Birds 18 - The Malabar Grey Hornbill Poem by Unnikrishnan Sivasankara Menon

Birds 18 - The Malabar Grey Hornbill

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A loud laugh, a hysterical cackle!
I got up with a start early morning,
opened my eyes. I was in
my friend's house in Wayanad

It was a Malabar Gray Hornbill
we had sighted a few days back
in plantations in the slopes below
resident of the dense forests too
of the hills of the Western Ghats.

Wondered when her egg
was hatched and she broke
the muddy seal of her nest
to come out of voluntary seclusion.

She has a long sharp beak
curved, is fruigivorous, but
unlike other hornbill species,
she has her casque missing.

She has grey brown wings,
black primary flight feathers,
grey back, heavy orange bills
and long white tipped blackish tail.

As a large fruit-eating bird,
hornbill plays a vital role
in dispersing the seeds of
about eighty rainforest trees.

White cedar trees suffered
ninty percent decline
in seed dispersal, when
hornbill population declined.

If there are no hornbills
there will be no cedars,
no many-other-trees,
and may be no man!

For, it is for them that it rains
still in the forests, in spite of man
their trees cutting down
and hunting them down!

Birds 18 - The Malabar Grey Hornbill
In Malayalam, Hornbills are called വേഴാമ്പൽ and Malabar Grey Hornbill is called കോഴിവേഴാമ്പൽ. The mother hornbill seals herself in her nest in the tree-hole with egg under incubation and never comes out of the sealed nest until its egg hatches. Their loud calls are distinctive and include 'hysterical cackling', 'laughing' and 'screeching' calls. These calls are interpreted by poets as call to Indra, the god of rains. For, the poets say, hornbills do not consume water in any form other than rainwater directly from the skies when it rains. Malabar Grey Hornbill is a species of birds that face threatened extinction.

A wonderful poem, rather a biological description, is deeply informative of the Grey Hornbills

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Thank You, dear poet. There are many subspecies of Hornbills in India. The Hornbills Festival

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Dr Dillip K Swain 16 December 2022

A wonderful informative birds' series. My wife is a lecturer in zoology but she is not even aware of all species of birds. A very commedable informative series. I love this series dear Unniji.

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You may invite your wife to read my series, sir. Thank You.

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I am so happy that you liked this series. I am an ardent bird-watcher and arrange artificial nests in my compound, trees and shrubs wherever possible. I continue to read about birds, Salim Ali, Induchoodan etc. But I don't keep any of them captive.

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Female Hornbill seals the mouth of its nest in the cavities of tall trees with mud while she sits in incubation of her egg, while the male bird fetches her food and feeds her. She comes out only when the egg hatches and the baby-birds are out.

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The hornbills are mostly very colourful and beautiful, except this one. Why so?

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Unnikrishnan Sivasankara Menon

Unnikrishnan Sivasankara Menon

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