Sunday, December 26, 2010

Species of the Month - the Hornbill

There are 10 species of hornbill found in Malaysia.  Six species have been recorded in the forests of the Selangor State Park (Taman Negeri Selangor). 

The hornbill is a beautiful bird, famous for the large casque which forms on the top of its beak or bill. The bill is usually a striking colour, and the size and shape of this bill varies between the species.  While the casque looks bulky, it is not solid but filled with a cellular tissue and air pockets, so it is not as heavy as it appears.

Most hornbills have black, white or gray plumage, and beautiful, thick eyelashes that most women would die for! Hornbills may live to be more than 40 year old.  They can fly great distances and when flying, they wind against their wings produces a distinctive sound.

Hornbills mate for life.  The female hornbill will lay her eggs in the hollow of a tree, which is sealed up until only her beak can poke out of the hole to receive food from the male. The male is kept extremely busy supplying food for his mate and offspring. During the course of an hour he may visit the nest up to twenty times to supply food.

The main food sources for the hornbill are berries and fruit. However, they will also eat small living rodents. The bird does have a reputation as a fussy eater, however, and will wait to eat fruit only once it has fully ripened.

The six species that have been recorded in Taman Negeri Selangor are:
Aceros comatus, the White-crowned Hornbill;
Aceros undulatus, the Wreathed Hornbill;
Annorhinus galeritus, the Bushy crested Hornbill;
Buceros bicornis, the Great Hornbill;
Buceros vigil, the Helmeted Hornbill;
And Buceros rhinoceros, the Rhinoceros Hornbill.

The Hornbill is the national symbol of Sarawak. Hornbills can be found in many countries in Asia, down through to the Solomon Islands, and in Africa.  In Malaysia, most species of hornbill are threatened and all are listed as protected species under Malaysian law.

The pressure of encroaching development in Taman Negeri Selangor is a real threat to these magnificent species who make their home in the Park.  By reducing development and fragmentation of the forest, we can help ensure there is sufficient range for the hornbills to continue to live and breed in Taman Negeri Selangor and throughout Malaysia. 

The photos here are from the website of the Department of Wildlife & National Park Malaysia.  Read more about Hornbills at their  DWNP website

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