HORNBILLS   Bucerotidae

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The Bucerotidae family has 55 species worldwide. These birds are found in tropical part Africa and Asia and unique fact is that birds from the two regions are different and species do not exist in both environment.

There are 24 species in Africa of which 13 of then are birds of the open country grassland and savanna. The remaining are found in dense forest. Even so, none of the African species Hornbills would be classified as threatened.

Quite an opposite scenario is seen in Asia. There are only 12 species recorded in South East Asia and only 1 of them is a bird from the open country. Otherwise almost al the Hornbills are forest species. Most species of Hornbill in Asia are classified as "threatened" due to serious habitat losses.

Bushy-crested Hornbill Anorrhinus galeritus
Oriental Pied Hornbill Anthracoceros albirostris
Black Hornbill Anthracoceros malayanus
Great Hornbill Buceros bicornis
Rhinoceros Hornbill Buceros rhinoceros
Helmeted Hornbill Rhinoplax vigil
White-crowned Hornbill Berenicornis comatus
Wrinkled Hornbill Aceros corrugatus
Plain-pouched Hornbill Rhyticeros subruficollis
Wreathed Hornbill Rhyticeros undulatus

Most Hornbills are in black & white colors and the birds has an oversized, down curved bills. The shape of the curved bills have resemblance of a cow horn and this feature earned the bird its name. These bills too are in black and white but a couple of species have them in bright colors or patterns on them.

On top of the upper mandible, there may a casque on it. This extra large bill do its other purpose apart from looks, like that of assisting in fights. The large bills do not hamper the bird in performing its mundane task of preening, picking up fruits and catching preys, . One useful task the bills do which I have seen is the hammering on the tree trunk to construct its nest.

Then the casque, if there is one for the species, is a hollow structure that runs the entire length. It is useful in reinforcing the large upper mandible. In some species there are extra openings along the casque allowing it to serve as resonators for calls. On the contrary, the casque of the Helmeted Hornbill is of very solid ivory and it s serve the bird well as battering rams in aerial joists.

The neck is properly evolved with strong muscles and fused vertebrate to support the heavy head and bills.

Hornbill is omnivorous and they feed on fruits and small animals. The Hornbills we see in Malaysia arboreal birds but there are also terrestrial  Hornbills such as Ground Hornbill of the savanna. Our very own Oriental Pied in Pangkor island with habitat change is seen very often foraging on the ground.


Black Hornbill  Anthracoceros malayanus

 Size & diagnostic markings:-76 cm.  The slim bodied Hornbill is only 76 cm long. Considereed small for a Hornbill.  The bird is black throughout, the upper part and the lower part. It has broad white-tipped outer tail, the yellowish-white casque is unmarked.  The facial skin is black and a dull colored gray supercilium is suppose to be visible. The female bird has patches of pinkish moustachial patches

 Distribution :-  Black Hornbills are resident in Sumatra and the Borneo Islands. Common Hornbill in deep forest in Peninsula Malaysia
 Habitats & preferences:- This is a lowland forest bird, as usual in pristine forest with tall and large trees
 In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- There used to be colony in Damansara with a remaining bird hanging around urban Kiara Hills. Black Hornbill are easily seen in Rengit being the nearest place.
 My personal jottings :-

 Like all Hornbills , the Black Hornbill makes long continuous calls and it is easy to locate where the calls are coming from. However, most times the bird remains well hidden among the foliages. Furthermore such trees are also those at the peak of low hills hidden in most part by other trees in the lower level. All in all, I find it near impossible to locate the nearby bird until it takes off to the next destination or situation when there is a pair horse playing.

Record of bird's call:-    and Video:-

Black Hornbill female  #1

Black Hornbill  female # 2

Black Hornbill  female # 3

Black Hornbill  female # 4

Black Hornbill   female # 5

Black Hornbill  female # 6

Black Hornbill  female # 7

Black Hornbill   # 8

Black Hornbill  # 9

Black Hornbill   # 10

Black Hornbill   # 11

Black Hornbill  # 12

Black Hornbill   # 16

Black Hornbill   # 17

Black Hornbill  # 18

Black Hornbill   # 19

Black Hornbill   # 20

Black Hornbill  # 21

Black Hornbill   # 22

Black Hornbill   # 23

Black Hornbill  # 24

Black Hornbill   # 25

Black Hornbill   # 26

Black Hornbill  # 27

Great Hornbill  Buceros bicornis

 Size & diagnostic markings:- 120 cm. This Hornbill is about 120 cm long. That's more like a Hornbill size but not all Hornbill are this big. The bill and casque is yellow , the nape and neck white otherwise the bird is black. The vent and tail also white with a broad central black band on the tail.

