THE WRONG HORNBILLS
10th May 2012
Yes, the nest box for hornbills has been inspected by them, but unfortunately by the wrong species! It was the Malabar Pied Hornbills trying to nest in our roof (see blog Jan 12) and for whom we built the nest box, and they have only rarely visited and taken no interest in the nest box since it was installed. Our surprise visitors this week were a pair of great Indian hornbills. These birds are a rare and listed endangered species and even 8 years ago, there were thought to be fewer than 7 birds left in Goa. This extraordinary large and exotic pair arrived early one evening and went straight to the nest box. This was inspected all over, the leaves that had collected inside were thrown out and for over a hour they fussed around it, Having been made to a specific plan for the smaller Malabar's, the entrance was unfortunately far to small for them to get inside, yet they returned in the morning for yet another inspection and again just before it got dark. Meanwhile frantic plans were put into operation to build yet another nest box, suitable for them and the next day, all day was spent on constructing this giant box. Additional labourers had to be hired to get it up into the tree in the hope they would return, and then less than 12 hours after it went up, they were back! Yet again straight to the box and a close inspection of every inch, heads put inside and another clean up of odd leaves and so on. At the times of these visits, the monkeys were all upset at the presence of these giant birds and giving warning calls and the dogs were all barking madly at them as well, although this didn't seem to bother the hornbills. They are wisely wary of humans though, so with the box only some 20 feet from the house balcony everyone had to keep out of sight to avoid scaring them away. If they do nest we can only hope that the monkeys get used to seeing them and they get used to us too. These hornbills can live for 50 years, if not killed for trophies. There bills are in demand as used by the Chinese and others much like rhino horn, feathers and bills are also used in some tribes as decoration in ceremonies. With the clearing of so much of the forests and even the isolated large trees in India, places to nest become ever scarcer as humans expand.
At the time of writing the pair are still visiting the box daily, on the last occasion the troop of wild langurs that also live in this area chased them away. We had assumed that the langurs would be frightened by the hornbills, but the reverse seemed to be the case. Presumably the hornbills are used to this conflict between the species and we hope it won't put them off for too long.
After all this excitement on the bird front, back to monkeys. Aaji didn't have her operation as the vets considered it was not worth the risk the anesthetic would be to her. We are trying to keep her on a diet to reduce her weight, just as difficult with monkeys as with humans as she shares a pen and is reluctant to exercise.
Shaylee is making good progress and although she spent her first year in the wild, she has now relaxed in her new life so much that she loves to be groomed, and will sit still and even offer up limbs when she sees the brush. She is also playing more with Puck & Phooka, and we think she must have regained more of her eyesight; by the way she now flings herself around the pen.
We have sadly lost one of our regular British volunteers Phil Hayward, who died following an accident on his motorbike. Phil will be missed by everyone here and of course the monkeys too. He was particularly found of Tufty and Baldric and they were always so pleased on his arrival, as they knew it meant a long walk. Puck and phooka always got a visit and a good grooming session as well.
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