Thai National Parks

Birds of Thailand

Species of Thailand

Helmeted hornbill

Binomial name: Rhinoplax vigil, Johann Reinhold Forster, 1781

The helmeted hornbill (Rhinoplax vigil) is a very large bird in the hornbill family. It is found on the Malay peninsula, Sumatra and Borneo.

It has mostly blackish plumage, except that the belly and legs are white and the tail is white with a black band near the tip of each feather. The tail is long and the two central tail feathers are much longer than the others, giving the bird a total length greater than that of any other hornbill species. The body length is 110 - 120 cm, not counting the tail feathers, which boost the length a further 50 cm. Males average 3.1 kg in weight and females about 2.7 kg. Although sometimes considered the largest Asian hornbill, they weigh a bit less than the great hornbill (and considerably less than the African ground hornbills).

This species has a bare, wrinkled throat patch, blue in females and red in males. The casque goes from the base of the bill halfway to the tip, where it ends abruptly. It and the bill are yellow; the red secretion of the preen gland covers the sides and top of the casque and the base of the bill, but often leaves the front end of the casque and the distal half of the bill yellow. Unlike other hornbills, the helmeted hornbill's casque is solid, and the skull including the casque and bill may constitute 10 percent of the bird's weight.

The call is described as hoots followed by maniacal laughter.

This bird eats mostly fruit, especially figs. It may also use the casque as a weighted tool to dig into rotten wood and loose bark in search of insects and similar prey. Unlike many fruit-eating hornbills, it is sedentary, and pairs maintain a territory. Males fight over territory on the wing, ramming each other with their casques.

The casque is the source of hornbill ivory, a valuable carving material. Indigenous peoples also use the central tail feathers to decorate dancing cloaks and head-dresses.

The Punan people believe that a large helmeted hornbill guards the river between life and death.it is hunted in some areas and losing habitat, the helmeted hornbill is evaluated as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. It is listed in Appendix I of CITES.

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Videos of Helmeted hornbill

  • Helmeted hornbill - Belum-Temengor, Malaysia

    Helmeted hornbill - Belum-Temengor, Malaysia

Scientific classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Aves
Order
Bucerotiformes
Family
Bucerotidae
Genus
Rhinoplax
Species
Rhinoplax vigil

Synonyms

  • Buceros vigil

Conservation status

Near Threatened (IUCN3.1)

Near Threatened (IUCN3.1)

Distribution map of Helmeted hornbill, Rhinoplax vigil in Thailand

Range map of Rhinoplax vigil in Thailand

Important note; our range maps are based on limited data we have collected. The data is not necessarily accurate or complete.

Special thanks to Ton Smits and Parinya Pawangkhanant for their help with many range data.

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