The Malabar Grey Hornbill, scientifically known as Ocyceros griseus, is a bird species native to the Western Ghats region of India, including parts of Kerala. Here are some key characteristics and information about the Malabar Grey Hornbill:
- Appearance: The Malabar Grey Hornbill is a medium-sized bird with a length of approximately 55 to 65 centimeters. It has a distinctive appearance with a greyish-black plumage and a prominent yellow bill. The bill is large and curved with a casque (a hollow structure) on the upper mandible. The female hornbill has a smaller casque compared to the male.
- Habitat: This species is primarily found in the moist evergreen and deciduous forests of the Western Ghats. It is commonly seen in the lowland and mid-elevation regions, up to an altitude of around 1,500 meters. The hornbills prefer dense forests with tall trees, as they rely on tree cavities for nesting.
- Feeding Habits: Malabar Grey Hornbills primarily feed on fruits, particularly figs, which make up a significant portion of their diet. They play an essential role in seed dispersal, as they consume fruits and excrete the seeds in different locations while perched on trees. They may also feed on insects, small vertebrates, and occasionally, nectar.
- Behavior: Malabar Grey Hornbills are generally found in pairs or small family groups. They are known for their distinctive call, which is a series of loud, high-pitched, and cackling notes. These birds are mainly arboreal and spend much of their time in trees, hopping from branch to branch. They have a unique flying style, characterized by flapping their wings in short bursts followed by gliding.
- Breeding: During the breeding season, Malabar Grey Hornbills engage in courtship displays, which involve various calls, wing-flapping, and bill-touching between mates. The female seals herself inside a tree cavity with a small narrow opening, where she incubates the eggs and cares for the chicks. The male feeds the female and chicks through a small opening in the cavity, regurgitating food for them.
- Conservation Status: The Malabar Grey Hornbill is currently listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. The destruction and fragmentation of its forest habitat pose significant threats to its population. Conservation efforts focusing on habitat protection and restoration are crucial for the long-term survival of this species.
The Malabar Grey Hornbill is a fascinating bird known for its unique appearance, behavior, and ecological role. Its presence adds to the biodiversity and natural beauty of the Western Ghats region, including Kerala.