Sunday, 6 July 2014

Hornbills 4: Von der Decken's Hornbill

Von der Decken's Hornbill (male)
The only African hornbills in the collection are rather smaller than the species I have covered up to now, and occupy a very different environment. The Von der Decken’s Hornbill, Tockus deckeni, is an aridland species associated with thorn scrub and similar habitats in East Africa, along the rift valley from Ethiopia south into Tanzania. In this habitat food is harder to come by than in Asian rainforest, and they feed mainly on the ground, taking fruit, seedpods, insects, and small vertebrates. With such a large range, and a lifestyle that makes it a bird that is opportunistic when it comes to taking advantage of resources that must be variable in location and availability, they seem to be surviving well at present, and are evaluated as Least Concern by the IUCN. The most likely threats are destruction of potential nesting trees and habitat fragmentation.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Hornbills 3: Tarictic Hornbill

P.panini Panini male Bristol Feb 2014
With an estimated world population of only 1800 birds, the Visayan Tarictic Hornbill Penolopides panini is probably one of the rarest hornbills in the world. Already one subspecies, P.panini ticaensis from the island of Ticao is extinct as a result of deforestation, despite being describes as “abundant” in 1905, which makes it the first known extinction in historic times of any hornbill taxon. Complicating the picture is that the species formerly included at least five other closely related species which have since been split. Unfortunately, before this was realised some had been crossed in the captive population, resulting in hybrids which were useless from a conservation point of view.

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Hornbills 2: Malayan Black Honbill

Female Black Hornbill, Bristol
Currently living next door to our Wrinkled Hornbill is  female Malayan Black Hornbill, Anthracoceros malayanus. A male is off show at the moment, but will hopefully join her shortly. They originate from South East Asia, which is a centre of diversity for the Bucerotiformes. Among the close relatives of hornbills are the hoopoes, kingfishers, rollers, and woodpeckers. Most of these were originally grouped together in the Coraciiformes, but these have now been split into separate orders.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Hornbills 1: Wrinkled Hornbill

Scattered around the zoo we have several pairs of various species of hornbills, the distinctive, medium-sized to large birds that are among the most recognisable of forest birds in the Old World tropics. With around 55 species currently recognised (although some of the island species in Asia may be split), the hornbills fall into two natural groups. One contains the gigantic, terrestrial-feeding ground hornbills Bucorvus and their close relatives the Trumpeter hornbills in Bycanistes, which are grouped in the Bucorvinae. The other subfamily is the Bucerotinae, which includes all the other species. Bucorvines are restricted to Africa, while the Bucerotines are found in both Africa and Asia. Sadly, we do not have any ground hornbills at Bristol, but they are reasonably common in zoos around the world.