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Rescuers amazed as Great Hornbill pair nurses orphaned chick as its own

Representational image. The Great Indian Hornbill has a great affinity to parenting and in a rare case was found to be taking care of an orphaned chick in a rescue centre (Pic. Courtesy Twitter/@ParveenKaswan)

Birds can exhibit their sense of gratitude while also repaying the kindness shown to them by helping others. This was evident in Assam, where the Wildlife Trust of India-run Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation is taking care of an injured great hornbill chick.

The little bird was rescued by locals in Bokakhat in Golaghat district and handed over to CWRC. Following a detailed medical examination, it was found by Dr. Samshul Ali, WTI’s Head Wildlife Veterinarian that the bird had suffered a corneal injury and it was provided intensive treatment.

When the bird showed signs of recovery after a week it was moved to an outdoor cage. Much to the surprise and amazement of the staff, it was found that a male hornbill was visiting the chick and providing it food.

Wanting to know more, the staff soon found out that the visiting male was a bird that they had successfully rehabilitated and released last year. The male was recognised by the unique identification ring on its leg.

Interestingly, the male was accompanied by its female partner and the two started fostering the chick as their own. They have been observed to be providing a rich insect diet to the little bird.

When India Narrative asked Dr. Ali if this behaviour on part of the birds was unusual, he replied: “Hornbills are highly social birds and have a high affinity towards parenting. This is not the first time that an adult hornbill has been documented to foster young ones other than its own. While there are no case studies on this yet, we have witnessed the behaviour three times earlier at our centre when wild hornbills have come to feed young ones at the Centre’s enclosure.”

Describing the incident as “the most heart-warming moments” that he had witnessed in his career he remarked: “This is the first time that a hornbill that was taken care of in CWRC has come back to foster.”

He went on to add: “It is both beautiful and fascinating to witness an orphaned individual, who was once saved and given a second chance at life at CWRC, help foster another orphaned hornbill.”

The chick when it recovers fully will be released into its natural habitat.

Also known as the Great Pied Hornbill or the Great Indian Hornbill, the Great Hornbill is the largest among the nine hornbill species found in India. It can be easily recognised by its distinctive feature — bright yellow and black casque on top of its massive bill.

The official State bird of Kerala and Arunachal Pradesh, this species is protected under Schedule I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 and is listed as Vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List.