Sulu hornbill

What does “rare” mean to you? For them, it’s a countdown starting from 27

Taylor and Francis, 1882 – Biodiversity Heritage Library

Sulu hornbill


What does “rare” mean to you? For them, it’s a countdown starting from 27

Population 27

The Sulu Hornbill stands as a poignant symbol of the urgent need for conservation action in the face of habitat loss and hunting pressures. Endemic to the lush rainforests of the Sulu archipelago in the Philippines, this charismatic bird teeters on the brink of extinction, with only 27 mature individuals remaining in the wild as of 2019—a stark reminder of the devastating impact of human activities on vulnerable species.

Once widespread across the Sulu archipelago, the Sulu Hornbill has suffered a dramatic decline in its population due to habitat loss and degradation caused by deforestation, logging, and agricultural expansion. Hunting pressures, particularly on the Jolo islands where the bird was previously found, have further exacerbated its plight. As a result, the remaining population is confined to fragmented forest patches, isolated from one another, and vulnerable to further declines.

Despite its precarious situation, the Sulu Hornbill has unique characteristics distinguishing it from its relatives. Sporting predominantly black plumage with a subtle hint of white near the tail, the Sulu Hornbill stands out thanks to its distinctive thick bill and the nasal cackling calls that echo through the forest canopy. These vocalizations serve as important communication signals within the small, isolated populations, facilitating social interactions and mate selection.

While the challenges facing the Sulu Hornbill are daunting, there is reason for cautious optimism. Conservation efforts focused on habitat protection, restoration, and community engagement have the potential to reverse the species’ decline and secure its long-term survival. Initiatives aimed at establishing protected areas, implementing sustainable land management practices, and raising awareness about the importance of biodiversity conservation are crucial steps towards safeguarding the future of this iconic bird.


Population est.
Official estimate

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Terrestrial / Aquatic

Altricial / Precocial

Polygamous / Monogamous

Dimorphic (size) / Monomorphic

Active: Diurnal / Nocturnal

Social behavior: Solitary / Pack / Herd / Flock

Diet: Carnivore / Herbivore / Omnivore / Piscivorous / Insectivore

Migratory: Yes / No

Domesticated: Yes / No

Dangerous: Yes / No