With its pair not having returned to the nest after a routine flight for feed, a female great hornbill has taken up the full-time job of feeding its chick in the cavity of a tree at the State horticulture farm in Kallar near Coimbatore.
An ornithologist said that normally, the female hornbill remains in the cavity nest during incubation. The male feeds the female during this period, and the latter leaves the nest only when the young start fledgling.
The Forest Department, which has been monitoring the nest since the male bird died on April 28, said the mother bird was frequently visiting the chick with fruits, and the latter, which is in its fledgling stage, may take its first flight in a few days.
In the morning of April 28, the male hornbill was found in distress at Thuri Palam, around two kilometres from Kallar near Mettupalayam. According to the Forest Department, the locals found the hornbill cornered by macaques near a ficus tree and informed the authorities. A government veterinarian, who examined the bird, found a small laceration on the flesh, for which medication and first aid were provided. The bird was released in a reserve forest after being kept under observation for about four hours. However, in the evening, it was found dead around 500 metres from the place of its release. The post-mortem suggested that the bird may have died of shock during capture.
Conservator of Forests S. Ramasubramanian told The Hindu that two frontline staff had been posted at the farm to ensure that the mother hornbill is not disturbed. “Even the staff have been instructed to ensure that their presence does not disturb the bird,” he said.
Meanwhile, nature enthusiasts want the department to provide better protection to the nesting sites of the great hornbill, which figures in the ‘Vulnerable’ category on the Red List of Threatened Species of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
More care should be taken during the capture and release of birds to prevent them from dying of shock, they say.
“Photographers have been trying to document the breeding of the great hornbill pair at the farm, as the nest was outside the forest and easily accessible,” said a nature enthusiast from Mettupalayam.
A video of the initial rescue of the male hornbill by the locals on April 28 showed a man holding the bird with its beak and legs tied up, and the bird screaming in distress.
“It is advised to cover the eyes of very sensitive birds like hornbills so that they do not see humans handling them. They get stressed out very easily,” said N. Sadiq Ali, of the Wildlife and Nature Conservation Trust.