 Distribution :-  It found in South west India,  then up to northern India and then east to south-western China and again down to Sumatra. This is a common bird for western and southern Thailand down to the Malay Peninsula. The birds in Peninsula are marginally smaller.
 Habitats & preferences:- Though seen more often in heavily forest hills, this is a lowland Hornbill. Found in foothills. But the bird also likes to be among low hills and flying across valleys. Usually found in pair as well.
 In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- One of the common place to see the bird is in Taiping Lake Garden. The bird is available in most hills like Bukit Tinggi, Genting Highlands or Frasers Hills
 My personal jottings :-

Though big but not an elusive bird. It is impossible to hunt down the bird. Only in accidental sightings when the bird is flying across the valley. Two obvious warning are given by their presence in the area. The first is the unmistakable loud calls they make, second the loud sound similar to the made by the blades of the helicopter.

Record of bird's call:-    and Videos:-

Great Hornbill # 1

Great Hornbill  # 2

Great Hornbill  # 3

Great Hornbill # 4

Great Hornbill  # 5

Great Hornbill  # 6

Great Hornbill # 7

Great Hornbill  # 8

Great Hornbill  # 9

Great Hornbill # 10

Great Hornbill  # 11

Great Hornbill  # 12

Great Hornbill # 13

Great Hornbill  # 14

Great Hornbill  # 15

Great Hornbill # 16

Great Hornbill  # 17

Great Hornbill  # 18

Great Hornbill # 19

Great Hornbill  # 20

Great Hornbill  # 21

Great Hornbill # 22

Great Hornbill  # 23

Great Hornbill  # 24

Great Hornbill # 25

Great Hornbill  # 26

Great Hornbill  # 27


Oriental-pied Hornbill Anthracoceros albirostris albirostris

ze & diagnostic markings:- 70 cm. A small Hornbill at 70 cm long. Pied as it is called the bird is white & black. White facial marking with white belly and vent. This undertail is black with white-tipped outer feathers. The bill and casque in uniform pale yellow but sometimes the yellow is fairly rich as well..

 Distribution :-  This bird  is found in the northern and eastern part of Indian sub-continent, South and west of China then to the Greater Sundas. This bird is a common bird at the coast in southern Thailand and Malay Peninsula.
 Habitats & preferences:- This is a lowland forest bird preferring coastal but not mangrove forest. Plantations and rural settlements. There is a tendency for the birds to gather in flocks but not flying around together.
 In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- Rather common in the Raja Muda forest at the border of Selangor and Perak, island of Pangkor and also in the east coast from Kemaman to Trenggannu. Again at the shores of Lake kenyir. Langkawai Island is another place that the bird is frequently encountered.
 My personal jottings :-

Though this sub-species should not be found in Peninsula Malaysia, I have those seen in the Langkawai island recorded as such. Not that much pictures now but would get more for future use.

Record of bird's call:-    and Videos:-      

Oriental-pied Hornbill  # 1

Oriental-pied Hornbill   # 2

Oriental-pied Hornbill   # 3

Oriental-pied Hornbill  # 4

Oriental-pied Hornbill   # 5

Oriental-pied Hornbill   # 6

Southern-pied Hornbill Anthracoceros albirostris convexus

 Size & diagnostic markings:- 70 cm. A small Hornbill at 70 cm long. Pied as it is called the bird is white & black. White facial marking with white belly and vent. This species the tail in black but the undertail is white. The bill and casque remains the same as a uniform pale yellow but sometimes the yellow is fairly rich as well..

 Distribution :-  This bird  is found in the extreme south of Thailand and mainly Peninsula Malaysia
 My personal jottings :-

Throughout most parts of peninsula Malaysia, this other sub-species is spotted. Many pictures showing the birds on wires and telephone poles do not implicate the birds are caught in urban settings. In fact the birds are quite used to human when we are out in the country sides. This sub-species is sometimes names as the Southern-pied Hornbill.

