Indian Grey Hornbills and Malabar Grey Hornbills are the common type of Hornbills seen in India. There are nearly ten types of hornbills seen in India but the Indian grey hornbill,Malabar grey horn bill, Malabar pied hornbills, Great Hornbills are the common types seen. They are wide spread in the western Ghats, and also eastern Indian forests. Hornbills are charecterised by their horn like beak and pied hornbills have a casque on their upper mandible. The beak is coloured and the bird is blackish grey .
Hornbills Have a unique breeding pattern. They are monogamous, and select a cavity in a tall tree for nesting.They make their nest and then seal the cavity with mud,fruit pulp,its droppings etc and when complete has an opening for the female bird to just squeeze inside. After the female enters the nest, the male completely seals the nest and there is one small opening for feeding the inmate bird. Now the male feeds the female and female lays 4-6 eggs. Once inside the nest ,the female undergoes complete moult by shedding all its feathers and it incubates the eggs and then the chicks. At this stage it is totally dependent on the male bird. If something happens to the male bird and if it dies, then the entire family dies. This female bird cannot fly and cannot feed the chicks also. When the chicks are sufficiently grown the female breaks open the nest and comes out and both feed the young. Some opine that the female cannot break open the nest on its own and when it is time to come out the male bird breaks the nest from outside. The cycle lasts for 60 days. In this period they fight several adversities including predator attacks, snakes, poaching humans (and Photographers of course).
During the nesting the male bird feeds the female and the chicks with a variety of fruits, estimated to be more than 30 different types and also small insects,lizards etc. It travels long distances in search of food. The fruits are held in its throat and when it reaches nest it regurgitates the fruit one by one from its pharynx to its beak and feeds the inmates. The female do not come out except putting its beak out .
These birds use the same tree and nest for the future breeding also and come back to same point in their next breeding cycle.
This picture shows a malabar grey hornbill feeding into its nest.
A malabar pied Hornbill at Dandeli forest
Few other photos taken at Dandeli can also viewed here by clicking this link or the photo below.