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(hornbills), a family of birds of the order Coraciiformes. The body length is 38 to 160 cm. The bill is large but light, owing to the spongy structure of the bone; there is often a large growth, or casque, on the bill. The three front toes are concresced. The plumage is either black or brown with white; the bill is white, yellow, or red.
There are 45 species of hornbills, distributed in the tropics of Africa (except Madagascar) and Asia (from India to the Solomon Islands). The birds are arboreal. A typical representative is the great hornbill (Buceros bicornis). Hornbills nest in tree hollows, producing one to six eggs per clutch. The female seals herself in the hollow with the male’s help, leaving a narrow slit through which she receives food from the male. The eggs are incubated for 30 to 50 days. In some species the female remains in the tree hollow until the young leave the nest (up to 112 days); in other species the female molts in the nest and then leaves the hollow to help the male to feed the nestlings, which seal up the opening after the female flies out. The female ground hornbill (Bucorvus leadbeateri), which lives in the savanna and nests in the cracks of rocks, is not sealed into the nest. Hornbills feed mainly on fruits and berries; some species eat insects. Many hornbills prey on small reptiles and rodents, destroy the nests of other birds, and eat carrion.
A. I. IVANOV