Hornbills are pretty birds with those dark eyes and long eyelashes any woman would love to have. They are also very recognizable with their big curved bills with a casque that tops it as well. With some as small as a pigeon and others with almost 2 meters in wingspan there is a great range in size too. In general, they are a mix of grey, white and black or brown feathers but then they have a bright bill face and casque depending on the variety of Hornbill. In many, the appearance of the female is one thing and the male is another.
The casque and bill in younger Hornbills are less developed, and in females, it is often smaller than in the male. This could be because males will use it to try and attract a female and show other males they are stronger. Some males even use it in their fights with other males in mid-flight. Otherwise, the casque is actually a spongy structure or even hollow and is made from keratin the same thing that makes up our nails. Experts think it is there to make their voice louder as it acts like a vibrating chamber. That call varies from one blue hornbill bird to another species, from cackles to brays, bellows and toots. The one hornbill that is different is the helmeted hornbill found in Borneo with a dense and heavy casque.
The hornbill and other wildlife
It is quite fascinating how Hornbills and other wildlife interact in various parts of the world. Dwarf mongooses work with eastern yellow-billed hornbill in order to gather food. The mongoose will wait for the hornbill to get there. If the hornbill is there and the mongoose is not the bird will call at the burrow to get them out! When the mongoose forages the hornbill birds follow and eat the insects that come out as a result. What does the mongoose get out of it? The hornbill warns them when danger is approaching! Another example is the red-billed dwarf hornbill that eats ants that are disturbed by foraging squirrels. Then in Asia and Africa bears and elephants create perfect sites for hornbills to nest in when they knock down branches.
What do they eat?
For the most part, the blue hornbill bird and other hornbills are omnivorous meaning it eats insects and fruit and even smaller wildlife. The tip of their bill can lift animals from the ground or fruit from trees. The edges are good to tear with and grasp. There are two hornbills that do not follow that trend, the southern ground hornbill and the Abyssinian hornbill. These are carnivorous birds and eat frogs, rodents, and even venomous snakes. Wherever they are in the world hornbills are diurnal, they will get up with the sun, preen, chat, and go to get breakfast. Then preen and do more of the same throughout the day. They will also rub their casque and bill on branches to clean them.