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Dehradun, India

(Cuon alpinus)

IUCN status : Endangered

The Hornbills are a family of birds found in tropical and subtropical regions. With a long, curved bill and a bright upturned casque on the upper mandible, they arguably have the most interesting profile amongst their feathered brethren. They are known as the seed dispersers of the forest. Hornbills also distinguish themselves by being the only bird with eyelashes. The Oriental Pied Hornbill is a medium sized frugivore with a head-to-tail length of 55–60 cm and a wingspan of 23–36 cm.

Oriental Pied Hornbills pair for life. They nest in a suitable hole in a tall tree. While nesting, the female seals the hole with clay and feces, leaving only a small hole in the wall through which she can receive food from her mate. This wall protects her and her chicks from predators. During this period the male Hornbill is the only source of food for his mate and chicks. He transfers the food through regurgitation and can regurgitate up to 60 fruits in one go. Which signifies that if a male Hornbill dies during this period, his entire family suffocates to death.

The Oriental Pied Hornbill plays an important role in the health of the forest as it disperses seeds that are too big for smaller birds to eat. The Hornbill’s impressive bills double as climbing aids. They use it to climb up trees, like parrots. Hornbills also use their bills like a trowel. Female Hornbills set up their sealed nest purely with their large bills.

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