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China Eco Tales: Guangxi’s aeroplane bird adds six new babies

Posted Date: Tuesday 27 October 2015    

It was a glorious moment when the female oriental pied hornbill broke the seal on her nest and, with the male hornbill standing guard nearby, she emerged, followed by her two fledglings one early morning in July.

Every year KCC works with the Xidamingshan Nature Reserve in Guangxi to monitor the oriental pied hornbills during their breeding season which starts in April. This year we had identified three nests (marked by holes in trees), one more than last year. KCC worked with the Reserve’s staff and local villagers to protect these nests, and by July six new baby birds had been spotted.

The male hornbill feeds the female and fledglings inside the sealed nest.

We had set camera traps near the nests and so were able to capture the exact moment when the birds with their babies first emerged from their nests.

The female hornbill breaks out of the nest cavity after being “imprisoned” behind a mud wall for over two months.

The first fledgling emerges while the male watches.

The second fledgling makes its way out of the cramped cavity.

Regurgitated seeds, dropped food, and oriental pied hornbill faeces collected as part of a KCC study on their diet.

Under the nesting cavities we had also put up nets to collect the birds’ faeces¸ regurgitated seeds and dropped food. These are analyzed to get a better understanding about what hornbills like to eat during the breeding season and this knowledge will help in our conservation work. The local Zhuang minority in Guangxi call these magnificent hornbills “aeroplane birds”. Sadly, there are only about 100 birds left in this area. But with special protection we hope to see flocks of hornbills flying here again in the near future.

More about KCC’s Oriental Pied Hornbill conservation project: