24 Dec

Hornbills (Bucerotidae) are a family of bird found in tropical and subtropical Africa, Asia and Melanesia. They are characterized by a long, down-curved bill which is frequently brightly coloured and sometimes has a casque on the upper mandible. Both the common English and the scientific name of the family refer to the shape of the bill, “buceros” being “cow horn” in Greek. Hornbills have a two-lobed kidney. They are the only birds in which the first and second neck vertebrae (the atlas and axis respectively) are fused together; this probably provides a more stable platform for carrying the bill.[1] The family is omnivorous, feeding on fruit and small animals. They are monogamous breeders nesting in natural cavities in trees and sometimes cliffs. A number of mainly insular species of hornbill with small ranges are threatened with extinction, namely in Southeast Asia.

In the Neotropical realm, toucans occupy the hornbills’ ecological niche, an example of convergent evolution. Despite their close appearances, the two groups are not related, with toucans being allied with the woodpeckers, honeyguides and several families of barbet, while hornbills (and their close relatives the ground hornbills) are allied with the hoopoes and wood-hoopoes.