In the states located in North East India, tourists just cannot have enough of exploring natural diversity and wildlife. From the one horned rhino to endangered Pygmy Hogs, the variety can be absolutely mesmerizing. However, the majestic hornbills remain a major attraction for wildlife loving tourists exploring the region. These large sized birds are as magnificent as they are peculiar. Their calls resembling cackle and growl can leave the viewers startled at times! Their brightly-colored beaks, unique nesting habits and long eyelashes make them hog attention over other avian species. Most species feature a loose skin pouch at throat which is used for carrying food.
Hornbills found in North East India
Among the 9 Hornbill variants found in India, 5 of them are found mostly in the northeastern states. Owing to hunting by tribals, human encroachment in their habitats and reducing forest cover, some of these species are heading towards being listed as endangered.
Below listed are top Hornbill species found in Northeast India:
White-throated Brown Hornbill
This midsized hornbill species has dark brown head and back. The male hornbills have white neck. Around the eyes, the birds have a blue patch. The tail is usually brownish-black and has broad white tips. They can grow up to 80 cm and weigh around 710 - 900 g. Their call is a mixture of chuckles and repeated screams.
This hornbill is found in the hilly regions of Manipur, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and Assam. They live mostly in evergreen forests. The white-throated brown hornbill eats small vertebrates, mollusks and arthropods. They also like gorging on figs and berries.
In India, this hornbill variant is deemed as endangered. It is a large sized bird with the male ones growing up to 122 cm and weighing 2.5 kg. The female ones tend to be smaller in size. This species lives in hilly evergreen forest above 500 meters. The females are blackish while male birds have brownish body and dark green wings.
Rufous-necked hornbill is found mostly in parts of Mizoram and Assam. It is also frequently seen in some protected regions of Arunachal Pradesh like Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary and Namdapha Tiger Reserve. These hornbills are hunted more than others by tribals for their beak and feathers. They feed on fruits and insects.
Great hornbills are the biggest sized hornbills found in India. The males can weigh as much as 3.9 kg and grow up to 150 cm. This bird has a white tail featuring horizontal black band. The wing edges are also whitish. They also have red skin around the eyes. There is a large yellow beak and casque too. Great hornbills make reverberating loud calls which can be heard from far away.
The Great hornbills eat mostly fruits but they also feast on insects, small rodents and reptiles. They are especially fond of eating figs. These large birds can be spotted in Manas and Kaziranga and National park. They are also seen in Namdapha Tiger Reserve.
Found mostly in lowland foothills in North East India, Wreathed Hornbill has a tendency to migrate seasonally to higher elevations. The male birds can be large and weigh up to 3.65 kg with an average length of 117 cm. They have mostly blackish feather and the tail is fully white. The male ones have bright yellow throat and chestnut-brown head. Female birds have bright blue throat. They make very loud calls with three notes.
Wreathed Hornbill eats fruits in general. However, in breeding seasons the birds gorge on crabs and insects too. It is seen mostly in Manas National Park, Namdapha and Pakke Tiger Reserve.
Oriental Pied Hornbill
The Oriental pied hornbill looks similar to Malabar pied hornbill but there are subtle differences between the two species. It is relatively smaller than other hornbills spotted in India. An adult bird grows up to 85 cm and weighs close to 1 kg. It is also blackish and makes noisy calls. Both male and female birds have pale blue skin encircling the eye region.
The Oriental pied hornbill likes evergreen and moist deciduous forests and agricultural fields. It is seen mostly in Pakke Tiger Reserve and Nameri national park. This variant does not rely on primary forests for both breeding and food. They eat both fruits and insects.