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What Is a Rhinoceros Hornbill?

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  • Written By: Steve R.
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 18 August 2014
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The rhinoceros hornbill is a mostly black bird that stands 30 to 35 inches (about 76 to 89 centimeters) high. Native to Malaysia, Sumatra, Borne, and Thailand, the rhinoceros hornbill makes its home in lowland forests that have trees capable of hosting nests. Capable of living more than 30 years, the bird is noted for its prominent casque, a unique helmet-like structure that grows on its beak.

The casque is lightweight, but made of strong, bony material. Naturally white, the protuberance takes up to six years to fully mature. During the course of the rhinoceros hornbill’s life, the casque often turns bright colors. The bird persistently rubs its beak against a gland on it body that exudes orange and red liquid. Also, the structure aids in resonating the bird’s loud shrieks.

The diet of the rhinoceros hornbill consists mainly of fruit, especially figs. The bird also eats insects, nuts, small mammals, and lizards. A rhinoceros hornbill also serves unintentionally as a seed dispenser. After eating entire fruits, including seeds, the bird will fly long distances and scatter the seeds in its waste products.

Possessing a wing span of 60 inches (about 152 centimeters), the bird contains dark feathers on its head, back, and wings. The bird’s underside is white. As adults, the birds weigh approximately 6.5 pounds (about 3 kilograms) with the females weighing slightly less. Females have red eyes, while males sport white eyes.

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A male will typically court a female by giving her food. The pair will chose a nest high up in a tree. Chosen nesting sites will contain just a tiny hole that a female can fit through. After the female enters the nesting area, the male fills in the hole with mud and feces to protect the nest against potential predators. Only an area large enough for the male to pass along food inside will remain visible.

The breeding season runs from January until April. Inside the nesting area, the female will lay up to three white eggs. In approximately 40 days, the eggs hatch. While inside the nesting area the female will shed most of her feathers.

A month after giving birth, the female comes out of the shelter, leaving the young birds inside. The male and female will feed their young for up to 80 days inside the nest. Soon after, the chicks break free from the nest. The young are fed for the next six months. Once they are capable of flying, the young leave their parents.

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