The next time you are in a park, keep an eye out for a greyish-looking bird having a horn-like bill. They are usually found perching on neem, pipal, banyan and gulmohar trees. Out of 54 species of Hornbills globally, nine are found in India and only one species, Indian Grey Hornbill, is found in Gujarat. They are common residents of north, central, and south Gujarat regions.
The Indian Grey Hornbill is known for its conjugal love relationship. The level of trust and bond they share is simply amazing. In Gujarati, the male Indian grey hornbill is fondly called vahughelo, meaning, a doting husband. Why? Because once the pair finds a nesting site in a tree hollow, the female sheds her flight feathers and stays inside the nest to hatch the eggs. Then, the male brings mud pellets to the female and she seals the entrance of the nest using them with her excreta. She keeps only one vertical slit open at the entrance to bring her beak out to get the food and shoot faeces far outside from that crack only. Thus, she entirely trusts her partner with her food requirements for about two months while using her shed feathers for layering the nest. Everyday, the male travels long distances to collect food and feeds the regurgitated food to the female, just like a young lover would go, “Crazy for you! I trust you with my life!”
This photo, clicked on the Ahmedabad University campus in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, is proof that these birds have taken well to city life. They are usually found in a pair or small group. It should be noted that Indian Grey Hornbills have changed their moving pattern in Gujarat. Before 1936, they were plentiful in the Gir forest during winter months which is reduced to a few isolated records in recent decades though their local migration pattern, if any, remains a phenomenon to be studied.
This is an excerpt of an article written by Jayendra Bhalodiya, Assistant Professor, School of Engineering and Applied Science, first appeared in Indian Express. Professor Bhalodiya is a passionate wildlife photographer, his favourite subjects being birds.