This is an easy to spot Hornbill along the Main Expressway particularly the stretch between Tanjong Malim and Bidor. Most often near the town of Bidor. Then from there all the way to the coastal highway to Sitiawan. In Pulau Langkawai, the birds appeared in large numbers and very well domesticated by a local hotelier that fed the birds each morning. The last 3 pictures below show. Those further were taken at the resorts where we stayed.


Oriental-pied Hornbill  # 7

Oriental-pied Hornbill  # 8

Oriental-pied Hornbill # 9

Oriental-pied Hornbill  # 10

Oriental-pied Hornbill  # 11

Oriental-pied Hornbill # 12

Oriental-pied Hornbill  # 16

Oriental-pied Hornbill  # 17

Oriental-pied Hornbill # 18

Oriental-pied Hornbill  # 19

Oriental-pied Hornbill  # 20

Oriental-pied Hornbill # 21

Oriental-pied Hornbill  # 22

Oriental-pied Hornbill  # 23

Oriental-pied Hornbill # 24

Oriental-pied Hornbill  # 25

Oriental-pied Hornbill  # 26

Oriental-pied Hornbill # 27


Rhinoceros Hornbill Boleros rhinoceros

 Size & diagnostic markings:- 120 cm This Hornbill varies in sizes from 90-120 cm. An expectedly large bird with bright red and orange up curved casque. Then almost white to pale yellow bill, eye reddish. The bird is mostly black with the rear part of belly white extending all the way to the under tail. The whole tail is white with a broad black band across the centre

 Distribution :-  This is a bird of the Greater Sundas.  Resident in southern Thailand to Peninsula Malaysia. Quite a common Hornbill to be seen in Peninsula Malysia
 Habitats & preferences:- This is a bird of the lowland forest usually roaming around in pairs and sometimes could gather in flocks. Being large birds, it prefers forest with tall trees or undulating low hills where it can have a panoramic view.
 In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- This bird is common in Langkawi Island, Taiping, Frasers Hill, Genting and Bukit Tinggi area. More often than not in hilly areas.
 My personal jottings :-

Among all the Hornbills and excluding the Oriental Pied Hornbill, this Rhinoceros Hornbill is rather easy to meet up with. Most days it would be seen flying across the valleys of Genting Highlands. Other places where the bird is frequently seen would be the Lake Garden in Taiping. years ago there was flock of 12-15 birds in the hills in Langkawi. Lately the birds could still be detected but obvious showing dramatically reduced.

Record of bird's calls :-    and Videos:-

Rhinoceros Hornbill  # 1

Rhinoceros Hornbill    # 2

Rhinoceros Hornbill   # 3

Rhinoceros Hornbill   # 4

Rhinoceros Hornbill   # 5

Rhinoceros Hornbill   # 6

Rhinoceros Hornbill   # 7

Rhinoceros Hornbill   # 8

Rhinoceros Hornbill   # 9

Rhinoceros Hornbill   #  10

Rhinoceros Hornbill   #  11

Rhinoceros Hornbill   #  12

Rhinoceros Hornbill   #  16

Rhinoceros Hornbill   #  17

Rhinoceros Hornbill   #  18

Rhinoceros Hornbill   #  19

Rhinoceros Hornbill   #  20

Rhinoceros Hornbill   #  21

Rhinoceros Hornbill   #  22

Rhinoceros Hornbill   #  23

Rhinoceros Hornbill   #  24

Rhinoceros Hornbill   #  25

Rhinoceros Hornbill   #  26

Rhinoceros Hornbill   #  27

Helmeted Hornbill Bueros vigil

 Size & diagnostic markings:- 127 cm. This Hornbill is even longer then the Rhinoceros Hornbill and could also be longer as the central feather at the tail could extend further. This point itself is diagnostic. Dark red skin on the sides of the head, throat and neck reminds us of that Turkey looks. This Hornbill is black with a white rump and hind underpart. The tail is also whitish with a central band. Like most Hornbill, it has a short casque, rounded in red color with a yellow tip. The bill is unlike that of other Hornbill, short -  yellow in color ending with red at the end near the head.

