In Search of the mighty Rufous Necked Hornbill

On a fine Sunday morning, while visiting our nearby bird sanctuary (I have already written a blog on that), Mr. Subhash Saha came up with the plan to visit the hills of North Bengal. The prime concern was to watch the Mighty Rufous Necked Hornbill nest and to learn about their behavior, and of course photographing the bird. I was eager to join the four of them but was little concerned with the financing. With the permission granted by my parents I took off to Siliguri.

At 9:30 am, on 11th April 2014, Mr. Subhash Saha, Mr. Samir Saha, Mr. Atanu Chakravarty, Mr. Joydeep Das, and I started for our destination- Latpanchor.  Leaving the Coronation Bridge on our right we headed to Kalijhora. Going a bit far, we took a rough patch of road to the left and went up zigzagging through the forests. 15-17kms up from Kalijhora, situated in the Sittong 1 Division, Latpanchor is enchanting. With each 15mins the weather changed dramatically. We felt the bliss of the chilled wind brushing across our faces. The sky was blue, adorned with white clouds floating like cotton candy, a perfect autumn climate.

Leaving our luggage in the home stay which was arranged before, and after having our delicious lunch, the five of us headed to the nest. We had our guide Sunil who is a funny fellow. Always with a humble smile across his face.

Precisely at 12:40 we took the steep road down along the side of the mountain, through the jungle. Within 20-30 mins we reached the exact point from where the nest was only 50-60 feet away. Waiting for an hour and 45 minutes (if I am not wrong), we heard the sound of wings flapping through the air. To our utter surprise, he perched atop a tree only 5-6 ft away from us. With no question asked everyone had their camera pointed and shutters were dropping with 1/500 sec or above speed. Samir Da was a bit far away from us and was unable to see the bird from there. We asked Sunil not to call for him. But, almost immediately, he clapped; a massive disaster while bird-watching.

Just before it flew away
Just before it flew away

The clap still reverbs in my ears. And alas, the bird flew away and sat in front of his nest and fed his wife through the hole. It was a sight to watch. And he flew away after feeding 7-8 times. In the mean time we came to know, the region holds 5 more nest of these Hornbills but they are inaccesible. Suddenly we heard soemthing coming down from the hills, the sound of bushes being mushed under the hooves shook our very soul. But what a dramatic turn out! It was a goat kid.

While we were about to leave we saw silhouette of a hornbill flying by and took it for the same bird we watched a few minutes earlier. Next thing we know, it was the Great Indian Hornbill and that was gift for us.

The Mighty Rufous Necked Hornbill They make nests in tree trunks and then feel the entrance up, after the female enters the nest, with droppings, mucus and smashed fruit pulps. they do this to protect their partner from another Hornbill who might mate with female and destroy the eggs from the previous mating.
The Mighty Rufous Necked Hornbill
They make nests in tree trunks and then feel the entrance up, after the female enters the nest, with droppings, mucus and smashed fruit pulps.
they do this to protect their partner from another Hornbill who might mate with female and destroy the eggs from the previous mating.

IMG_0083The next morning started with birding near the nursery. Our Guide informed us that Wreathed Hornbill and a Red Headed Trogan was recently sighted near the Nursery. But our bird luck was bad. But we did get Yellow Naped Woodpecker, Great Barbet, Greater Necklaced Laughing Thrush, Golden Fronted Leafbird, Himalayan Bulbul and Blue Capped Rock Thrush.

Great Barbet (Megalaima virens)
Great Barbet
(Megalaima virens)

We went to Latkuthi after Nursery Birding, which was the resting house for the officials, in the British Era, in charge of the cinchona plantation. An ideal place for flycatchers and Himalayan birds, the place also has a spectacular scenic beauty. Surrounded by unknown trees and smells, the place was relaxing. We did find a number of various Himalayan birds there. But we were not satisfied with the sightings there, and decided to return to Latpanchor the next morning.

So as planned, we left the bungalow in the morning, and reached Latpanchor. But the weather was bad; not an ideal photographic situation. Feeling a bit down, we headed to the nest again. This time the hornbill was eager to meet us and as soon as we reached he showed up, fed his wife (17 times! yeah I kept a count), and flew away. It was like watching a film and yes, it did include a coffee break. But it started drizzling and we hurried our way back to the top without stopping to catch our breath. And then it was time for us to return to the plains which ended our search for the Rufous Necked Hornbill.

But there were other birds around us that we didn’t miss. Small Red Fairies were hovering up and down and chirping as loud as possible making the environment musical. These red fairies are Minivets. There was a tiny curious little bird, Chestnut tailed nuthatch, going up and down the tree trunk and biting and tearing up moss in search of fresh juicy larva. And last but not the least I got Black Chinned Yuhinas, woo-hoo!

Black Chinned Yuhina (Yuhina nigrimenta)
Black Chinned Yuhina
(Yuhina nigrimenta)
they are cute puffy feather balls, aren’t they?
Long Tailed Minivet on the left and Small Minivet on the right

This trip also gave me the opportunity to learn a lot about flycatchers. We got one of the most surprisingly fearless bird, the Pale Blue Flycatcher. The flycatchers list also includes Dark Sided Flycatcher, Slaty Backed Flycatcher, Verditer Flycatcher, and Taiga Flycatcher.

Blue Capped Rock Thrush (Monticola cinclorhynchus)
Blue Capped Rock Thrush
(Monticola cinclorhynchus)

One really amazing bird that caught my attention was Barn Swallow.

Barn Swallow (Hirunda rustica)
Barn Swallow
(Hirunda rustica)

These swallows make their nest inside house of local people and the locales treat them as God’s representative. These birds are very peaceful and swift. I was awestruck seeing their agility.

Overall it was a nice experience. And I am visiting the same place this December. Let’s see what awaits me.

Greater Necklaced Laughingthrush (Garrulax pectoralis)
Greater Necklaced Laughingthrush
(Garrulax pectoralis)
Slaty Backed Flycatcher (Ficedula hodgsonii)
Slaty Backed Flycatcher
(Ficedula hodgsonii)
Black Bulbul (Hypsipetes leucocephalus)
Blue Rock Thrush (Monticola solitarius)
Blue Rock Thrush
(Monticola solitarius)



Thanks to Subhash da and Samir Saha Da for organizing such a beautiful trip. The trip was really educative for a novice like me.

16 thoughts on “In Search of the mighty Rufous Necked Hornbill

    1. I was looking to comment on your next post, but there was no comment section. I must say that your photos are stunning.

      We are having similar issues here with development, only all of our local bird species has moved into my backyard! We are one of the remaining “wild” places in our area of a very urban Houston, Texas — including woods and a creek. I certainly hope that your people see another path than to JUST supporting homo sapiens. It will be sad to see so many beautiful birds go someplace else.

      Cheers. And happy birding! ~ Shannon

      PS — especially love the kingfisher.

      Liked by 1 person

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