Coraciiformes TAG

Coraciiformes Taxon Advisory Group -

Rhinoceros Hornbill (Buceros rhinoceros)
SSP Manager: Rachel Miller - Santa Barbara Zoo


The rhinoceros hornbill is a very large, primarily black bird with a white tail and a thick, black band near the center of the tail feathers. They have a large, bony casque and a lightweight but strong bill comprised of a dense covering over a sponge-like cellular tissue. Both the beak and casque are naturally white, but over the course of time they are stained orange and red by rubbing their beak against a gland beneath their tail. The thighs and abdomen are white in color. The circumorbital skin is black, the eyes are red in the male and white in the female. The legs and feet are olive-green. The overall body length including tail is approximately 47 inches with a wingspan measuring approximately 60 inches. The males are slightly heavier, weighing in at 6.4 pounds compared to 4.5 to 5.2 pounds for the female.


Primary threats to the population of rhinoceros hornbills are loss of habitat, poaching for the feathers and live bird market, and hunting for food. They are CITES listed as a Species at Risk (IUCN Lower Risk/Near Threatened).


The range of the rhinoceros hornbill extends into the Malay peninsula, western Indonesia, Borneo, Java, and Sumatra.


The habitat is primarily dense lowland evergreen forest (excluding swamp forests), hill dipterocarp forest and sections of logged forests.


Rhinoceros hornbills are typically observed in a pair, although it is common for them to be observed flocking in small parties while foraging for food. Within the flock, the pairs of birds remain together and the males will routinely feed the female to maintain the pair-bond. During the breeding season, both members of the pair defend their territory, advertising their presence with loud, trumpeting calls.



The breeding season in the wild last from January until April. The pairs begin by searching for a available nest cavity in a tree trunk or primary branch. The pair search for the nesting site that has the smallest opening through which the female is able to squeeze through. When the site has been chosen, the female will enter the cavity and both birds will seal the entrance to the cavity, leaving only a slit large enough for food to passed into the nest and fecal material to be ejected from the nest. The sealing material is a mixture of feces, food and mud. At this point, one to two white eggs will be laid in the nest and the female will incubate for around 40 days. During the period that the female is sealed inside the nest, she will undergo a complete molt of all flight feathers.

As the chicks reach a month in age, the female will break out of the nest leaving the chicks inside. After the female has left the nest, the chicks work to reseal the entrance. Both parents will continue to care for the chicks inside the nest until they reach 80 days of age, at which time the chicks will break the seal and leave the nest. Offspring are fed by the parents for another six months after fledging from the nest.


The diet in the wild consists of primarily fruit, but also will include small mammals, lizards, snakes, and insects. Figs make up a significant portion of the diet in the wild. Rhinoceros hornbills play a significant role in dispersing seeds from numerous fruit trees. The seeds are deposited in the fecal material after the remainder of the fruit has been digested.

In captivity, the diet is composed of low-iron pellets, various types of fruits and vegetables, insects, and rodents. Like several other species, the rhinoceros hornbill can be susceptable to iron storage disease. The majority of the fluids in the diet are obtained through the diet items.



Rhinoceros Hornbill Gallery

Rhinoceros Hornbill Bibliography