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Casques with a Cause

April 28, 2022

Casques with a Cause

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Amanda Hackett Amanda Hackett

In the canopies of Indonesia you are likely to find a unique and breathtaking species, the knobbed hornbill (Rhyticeros cassidix). Also known as the Sulawesi wrinkled hornbill, this bird gets its name from the red knob or casque at the top of its bill that is detailed with wrinkles or ridges. Cassowary, some curassow, and other bird species have casques. This hollow structure made of keratin that adorns the top of the bird’s bill can be used for a number of tactics that shape the bird’s biology.

Casques can add strength to the bird’s bill and be used as a tool for digging in the dirt or chiseling into tree bark. They can also be used as sound chambers or carriers of vocalizations. Casques are striking and beautiful ornaments that can attract mates throughout breeding seasons.

Hornbills are diurnal species that mostly travel in pairs and remain monogamous, although flocks of hornbills have been observed roosting in the canopies during the non-breeding season. Hornbills are omnivorous birds surviving on a diet that is made up of fruits, insects, small reptiles, amphibians, and mammals. Hornbills play an important role in seed dispersal in our environment. They keep the cycle of the forest growing and evolving with all the fruit they consume each day.

The Wildlife Conservation Society is fortunate to be able to exhibit the knobbed hornbill and seven other hornbill species right here at our very own Bronx Zoo. This year the knobbed hornbill, and all other hornbill species, are ambassadors for our annual Run for the Wild 5K Run and 3K Family Fun Run/Walk. The knobbed hornbill is currently considered vulnerable to extinction due to logging and hunting. With trees diminishing, there are no safe places for hornbill pairs to build their nests in large mature trees. For these reasons, it is obvious why our organization wants to support such an important species that helps shape our environment and raise awareness for this one-of-a-kind group of birds.

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Jamie Marshall
June 11, 2023 at 9:15 pm

What’s the name of the bird in chimp empire with a square casque? I can’t find it anywhere!!! Help.