 Distribution :-  This bird  is found in Sumatra and Borneo. Could be seen fairly often in peninsula Malaysia too.
 Habitats & preferences:- This is a lowland forest bird preferring preferring low hills. The bird usually seen in pairs.
 In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- This bird mostly seen in deep valleys of higher hills like those going up to Genting Highlands and Frasers Hills. Now that there was also a pair in the low hills in Congkak.
 My personal jottings :-

The call of this Hornbill though sounded different from that of the Great Hornbill has the same style and it is also this call that attracted us to the birds' where about. But the huge bird well perched on the canopy and very high up could not be spotted. Nicest point is that when the series of calls ended, that signal the bird's changed in perching spot and we should be on a look out for the birds flying past in the direction where the call was last heard.

This is a graceful bird and I had no opportunity to be near a spot where the bird was perched for better pictures.

Record of bird's call:-    and Video:-

Helmeted Hornbill   # 01

Helmeted Hornbill   # 02

Helmeted Hornbill  # 03


Helmeted Hornbill   # 07



Bushy Crested Hornbill Anthracoceros albirostris convexus

 Size & diagnostic markings:- 90 cm. This is a good size Hornbill with rather dull looks from its dark plumage. Then an almost grey color tail with the ending part in black. Dark grayish head with round eye skin in pale light blue. Thick gray beak, medium length combined an short black casque.

 Distribution :-  This is another Hornbill found in Sumatra and Borneo island. This Hornbill can also be seen in peninsula Malaysia.
 Habitats & preferences:- Like most other Hornbills, this is a lowland forest bird preferring hills and this one can be seen in sub-montane forest as well. The particular habit of this Hornbill is that it may fly as a flock.
 In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- This bird seen in good numbers in Awana among the hills and in flock of 10 over birds. Also seen in Panti, a low land area with very low hills.
 My personal jottings :-

As mentioned above I had seen Hornbills in these 2 places and both locations the birds were in flock. In Awana, a place that I visited more often, the Hornbill were consistently there and could never miss their presence. They would be flying and as well as perched. However in last few years, their presence were erratic as well as the number of birds were very much less.

Record of bird's call:-    and Video:-


White-crowned Hornbill  Aceros comatus

 Size & diagnostic markings:- 100 cm. This is a rather bulky Hornbill though not the largest. Unmistakable, fluffy white head extended all the way to cover the crest and down the neck to the chest. Then more white on the underpart, vent and the rest of the tail. Wings is black and the bill blackish with a small casque.

 Distribution :-  This is another bird labeled as resident for the Island of Sumatra and Borneo. This bird is also found in the whole of peninsula Malaysia
 Habitats & preferences:- This is a lowland forest bird preferring very thick forest. Again in the hills but was never seen on high hills.
 In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- I was surprised by the bird presence on the ground level in Congkak, saw the bird in remote Merapoh and also up north in Sedim.
 My personal jottings :-

This is one Hornbill, I have difficulty in ascertaining the location and also the type of forest where this bird is likely to appear. Analyzing the circumstances I met up with the bird, they were all rather remote dense forest. Congkak was usually filled with picnickers. The day of my encounter would be one where the crowd was not present to coincide with my birding day. Again, that part of forest at that moment of time, was remote.

Record of bird's call:-    and Video:-


Hornbills are extra large birds which should make them easy to spot if the are around the area of the birding trail. Not necessary so! Birders may be fairly easy to detect the birds' presence once in the area reported with previous sightings but sighting, just the opposite  - very difficult.

With the exception of the Oriental-pied Hornbill, which is a bird of the coastal forest edge, most other Hornbills lived in deep forest. Though hearing their calls, they are likely to be at the canopy among thick foliages of an ancient tree. Or could be on the tall tree of hilltop some distance away. Easy to pin point the direction where the calls come from, their load calls travel long distances.

Having said that, first it is not difficult to track them down. As creatures of habit, they tend to forage within a familiar patch of forest. Therefore prior knowledge of their whereabouts is crucial. Then hopefully the bird is nearby that day, then wait for the Hornbill to leave their perch to scuttle to another location. A momentarily  glance of the bird flying past. The wait again, hopefully the bird on its next move would choose a visible spot.