Image Source: Wikimedia Commons. By: Gerbil.

Today’s Creature Feature takes us to the rainforests of the Philippines, where we will find a very noisy bird with a rather unique appearance.

The Rufous-headed Hornbill (also known as the Visayan Wrinkled Hornbill, Walden’s Hornbill, or the Writhed-billed Hornbill) is a Critically Endangered species that can be found on the islands of Negros and Panay. They are omnivores, preferring to feed on animal matter, figs and other fruits. They make their nests in the hollows of tree trunks and tend to live in small groups, so you can imagine the kind of noise they might create.

Despite their nesting habits, Rufous-headed Hornbills are very slow breeders. In other words, it can take them quite some time to produce any offspring. Unfortunately, this very thing is responsible for their decline: since they don’t breed as often as other birds, they are more vulnerable to predators, hunting, and habitat loss.

Although reports claim the Rufous-headed Hornbill can be found on both Negros and Panay, only Panay has recent documentation on breeding pairs. With the lack of information from Negros, it’s believed the birds may already be extinct there. Some claim there are approximately 160 of these birds left in the world, while others say there are about 500 breeding pairs on Panay. Either way, these birds are in dire straits.

Deforestation is the biggest threat to their survival. It led to their extinction on the island of Guimaras and to its severely fragmented population elsewhere. Nest poaching is also a major threat to these Hornbills. People will take the eggs (and sometimes the mother) and either eat them or make them part of the local bird trade. Fortunately, about 2/3rds of the broods in the Central Panay Mountain Range are under watch/protection. Unfortunately, until the protection can be expanded, the remaining 1/3rd is still vulnerable to poaching.

To find out more about the Rufous-headed Hornbill, check out these links:

BirdLife International
Arkive
The Internet Bird Collection
Stiftung Artenschutz: Saving Hornbills in the Philippines
MongaBay
Hornvogel
PESCP Hornbill Conservation

By Heidi Marshall