Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Peeping into the fame of Great Hornbill!

In my childhood, I saw only sparrow, crow or mynah. Then whenever I visited a zoo, I wondered much on seeing much larger birds, naturally. One among those larger birds is our Great Hornbill (Great Indian Hornbill, 'Periya iruvayen' in Tamil, Buceros bicornis). It has a massive curved beak like elephants have their trunks.
On this beak there is a bright yellowish and black casque, a double-ridged outgrowth that gives it a characteristic appearance. This bird gives out a loud call. It weighs about 4 kg and it can live up to 50 years! Males are larger than the females. It lives in tropical forests of India, Nepal and Myanmar. Unlike other kinds of hornbills that are ground hoppers, it can fly high in the sky. It eats mainly fruits, especially, figs. So, it is also good at seed dispersal. When it tries to eat insects, it tears up tree bark with the beak, searches for them, catches them and toss into air and swallow! It uses the beak for fighting and nesting too.
Great hornbill has interesting breeding habits: female steps into a tree hole and shuts it up with faeces. Male feeds it through a slit on it. It also places millipedes into the nest for safeguarding the female and its chicks against the bacteria - the secretions from millipedes have antibacterial properties! Female lays two eggs that hatch out in 40 days. Male feeds these chicks too. When they are grown up larger, their mom gets out first. Chicks then repair the defect left out by themselves! This family protection is carried out to avoid attacks by other hornbills. Another interesting fact about these Great hornbills is that they have binocular vision as we have! With this capability they handle their food with precision.
This Great Hornbill as a great wonder bird! That is why it has been made the logo of Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) and also the state bird of Kerala and Arunachal Pradesh, in India.

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