ATR - Day 81: Spent some time with Great Indian Hornbills, left for Hampi to visit the Daroji Sloth Bear Sanctuary
We spent much of the day shooting Great Indian Hornbills before leaving for Hampi in District Vijayanagara of Karnataka so that we could visit Asia’s first sloth bear sanctuary tomorrow.
December 20, 2023
Wednesday, 11:30 PM
Pompayya Malemath Homestay,
In the morning, we went to the same place as we did yesterday to shoot Oriental pied hornbills, and this time it was in the light of the day, so we good some good pictures and footage of the hornbills. And then we proceeded to see the Great Indian Hornbill, which is an interesting bird, owning to its unusual nesting ritual aside from its very colourful appearance and plumage.
The Great Indian Hornbill (Buceros bicornis) is a large bird, measuring 112–150 cm and weighing from about 2.1 kg to 3.9 kg. It is native to the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia, and is also called “the great pied hornbill” and “the concave-casqued hornbill”. They are primarily frugivorous but can also make a meal of small mammals, reptiles, birds, and insects.
The most interesting aspect of the Great Indian Hornbill, at least to me, is its nesting ritual. It makes a nest in the cavities of large trees between January and April ever year and the female lays one or two eggs in it. After the mating partners are picked, the female goes into the nest made in the hollow of a large tree and does not emerge before the eggs hatch. The opening of the nest is shut with a plaster made mainly of feaces and mud.
The female remains inside the nest, sealed, and depends completely on the male to bring food, which the male does on regular basis to the best of its ability. During the period of stay in the nest, the female goes into a full moult, shedding all its plumage to grow a new one later. The feeding that the male has to undertake is physically arduous and in some cases, the male does not survive the process and dies either during the nesting or soon after. If the male dies before the female emerges from the nest, the female is most likely to die inside the nest because it doesn’t emerge before time. For the entire duration of nesting that lasts about two to four months, the female hornbill is fed by her mate through a slit in the seal. Female hornbill lays her one to two eggs in the nest and when the eggs hatch and the chicks emerge, they remain inside the nest with their mother and all the inhabitant so of the next — mother and chicks — are fed by the male hornbill until the chicks are partially developed.
The Great Indian Hornbill faces existential threat from habitat loss as well as hunting. Since these hornbills return to their past nests for repeated nesting, felling of the trees that house hornbills nest adds to the threat to their existence. The habitat loss makes the Great Indian Hornbill reproduce in smaller numbers, which position is further worsened by predation by other birds, like eagles and owls, but that’s part of the natural process and must not be interfered with. All we need to do is try preventing the felling of trees and further degradation of natural habitats of birds and animals.
After shooting the hornbills, we returned to the resort, packed and left for Hampi in District Vijayanagara of Karnataka. We checked into Pompayya ji’s homestay, which is a simple place to live in the evening. We are here to visit the Daroji Sloth Bear Sanctuary in District Ballari of Karnataka and is Asia’s first sloth bear sanctuary.