CHENNAI: A 12-year-old female Great Pied Hornbill, which was being held in captivity and was rescued by Forest Department officials from a resident of Auroville near Puducherry, was rehabilitated at the Vandalur zoo on Friday.
The bird has been released into a semi-circular enclosure with a 15 ft-high ceiling, which is sufficient for a bird of this kind. In order to keep it active, the zoo has provided enrichments such as a bamboo pole with three steps inside the enclosure at different levels. Similarly, perches of different sizes have been provided. This is for the first time a Great Pied Hornbill is being exhibited by the zoo.
It had grey hornbills during the period 1998-2005. Talking about the feed for the bird, officials at the zoo said cut fruits, rat and mice were provided to the bird.
The bird was friendly as it had already been tamed. Even on the first day, the cage keeper could go inside and feed it.
It took the fruits directly from the keeper’s hands. Unlike predatory birds, which pierce their prey, the Hornbill “gracefully” ate the rat and mice, they said. Saravanakumar, who has photographed and filmed the behaviour of hornbills in Anamalais as well as in the North-East, said hornbills were paired for life.
Explaining the unique features of hornbills, he said once the mother was ready to lay eggs, it would identify a hole in a tree where no predator could reach. The female bird would excavate the hole and go inside. Then it would close the hole using a paste, which was a mixture of mud and its droppings. The female would shed all its feathers while raising the chick. Once the chicks were ready to fly on their own, the mother would break the hole and come out, he added.