Recent sightings of the Indian Grey Hornbill in city limits is cause for much cheer

There was a loud and heavy flapping near an old and thick Banyan (Ficus benghalensis) tree growing in a village in Hoskote, just off Old Madras Road, where we had recently gone bird watching. We peered up at a large hole high up in the trunk of the tree, where an Indian Grey Hornbill (Ocyceros birostris) had nested. Looking up at the hollow we noticed that the entrance had been sealed, through which the male bird was feeding the female, who was obviously incubating her eggs. We crept away so as not to disturb them and watched through binoculars from a safe distance.

Similar sightings have been voiced by other bird lovers across the city. With great excitement, Deepa Mohan, a bird lover, who organises children’s nature walks, revealed, “I went to Puttenahalli Lake yesterday with a friend to try out my new binoculars, and to do a recce for a children’s nature walk I am doing there. We saw an Indian Grey Hornbill fly across the lake and go and settle in the foliage of an African Tulip near the western end of the lake.  The closest I have seen these birds before is in the Valley School area.”

The birds are not commonly found within the city limits, but with Bangalore’s boundaries expanding by leaps and bounds they have been sighted in the quieter areas, which still boast of a few large and old trees, much to the delight of bird lovers.

“There are a couple of Indian Grey Horn bills at Hulimangala.... usually seen near a lonely big old tree next to the lake,” says Swaroop Bharadwaj another birder from the city.

With its abundance of trees, Bangalore University is another great spot to see the magnificent birds. “I have seen a pair in Bangalore University Mysore Road side. And have frequently seen several in Kukrahalli Kere which is in Mysore,” says Saandip Nandagudi.

The birds are arboreal, hardly ever alighting on the ground and most often are seen in pairs. Grey in colour the Indian Grey Hornbill has a black or dark grey curved and prominent beak. They are one of the few hornbill species found within urban areas in many cities, where they are able to make their nests in the trunks of large avenue trees.

Indian Grey Hornbill sightings seem to be excitingly on the rise for bird lovers. In the past they were found only from Valley School in the South and from Hessarghatta in the north but there have been recent reports on a birding fora that the birds have been spotted in Lalbagh and also in Sahakarnagar.

They require large and old trees to nest in which Bangalore has lost over the years with uncontrolled felling of all our avenue trees. But the fact that they are making a come back into our city, is exciting and holds the promise of hope for all avid bird lovers.