Great Indian Hornbill

(Buceros bicornis)


Great Indian Hornbill IUCN NEAR THREATENED (NT)


Facts about this animal

The male Great Indian hornbill has a total length (from tip of the bill to the tip of the tail) of about 130 cm, the female is slightly smaller. It has a black face, chin, back and lower breast, the back with a metallic gloss. The crown, neck, upper breast, lower abdomen, thighs, upper- and under-tail coverts are white. The wings are black with white tips to the greater and median coverts forming a white band across the wing, and white tips to the primaries and secondaries, forming a white terminal band. The is white with a broad black subterminal band. The white is often stained yellow with preen-gland oil.


The bill and the "horn" (casque) is yellow at the base, becoming orange to red towards the tip. There is no sexual dimorphism in the plumage but in the female, the iris of the eye is white, while the skin surrounding the eye is pink to red. In males, the iris is red, with black skin surrounding the eye.




Reproduction patterns in hornbills are complex and unique. The pairs will perform a courtship ritual that may include preening, feeding, wing and tail displays, and even beating their bills on the ground. Then they will spend several days choosing just the right tree hollow to line with leaves, grass, and feathers. The female will then seal therself up in the tree hollow for up to four months while raising her chicks, using regurgitated food, droppings, and mud brought to her by the male to seal the opening of the tree hollow until only a small slit remains. This creates an almost predator-proof nest.

The female will lay her eggs and sit on them while the male flies back and forth bringing her whole or regurgitated food, which he feeds to her through the slit. The female keeps the nest clean by dropping all waste outside through the small opening.

Great Indian hornbills are omnivorous and eat a combination of fruit, insects, and other small animals. The birds can use the tip of their bills as fingers to pluck fruit from trees or animals off of the ground. The edges of the bills are notched like a saw for grasping and tearing.

Did you know?
that the great Indian hornbills' first two neck vertebrae have been fused to support their large bill? Though its bill looks quite heavy, is actually very light; it is made up of thin-walled hollow cells, somewhat like a hard sponge.


Class AVES
Name (Scientific) Buceros bicornis
Name (English) Great Indian Hornbill
Name (French) Calao bicorne
Name (German) Doppelhornvogel
Name (Spanish) Cálao bicorne
Local names Malay: Enggang papan
CITES Status Appendix I
CMS Status Not listed



Photo Copyright by
Valerie Abbott



Range South-east Asia
Habitat In vast tropical rainforest with massive trees
Wild population Unknown, but decreasing (Red List IUCN 2011)
Zoo population 128 reported to ISIS (2005)

In the Zoo

Great Indian Hornbill


How this animal should be transported

For air transport, Container Note 13 of the IATA Live Animals Regulations should be followed.


Find this animal on ZooLex


Photo Copyright by
Lip Kee Yap

Why do zoos keep this animal

The future of the great Indian hornbill does not look bright because of habitat loss and degradation due to logging. With a view of building up a self-sustaining population, an International Studbook has been established under the WAZA umbrella, and coordinated conservation breeding programmes are operated at the regional level by AZA, EAZA and JAZA.

Indian hornbills are large and very attractive birds displaying interesting behaviour patterns they are therefore a very valuable species for educational purposes as well as ambassadors fo their endangered habitat the tropical rain forest.