Conservation Status: CRITICALLY ENDANGERED
This funny looking hornbill with a massive casque (helmetlike structure on the head) and a wrinkled throat patch is known as the helmeted hornbill. It is a very large bird in the hornbill family and can be found on the Malay Peninsula, Sumatra, and Borneo.
The solid casque consists of 11% of its 3 kg weight and is used in head-to-head combat among males– a behavior that is not observed among any other hornbills.
A blackish plumage covers most of its body, except the belly and the legs that are white. Its tail is white with a black band near the tip of each feather and the two central tail feathers are much longer than the others, resulting in a total length greater than that of any other hornbill species. However, they weigh a bit less than the great hornbill compared to the largest Asian hornbill and considerably less than the African ground hornbills. Also, the wrinkled throat patch can be used to identify the bird’s gender; it is pale blue to greenish in females and red in males.
Helmeted hornbills eat mostly fruit, especially figs. It may also use the casque as a weighted tool to dig into rotten wood and loose bark in search of insects and similar prey. Unlike many fruit-eating hornbills, it is sedentary, and pairs maintain a territory. Males fight over territory on the wing, ramming each other with their casques.
This unique species, however, is critically endangered. After ongoing hunting pressure and habitat loss, the helmeted hornbill was uplisted from near threatened to critically endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species in 2015.
- “Rhinoplax Vigil (Helmeted Hornbill)”. Iucnredlist.Org, http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/22682464/0. Accessed 27 Dec 2016.
- Colwell, Mary. “The Bird That’s More Valuable Than Ivory”. BBC News, 2015, https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-34504217. Accessed 26 Dec 2016.