Helmeted hornbill

Rhinoplax vigil

SUBFAMILY

Bucerotinae

TAXONOMY

Rhinoplax vigil Forster, 1781, Sumatra. Monotypic. OTHER COMMON NAMES

English: Great-helmeted hornbill, solid-billed hornbill; French: Calao a casque rond; German: Schildschnabel; Spanish: Cálao de Yelmo.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

43.3-47.3 in (110-120 cm); female 5.742-6.25 lb (2.61-2.84 kg), male 6.73 lb (3.06 kg). Very large, dark brown and white with short red bill colored with preen oil; high casque and long, white tail feathers.

DISTRIBUTION

South Myanmar and south Thailand, Malaysia, Sumatra, and Borneo.

HABITAT

Rainforest bird preferring primary habitat below altitude of 4,900 ft (1,500 m) but capable of using selectively logged forest.

Rhinoplax vigil

H Resident

BEHAVIOR

Believed to be territorial. Distinctive loud call has a series of orientation "Tok" followed by a cascading laughter. Individuals of either sex occasionally engage in strange, aerial head-butting behaviors, especially near fruiting figs.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Appears to be a fig specialist. Studies in Malaysia, Borneo, and Sumatra confirm the diet to be 98-100% figs with up to 12 species of figs eaten regularly.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Little known. Reported to lay aseasonally but in southern Sumatra tends to fledge young in May/June.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Considered Near Threatened and listed on Appendix I of CITES. Locally common where habitat is intact but probably declining through most of its range due to hunting and forest destruction. Extinct in Singapore in 1950.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

One of the most significant species in traditional Southeast Asian cultures; strongly associated with head-hunting. Feathers and "ivory" are highly coveted for traditional dances and ceremonial decorations and although illegal, carved casques are still traded internationally. ♦

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