great hornbill

Scientific Classification

ORDER: Bucerotiformes

FAMILY: Bucerotidae

GENUS: Buceros

SPECIES: Buceros bicornis



Great hornbills are widespread throughout the continent of Asia, including China, India, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia. It is more frequently found in the canopy (at the top) of thick forest, although has been known to venture out to more open areas for food. This species has been found as high as 1,560 meters.


The hornbill body, head and wings of this fairly large species has black feathers with a white/yellowish tail and neck.The great hornbill has very bold colouring which follows regular banding along the tail and banding along the wings. They also possess a yellow ‘casque’, a hollow structure on their heads for mating rituals and defense. Males hornbills have a red iris whereas females have a white one.


Generally Great Hornbills live in groups consisting of a monogamous pair mating for life and their offspring during the day, and gather in roosts of up to 100 at night time for safety —making them social creatures. They are also non migratory and males have been known to butt casques to attract partners or establish dominance. In the morning during sunrise small flocks rest in the Casaurina trees  then fly to the forest canopy to feed on berries, insects and small creatures.


Great hornbill Breeding occurs between February and May. After mating, the pair will find a tree with a large enough hole, the female will then sit inside and block herself by building a wall of feces, leaving a slit so that the male will bring the food. Female hornbills will lay their eggs and incubate them for 40 days. After the hatchlings appear (1 to 2) the female will stay with them for two weeks, then leave the hole and reseal the young inside. Both parents will continue to feed them for 2 weeks. The hornbill hatchlings then emerge themselves and stay with their parents for another 15 weeks.This species can live up to 40 years old.


Great Hornbills are ecologically important as they are one of the only birds in its habitat large enough to effectively disperse seeds from its diet of fruit. Therefore they help new trees grow and with the dispersal of several plant species. If they were to die out, this would mean that the overall health of the forest would eventually decrease. They also serve as a cultural icons in various countries, attract certain tourists (animal enthusiasts) to islands. Sadly they are still captured to be sold and used in  chinese medicines.


Developments and deforestation have the biggest impacts on the hornill species population, on the island developments are localised to the beaches. Poaching is another activity that impacts this species, however on the island they are consumed as food on the odd occasion someone can catch one.


Great hornbills are known to ‘sing’ to one another during breeding season with vocalizations made using their casque.

** This data set was written by David Stanley of Bournemouth University, England and edited by Stephanie Young**

***Identification of these species has been made through, photographic documentation cross referenced with external specialists and identification books. Any errors in our database will be rectified upon notification, if you feel that we have misidentified any species please help us to improve our research through our contact us page. All people involved will be acknowledge in the website and reports***



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