1573. Ptilolaemus tickelli austeni

(1573) Ptilolaemus tickelli austeni (Jerdon).
The Assam Brown-backed Hornbill.
Ptilolaemus tickelli austeni, Fauna B. I., 2nd ed. vol. iv, p. 298.
Godwin-Austen’s Hornbill, as this bird has hitherto been called, is very common in the foot-hills and up to some 2,000 feet in Eastern Assam ; in Cachar it was rare, but occurred in the Jetinga Valley and in the plains adjoining the Naogong District, while I once saw it at about 3,400 feet on the Barail Range. It keeps entirely to forest unless tempted out of it by some special food-supply such as seeding bamboos etc.
I first found it breeding in North Cachar near Gungong at about 2,400 feet. The hollow selected was one in quite a small tree, or rather tree-stump, standing at the upper end of a ravine on a grass-covered hill which had once been forest and was surrounded by tree-jungle on all sides, I was ploughing my way through the last of this jungle when I noticed a bird put its head out of a hole in the stump in question, from which another bird, a Hornbill of some kind, had just flown away. The hole was about 20 feet up, and reduced in size by the usual mud plastering round the edge, yet still big enough for the bird to put her whole head through. A Naga who was with me clambered up the tree, and after a stout fight with the bird inside collared her by the neck and hauled her out. Handing me the bird to hold I sow to my delight it was the present species, and told the Naga to hunt for the eggs if any. A further visit to the hole produced a single egg which, though quite fresh, was already stained a deep fawn-brown. The bird looked so tattered and abject that it appeared impossible for it to fly but, when for a second we dropped it on the ground, it wets off and away before I could grab my gun and shoot it. Later Peddie found this Hornbill not uncommon in the foothills and plains near Naogong, while Coltart and I obtained numerous nests in Lakhimpur.
In every case the hole chosen for laying in was comparatively low down, varying between 12 and 25 feet from the ground, but two clutches of eggs with the birds brought us by Nagas were said to have been taken from holes very high up in huge forest-trees. The holes are closed in with excrement and remains of fruit as usual, but larger holes were left for the hen bird to feed through and, in one or two instances, we found she could put her whole head through it.
They are late breeders and nearly all the nests we found were taken in late April, May and June.
Three is the normal full clutch and neither Coltart nor I ever found more but, in most cases, the eggs were fresh, and more might have been laid if we had not taken them. The Nagas told us that four or even five eggs were laid, though but rarely. Every Naga is a bom field-naturalist, they had no object in. deceiving us, and we never found they did so until they became semi-civilized.
Twenty-four eggs average 48.8 x 34.2 mm. : maxima 57.0 x 34.1 and 49.3 x 35.4 mm. ; minima 46.0 x 83.0 mm.
The work of plastering up the entrance-hole is carried out princi¬pally by the female ; the male, who has to feed the female as soon as she commences incubation, has but little time for architecture, but at odd moments adds a little to the plaster. As with most Hornbills, the female generally remains in the nest until the young are ready to fly, but this is not always the case, for I have noticed females of this and of other species sometimes assisting the male in feeding the young through the entrance-hole, much of the plaster having been broken away to allow of her exit.
The Nagas say that incubation takes twenty-four days and that the young stay in the nest for about two months after hatching.

The Nidification Of Birds Of The Indian Empire
Baker, Edward Charles Stuart. The nidification of birds of the Indian Empire. Vol. 3. 1934.
Title in Book: 
1573. Ptilolaemus tickelli austeni
Spp Author: 
Book Author: 
Edward Charles Stuart Baker
Page No: 
Common name: 
Assam Brown Backed Hornbill
Austen's Brown Hornbill
Anorrhinus austeni
Vol. 3
Term name: 

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