Narcondam hornbill (Aceros narcondami)

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Male Narcondam hornbill
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Narcondam hornbill fact file

Narcondam hornbill description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderCoraciiformes
FamilyBucerotidae
GenusAceros (1)

With striking looks and unusual breeding habits, hornbills are fascinating birds (4). The Narcondam hornbill is a fairly small hornbill species, with a black body and distinct short, white tail. The sexes differ in appearance, with the larger male Narcondam hornbills having rufous plumage on their head, neck, and upper breast, whereas the females are black. The grand bill is yellowish-white with a dark crimson base (2), and atop the bill sits a horny ridge, or casque, a unique feature of all hornbills (4). The casque of the Narcondam hornbill has a wrinkled appearance and is coloured yellow and dark brown. The bare skin around the eye and on the throat is bluish-white. Juveniles are similar in appearance to males, but have smaller bills with no casque (2).

Also known as
Narcondam wreathed hornbill.
Spanish
Cálao de Narcondam.
Size
Length: 45 – 50 cm (2)
Male weight: 700 – 750 g (2)
Female weight: 600 – 750 g (2)
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Narcondam hornbill biology

Like many other hornbills (5), the Narcondam hornbill feeds mainly on fruit, with figs making up the majority of the diet (2). Their impressive beaks are used to reach ripe fruit, which is then tossed back into the gullet (5). At fruiting trees, groups consisting of up to 50 Narcondam hornbills may congregate (2).

In addition to their curious beaks, hornbills are noted for their peculiar breeding habits (4). During the breeding season, which extends between February and April, and following mating, female Narcondam hornbills squeeze into tree cavities, between 2 and 16 metres above the ground (2). The female then uses her own droppings to seal herself within the cavity, leaving only a thin slit open (4). Within this self-made prison, the female will remain for the duration of egg-laying and chick-rearing, leaving the male responsible for foraging and returning to the nest to feed the female through the narrow slit by regurgitation (2). During this time, the female also sheds her flight feathers and is incapable of flight (7). Narcondam hornbills usually lay two eggs, generally around ten days apart (2).

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Narcondam hornbill range

Inhabits Narcondam Island, one of the Andaman Islands, in the Bay of Bengal (2).

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Narcondam hornbill habitat

The Narcondam hornbill inhabits fairly open, mixed evergreen and deciduous forest, which covers most of the island, and dense bush. It can be found from the coast up to the island’s summit at 750 metres (2).

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Narcondam hornbill status

Classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List (1) and listed on Appendix II of CITES (3).

IUCN Red List species status – Endangered

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Narcondam hornbill threats

Narcondam Island covers an area of only seven square kilometres (6), and thus the population of Narcondam hornbills is intrinsically small (2). Small populations restricted to tiny areas are always incredibly vulnerable to the impacts of any threats that may befall them. The most immediate threat the Narcondam hornbill faces is habitat deterioration (2). In 1969, a small police outpost was established on the island, leading to the loss of forest to create the post, a plantation of fruit trees, and vegetable plots (2) (7), and further trees are cut each year for firewood and intermittent maintenance purposes (7). Goats were also introduced to the island and their grazing has now eliminated most of the undergrowth and seedlings (2), significantly reducing natural forest regeneration (7). Feral cats, also introduced, are now abundant, but their impact on the Narcondam hornbill is not yet known (2), and around 25 to 40 Narcondam hornbills are thought to be hunted each year, although this is not believed to be a serious threat given the rate of breeding (2) (7). Nature brings its own problems for the Narcondam hornbill; the small, restricted population is susceptible to both disease and natural disasters, such as cyclones, which can fell large and important nesting trees (7).

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Narcondam hornbill conservation

Narcondam Island has been declared a wildlife sanctuary and the police personnel on the island have been given strict instructions not to hunt the threatened hornbill (7). However, to ensure the long-term survival of the Narcondam hornbill, stricter conservation measures are required. As a priority, all introduced species, especially goats, should be removed from the island (2), and cooking fuel should be provided to the island’s inhabitants to eliminate their need for fuelwood (7). To lessen the threat of natural disasters, it has been recommended that the possibility of establishing a second population on a nearby island should be investigated (7).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
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Find out more

For further information on the Narcondam hornbill see:

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Authentication

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

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Glossary

Deciduous
A plant that sheds its leaves at the end of the growing season.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (May, 2009)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org
  2. del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J. (2001) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Vol. 6: Mousebirds to Hornbills. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  3. CITES (June, 2007)
    http://www.cites.org
  4. Raman, T.R.S. and Mudappa, D. (1998) Hornbills: giants among the forest birds. Resonance, 3(8): 56 - 65.
  5. Burnie, D. (2001) Animal. Dorling Kindersley, London.
  6. BirdLife International (May, 2009)
    http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/species/index.html?action=SpcHTMDetails.asp&sid=970&m=0
  7. Sanctuary Asia (April, 2008)
    http://www.sanctuaryasia.com
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Image credit

Male Narcondam hornbill  
Male Narcondam hornbill

© Niranjan Sant

Niranjan Sant
niranjansant@yahoo.co.uk

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