In a rare sighting, the Indian grey hornbill (Ocyceros birostris), often found in urban settings, was recently sighted by a bird enthusiast from the Nature and Wildlife Forums in Koodapakkam, near the Sankarabarani river in Puducherry.
Though the bird, the smallest in the Hornbill family has been previously sighted in the Jawadhu Hills in Tiruvannamalai district, the Kalvarayan Hills in Dharmapuri district, the Western Ghats, and at the Adyar Estuary in Chennai in the recent past, this is said to be the first sighting of the bird from Puducherry.
Bird enthusiast M.S. Lara alias Ramesh spotted the bird during a routine bird watching session in Koodapakkam on Sunday, July 2, 2023.
“I noticed a grey-colored slender bird with a protruding casque perched on a coconut tree and later on a Seemai Karuvelam (Prosopis juliflora) tree. The bird had long tail feathers that had white tips,” he said. Lara immediately photographed the bird and shared the image with members of the Nature and Wildlife Forums WhatsApp group who confirmed that it was the Indian Grey Hornbill. He also cross-checked with wildlife enthusiasts who had recorded the bird’s sighting on eBird, a global online database of bird observations.
Lara said that he and his friends spotted the bird for three consecutive days in the area. The bird is mostly arboreal, and is commonly found in pairs in dry plains, open habitats, dry deciduous forests and thorny scrub jungles.
Arun Nagalingam, secretary of the Nature Society of Puducherry said this was the first recorded sighting of the Indian Grey hornbill in Puducherry. “Though there may have been previous sightings of the bird in urban settings in Puducherry, these have not been recorded. Educational institutions should introduce nature classes and birding sessions to generate awareness about bird life in the surroundings, as well as to garner support for the conservation of nature and the environment,” he said.
According to S. Vimalraj, a naturalist of the Indigenous Biodiversity Foundation, a non-profit organisation, the bird feeds on figs and berries and plays an important role in the dispersal of seeds of various trees. “During nesting, the female seals herself in a large cavity in a tree with only a small slit open to receive food from the male. The female then remains in the cavity for two to three months and when the juveniles mature, both the birds cater to the needs of the juveniles,” he said.