Nest-site selection and nesting success of three hornbill species in Arunachal Pradesh, north-east India: Great Hornbill Buceros bicornis, Wreathed Hornbill Aceros undulatus and Oriental Pied Hornbill Anthracoceros albirostris
Nest-site selection by the sympatric Great Hornbill Buceros bicornis, Wreathed Hornbill Aceros undulatus and Oriental Pied Hornbill Anthracoceros albirostris was investigated in a lowland tropical forest in Arunachal Pradesh, north-east India during 1997–2000. Information on two nests of Rufous-necked Hornbill Aceros nipalensis in higher-elevation forests is also presented. All species nested in live trees of three tree genera, 83% (n = 36) in Tetrameles nudiflora, an emergent deciduous softwood, relatively common in lowland foothill forests. No difference was recorded in nest-tree species or nesting habitats of sympatric hornbills, but there were a few differences in structural characteristics of nest-trees. Cavity size was the main variable separating the three species. Great Hornbills used larger cavities while Oriental Pied Hornbills used smaller cavities closer to riverine areas. Nesting was attempted at 64% of known sites and successful fledging of chicks was 80% overall (n = 72 nests, pooled over 4 years). Nest-trees in disturbed habitats near human habitation were used but were often abandoned or unsuccessful and 50% of all nest-trees were inactive by the end of the study. Potential large nest-trees had a density of 5.9/ha, that of the two most used species was 1.3/ha, and minimum nest densities of all three species was about 1 pair/km2. Interference competition for nest-sites was not observed, despite similarity in nest-tree characteristics, low nest density and high loss of nest-trees. Nest-site availability may naturally limit hornbill populations in the area, and additional loss of nesting habitat to human activities may exacerbate limited availability of breeding sites.
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