What do hornbills eat?
Hornbills are omnivores. In other words, they’ll eat anything they can catch, from lizards and small mammals to giant stick insects. The hornbills that live in Asia’s tropical forests eat a lot of fruit. Great hornbills and helmeted hornbills are very fond of figs and will gorge themselves when these trees when they are in fruit. As fruit eaters, hornbills perform a valuable role as seed dispersers, helping the forest to regenerate.
Hornbill family life
The nesting behaviour of most hornbills, including the great hornbill and helmeted hornbill, is unique among birds. When she is ready to lay eggs, the female hornbill enters the nest hole – typically a hollow in a mature tree – and, with the help of the male, walls herself in. Between them, they narrow the entrance in order to keep out predators and rival hornbills. The male works from the outside using compacted mud, while the female may use her own droppings as a kind of makeshift cement.
While she is imprisoned, which may be for several months, the female relies on the male to bring her food – and to feed the nestlings once they have hatched. The entrance to the nest hole is a narrow slit just wide enough to allow food to pass through. Males carry larger individual prey items back to the nest in their beak, but they also collect large quantities of fruit in their throat pouch and then – once back at the nest site – regurgitate them one by one before passing them to the female.