(1570) Aceros nepalensis (Hodgs.).
THE RUFOUS-NECKED HORNBILL.
Aceros nipalensis, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. iv, p. 294.
The Rufous-necked Hornbill extends along the Outer Himalayas from Nepal to Eastern Assam, Cachar, Manipur, Looshai Hills, the Burmese hills from the Kachin and Shan States, through Karenni, to Mt. Muleyit in. Tenasserim. It occurs in Siam and Delacour obtained it in Annam.
This is truly a mountain bird as well as a lover of forest, either deciduous or evergreen, and it is seldom, if ever, found breeding in the plains. I obtained all my nests, a fair number, between 2,000 and 5,000 feet, mostly at about 4,000 feet.
Gammie gives a most interesting account of the taking of an egg of this species, and his account of the nest etc. is so absolutely identical in all details with many of those found by myself that I quote it almost in full. He writes (‘Nests and Eggs,’ vol. iii, p. 77) :—
The tree was a species of Dysoxylon, 80 or 90 feet in height, unbranched for 50 feet up, and situated close to a stream at an eleva¬tion of about 2,000 feet above the sea. A few feet under the lowest branch, and just above a bulge in the stem, there was a vertical slit which proved to be the entrance to the Hornbill's home. Long bamboos were cut and formed into a very primitive ladder, and a Nepalese ascended.
“The opening appeared ridiculously small for the admission of such a huge bird, and we could see quite distinctly the plaster on either side of the slit. The plastering had evidently been done by the female from inside, and did not meet in any part. At the top of the slit there was a round hole left, and from this hole to the bottom there was a narrow slit of about 2 inches broad down the middle. The man stood on the bulge in front of the nest, and held on by a small forked bamboo which he had hooked on tothe branch above, and then commenced the struggle between the Nepalese and mother Hornbill.
“The old lady cackled and protested as well as she could do, and bit manfully at the stick and Kukri (Nepalese knife) which the man pushed in her mouth to make her cease from resisting and go upstairs—the tree was hollow I should say for some way up.
“After a quarter of an honr’s conflict the Pahari descended in despair.
“A big Lepcha then went up and, strange to say, he only gave her a single poke, when up she went aloft, and we saw her no more.
“Certainly she deserved credit for her pluck, which after all was misplaced, for the solitary egg was addled.
“I am told that two young ones were taken out of the same hollow last year."
Gammie himself took another egg out of it on the 28th April the following year.
It is extraordinary the way Hornbills of all sorts stick to their nesting sites, for many are robbed year after year, yet the birds refuse to leave them. At the same time the birds may have learnt that the hill tribesmen never rob a nest twice in the same year, and as all the well-known nests are considered the property of certain villages, this ensures the second batch of eggs being left in peace.
Occasionally this Hornbill makes use of holes in trees, for nesting purposes, comparatively low down. Among my own notes I have the following heights recorded : 60, 50, 40, 30, 25 and 20 feet from the ground.
The breeding season runs from March to June and in the lower elevations birds undoubtedly breed earlier than at 5,000-6,000 feet. At the same time I obtained a nest with two hard-set eggs at 5,000 on the 2nd March, while another was taken at about 2,500 feet on the 7th June.
A single egg seems to be laid just as often as two, and I have never seen three eggs or young. They are quite typical Hornbills, eggs and are very nearly as coarse in texture and as much corrugated on the surface as the eggs of the Great Hornbill. In shape they are rather long ovals, very slightly pointed.
Twelve eggs average 59.2 x 43.1 mm. : maxima 68.0 x 44.5 and 63.2 x 46.5 mm. ; minima 54.3 x 40.0 mm.
The nest-holes are closed in with material to a less extent than are those of the Great Horn bill, and I have seen an opening left big enough for the hen bird to put her whole head out. She has a curious habit of sometimes coming to the mouth of the hole and braying long and loudly, her great clanging cries being audible at very great distances and, one would think, betraying the site of her nest to all possible enemies.
1570. Aceros nepalensis
(1570) Aceros nepalensis (Hodgs.).