‘Til death do they part: Hornbill nesting mates

Great Hornbills are a common sight in Khao Yai, thanks to the protection afforded by the national park. Lucky visitors may even catch a glimpse of the birds nesting high in the trees.

Female hornbills will usually nest in tree hollows like this one, blocking up the entrance with bark, dirt and droppings, leaving only a small opening for her mate to deliver food.

Normally, she will incubate her eggs for around 40 days and stay with her chicks until they are semi-developed. The total rearing cycle usually takes 120 days.

Biologists are concerned that climate change may be affecting the breeding cycles of Khao Yai’s Great Hornbills. Their research suggests the total duration of chick rearing has recently increased by 20 days, to a total of 140 days.

Increasing temperatures aren’t the only threat to Khao Yai’s Great Hornbills. Demand from the exotic pet trade makes hornbills a target of poachers and wildlife traffickers. Their unique beaks are also highly sought after.

Great Hornbill Skull and Beak
Great Hornbill Skull and Beak

If a male is captured or killed during the nesting period, the female won’t abandon her young, even if it means starving to death.

Protecting hornbill families from poachers and ensuring intact and healthy forest for them to forage and nest in is crucial to the survival of this colourful species.

According to the IUCN Redlist of Threatened Species, the Great Hornbill is “declining moderately rapidly throughout its range” and is now “generally scarce” in Thailand.


7 thoughts on “‘Til death do they part: Hornbill nesting mates

  1. a great hornbill nesting near our office. 2 days ago when the male was feeding the female, we heard gun shot. we saw him panicking and flew towards where the shot came from. yesterday and today we observe he did not come to feed his female. we suspect the worst. what are we to do? do you have any suggestions ?. Is there anyway to save the female inside the nest?.

    1. Sri Sari, contact a local wildlife expert before taking any action. Depending on your location, a government agency or university department may be able to assist or at least advise you if anything can be done.

  2. Can any one tell me more about great Hornbill behaviours such as do they live as a group or as only with partner? And how many kinds of Hornbill are there in the world?

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