Rufous hornbill

Because of its regular midday chime, it is often referred to as “the clock of the mountains”

Magalhães

Commonly known as the Philippine Hornbill and locally called “kalaw,” it is one of the most striking and culturally significant birds found in the Philippines. It is easily recognizable by its large size and colorful morphology. Adults can grow up to about 60 centimeters long, making them one of the larger hornbill species. The males are particularly colorful, with a bright orange beak and a casque (a prominent structure on top of the beak) atop their white and orange heads. Their body is predominantly black with a white tail. Females, while slightly less colorful, also feature a large beak and casque but tend to have more subdued hues in comparison to the males.

This bird is endemic to the Philippines, meaning it’s found nowhere else in the world. It prefers the primary rainforests of larger islands such as Luzon, Mindanao, Samar, and Leyte. The Rufous hornbill is a vital part of these ecosystems, residing mostly in the upper canopy, where it has access to a plethora of fruit-bearing trees.

One of the most fascinating aspects of Rufous hornbill behavior is their breeding ritual. They are known for their unique nesting habits, where the female seals herself inside a tree cavity with mud, droppings, and fruit pulp, leaving only a small slit through which the male feeds her and, eventually, the chicks. This process, which can last up to four months, protects the eggs and young chicks from predators. This level of parental investment is rare among birds and highlights the unique adaptations of hornbills.

Distribution

Country
Population est.
Status
Year
Comments
Philippines
1,800
Official estimate
VU
2020

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Terrestrial / Aquatic

Altricial / Precocial

Polygamous / Monogamous

Dimorphic (size) / Monomorphic

Active: Diurnal / Nocturnal

Social behavior: Solitary / Pack / Herd / Flock

Diet: Carnivore / Frugivore / Omnivore / Piscivorous / Insectivore

Migratory: Yes / No

Domesticated: Yes / No

Dangerous: Yes / No