March 26, 2016 – Helmeted Hornbill (Rhinoplax vigil)

800th Bird

Found in Southeast Asia, these large hornbills have solid ivory-like casques, unlike the hollow casques of other hornbill species. Males sometimes fight in the air, clacking their casques together, probably in conflict over access to food. They eat mostly fruit, especially figs, along with some small mammals, snakes, and birds. Like other species of hornbill, they nest in tree cavities, where males seal the females inside the hollows during incubation, feeding them through a small opening. After the chicks hatch, females break out and reseal the cavity until the chicks fledge. Deforestation and forest fires have lead to population decreases. They are also hunted for their casques, which are used for carving, like ivory, and for their tail feathers. These extreme threats to their population, along with their slow breeding cycle have led to their conservation status recently changing from Near Threatened to Critically Endangered.