BirdLife: The Magazine Apr-Jun 2018 - Page 8

one to watch Caught in the crossfire This is the Rhinoceros Hornbill Buceros rhinoceros, its spectacular horn or “casque” having evolved as a resonating chamber to amplify its echoing, otherworldly call. And that’s not the only fascinating thing about it. This bird’s courtship involves the ultimate leap of faith. After the eggs are laid, the expectant parents wall up their hole in a tree trunk with a “cement” of mud, food and faeces – with the female inside. All that’s left is a tiny aperture, just large enough for the male to poke his beak through with food. But even this excessive safety measure can’t protect it from human encroachment upon the untouched, old-growth forests of Southeast Asia where it lives. And since hornbills nest in the largest trees, their homes are at the greatest risk from logging. Forest clearance then makes it easier for hunters to poach these birds, which are eaten, traded as pets or used in ceremonial dress by indigenous communities. But one of the most shocking threats comes from a case of mistaken identity. The Rhinoceros Hornbill is often mistaken for the Helmeted Hornbill, another member of the family whose unusual, solid casque is more valuable than ivory on the black market. Hunters are so desperate not to miss their chance at seizing one of these Critically Endangered birds that they will shoot at anything that bears a passing resemblance. Because of these pressures, the Rhinoceros Hornbill’s population is now suspected to be declining rapidly. As such, it is one of several species now being discussed on BirdLife’s Globally Threatened Bird Forums, where potential changes to the Red List in 2018 are proposed. We’re calling on all bird species experts to share their knowledge with us – go to globally-threatened-bird-forums.birdlife.org to contribute. Rhinoceros Hornbill Buceros rhinoceros Photo Shutterstock