Anthracoceros – Black hornbills

Greek words that mean 'coal-black' and 'horn' conceptualized their name

Black hornbills are noted for their predominantly black plumage, which imparts an air of sophistication and mystery. This genus, consisting of five species, is native to various parts of Asia, and each species is a testament to the diverse avian life that thrives in these regions.

The Palawan Hornbill (Anthracoceros marchei), for example, is an exemplar of this elegance, with its striking contrast of black feathers and the distinctive white accents near the tail region. These birds exude an aura of grace, enhanced by the gleaming white tips of their tails that flash dramatically during flight.

Anthracoceros hornbills share a close evolutionary relationship with the genus Ocyceros, specifically the Indian Grey Hornbill. They are considered sister taxa, forming a clade indicative of their shared lineage. This relationship is evident not only in their genetic makeup but also in their physical resemblance, with both genera sporting a similar sleek contour in their feathers.

These hornbills have a commanding presence, not only because of their appearance but also due to their significant size. They are well-adapted to life in the forest canopy, where their dark feathers blend seamlessly with the shadows, providing them with camouflage from potential predators.

Anthracoceros hornbill’s diet consists largely of fruit, which makes them vital seed dispersers in their ecosystems. However, they are also known to consume insects, small reptiles, and even small mammals, highlighting their role as predators and their importance in maintaining the ecological balance.

The breeding habits of black hornbills are fascinating and complex. Like other hornbills, they engage in a unique nesting behavior where the female is sealed within a tree cavity, leaving only a narrow slit through which the male feeds her and the chicks. This remarkable adaptation ensures the safety and security of the offspring but also places a great responsibility on the male to provide for his family during this period.