The rufous hornbill, scientifically identified as Buceros hydrocorax, is a species native to the Philippines, often colloquially known as the Philippine hornbill. As a majestic member of the hornbill family (Bucerotidae), renowned for its distinctive bill and vibrant plumage, this bird plays a significant role in the ecology of its habitat.

Revered as the “clock of the forest” or the “clock of the mountain”, rufous hornbills exhibit a fascinating routine, appearing and calling at precise times of the day at specific locations. This species has rufous (reddish-brown) plumage adorning the head, neck, and upper breast, while the remainder of its body is draped in black elegance. Notably, a conspicuous casque crowns its bill—a hollow structure crafted from keratin, more pronounced in males, serving both in amplifying calls and as an instrument in courtship displays.

Endemically confined to the Philippines, the rufous hornbill finds sanctuary in primary and secondary lowland and montane forests. Most common sighting in the wild is in the Sierra Madre Mountain Range in Luzon. These birds fulfill a vital ecological role as frugivores, predominantly feasting on fruits and contributing substantially to seed dispersal, thereby sustaining the equilibrium of their habitats.

Three distinguished subspecies of the Kalaw exist. The Buceros hydrocorax hydrocorax, prevalent in Luzon and Marinduque, exhibits a large red bill and a prominent casque. The Buceros hydrocorax semigaelatus, found in Samar, Leyte, Bohol, Panaon, Biliran, Calicoan, and Buad, boasts a yellow front half of the beak, a flatter head with a smaller casque merging into the maxilla. The Buceros hydrocorax mindanensis, dwelling in Dinagat, Siargao, Mindanao, Balut, Bucas, Talicud, and Basilan, displays a yellow front half of the beak and a large casque.

However, the rufous hornbill faces imminent threats such as habitat loss due to deforestation and hunting, common plights shared by many species. In response, conservation initiatives are actively underway to safeguard their habitats and combat these challenges. Designated as “Near Threatened” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, the rufous hornbill enjoys legal protection under Philippine Law RA 9147, prohibiting hunting, capture, or possession of these majestic birds.

Rufous Hornbill Video

Additional Information

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