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Helmeted Hornbill

Rhinoplax vigil


The Helmeted Hornbill (Rhinoplax vigil) is the largest hornbill species on Borneo by length. Even being one of the largest birds around, it is extremely shy. This species of hornbills is extremely cautious and cannot withstand the sight of a human. Here it trying its best to hide behind the thickest leafiest part of the tree. However, once it realizes I'm watching it, it immediately took off. It is for the best this species of hornbill is being very shy as they are critically endangered as they are hunted for their hard "helmet" which are nicknamed the "red ivory", more precious than elephant ivory in the black market.


Found feeding on the Spiky Fig (Ficus cucurbitina) in a regrown logged forest. Epiphytic fig like this spiky fig depends on long-distance flying canopy birds like these hornbills to disperse its seeds onto another host tree far away. More about the Spiky Fig tree:


This is recorded during our few days observation to document the ecological value of this fig species. Over these period of few days, I could still not get it to reveal its whole body. The good news it that we are now very sure that this fig species holds great importance for reforestation projects as it is confirmed as an important food source to help this very rare hornbill.

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Spotted by

Sabah, Malaysia

Spotted on Jul 8, 2020
Submitted on Dec 5, 2020

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