend two or three days plastering up the hole with the female's clay-like droppings — she on the inside, he on the outside — using the sides of their bills as trowels. The female will remain enclosed for three months as the male delivers food to her and then to the chicks through a small finger hole. She will go through a complete molt of her flight feathers while ensconced in the nest; once the nestlings have gotten their first feathers, she will break out of the chamber and join her mate in provisioning food for their young.
- Hornbills appear to pair for life, banding together to defend a territory against other members of their species. This helps to ensure adequate food supply as well as "exclusive rights" to nesting sites.
- Hornbills are critical to the dispersal of figs because they eat the entire fruit, including the seed, and then fly long distances, dispersing the seeds widely.
- Sarawak is known as the "Land of the Hornbills."
- The rhinoceros hornbill, with its upswept phallic casque, represents one of the most powerful Dayak gods, Singalang Burong, who plays an important part in Tban religious festivals, especially Gawai Kemyalang.
- The best way to see a hornbill is to locate a large wild fig plant and to hide nearby, for figs seem to be the favorite food of the hornbill.