The great hornbill, also known as the great Indian hornbill, is one of the larger members of this family. Moreover, its impressive size and color made it important in many tribal cultures and rituals. In fact, this bird is called homrai and banrao in Nepal, both meaning “the king of the forest”!

great hornbill

Where can we find the great hornbill?

Found in the forests of India, this beauty occurs in Bhutan, Nepal, Southeast Asia, Sumatra, and the Northeastern region of India. In fact, it even lives in the forests along the Himalayas! However, its distribution extends all the way to Thailand, Burma, Malaya, and Sumatra. Finally, the bird inhabits moist dense old-growth forests in hilly regions.

How does the great hornbill look?

Due to its importance in tribal cultures and rituals, this bird is truly beautiful. However, female hornbills are smaller than males and have bluish-white instead of red eyes. Of course, the most notable feature is the bright yellow and black casque on the top of its massive bill. Although the casque has no purpose, it is believed to be the result of sexual selection. Finally, as the heaviest Asian hornbill, it weighs up to 8,8 pounds and grows between 37 and 51 inches.

great hornbill


As a herbivore, the great hornbill’s diet consists mainly of fruit. However, like the Indian flying fox, this bird’s favorite fruit is figs, in fact, many different types of them. Yet, it will also feed on small mammals, birds, small reptiles, and insects. Finally, since eating a variety of fruits that consist of water, this bird has no need to drink it.


Just like Lear’s macaws and Mandarin ducks, great hornbills are also monogamous, forming long-lasting bonds. During the breeding season which lasts from January to April, these birds sing to each other love songs, just like Siamang gibbons! The female is the one that builds the nest, while the male provides food for the chicks. Therefore, the clutch consists of one to two eggs, which are incubated for 38 to 40 days. Finally, both parents feed the chicks until they become fully independent, after 72 to 96 days.

Did you know the prominent eyelashes of the great hornbill are actually modified feathers?

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