Manipal birds: the Malabar Pied Hornbill

The Malabar Pied Hornbill is a massive bird, almost a meter long from beak to tail and with a wingspan of nearly 2 meters. To see one is a sight to behold, small branches literally break off as they are unable to support the weight of the bird. In flight, the huge wings make a whirring helicopter like sound each time they flap.

Manipal, in my estimate currently holds a population of about 40 of these birds in peak season. The population is entirely reliant on the welfare of old forests with massive tree species such as fig (Banyan and Peepal, for example). The rapid deforestation rates in the region, a recent example being the Udupi valley (next to Syndicate Circle), where a few of these birds would occasionally be seen has ensured that breeding populations now struggle to survive in very small restricted areas – which still support these old forests and are devoid of too much disturbance. The valley behind the MIT hostels (under massive threat from college authorities and construction mafia) and the area around Alevoor Road and TAPMI campus are now the only two locations where these birds are regularly spotted.

The best time to see this bird is from July to October when post breeding dispersal occurs and large congregations of these beauties can be seen, such as this one with 10 birds on a single Casuarina tree on 26th September 2010:


PS. For more photos, click here

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