Click and protect hornbills

A web initiative was launched on June 5 to protect the endangered bird

By Ankita Saxena
Published: Friday 06 June 2014

Most hornbill species in India are listed as vulnerable or near threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)

Whether you are a bird watcher or not, next time when you spot a hornbill, do not just treat it like any other sighting and walk away. Click a picture of the magnificent bird, share it on the Internet and you will have helped in the process of conservation of these disappearing birds.

A new website, Hornbill Watch, was launched on June 5 on occasion of World Environment Day. The website, which is a citizen-science initiative, is an attempt to understand the Indian Hornbill, the iconic forest bird that is fast disappearing along with its tropical forest habitat in India and other Asian countries. The website was launched by the Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF) and Conservation India (CI); it is India’s first and the largest portal for wildlife conservation that helps citizens take conservation action.

Read more on Indian hornbill  

Hornbill Watch brings these species into the spotlight and allows users to contribute towards their conservation by sharing details of hornbill sightings and images. The site also provides updated information on Asian hornbills and the threats they face.

The hornbill has acquired its name from a horn-like projection called casque, which is present on top of its beak. Hornbills are flashy birds with over-sized beaks, bright skin around the eyes and long eyelashes. They are larger in size in comparison to other forest birds and generally have a bright coloured pouch of loose skin on their throat to carry fruits, their staple food.  Most hornbill species in India are listed as vulnerable or near threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The major threats to these birds are hunting and loss of habitat.  

Farmers of forest

"These magnificent birds are ‘farmers of the forest’ as they play a crucial role in dispersing seeds of many tropical trees and keep forests alive and growing. India has nine species of hornbills and most live in dense forests,” informs Rohit Naniwadekar, wildlife biologist at the Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF) who studies hornbills. He believes that if people who have captured images of these birds, share them, it would help in finding more about the location of these birds and in ensuring a safe future for them.

“Users can read about hornbills and also contribute their sightings of these magnificent birds across India. It could be a sighting of the common Indian Grey Hornbill from the outskirts of Bangalore or the endangered Rufous-necked Hornbill from Northeast India” says Ramki Sreenivasan, co-founder of Conservation India. “Hornbills are never found in degraded environments. The collection of data of presence of hornbills in an area is the first step to conserve the ecosystem these birds inhabit,” adds Ramki.

Making a contribution on Hornbill Watch (whether a sighting record or an image) is easy through the “Report your sighting” page. The data acquired is credited to the photographer. The uploaded images appear immediately in the gallery section and can be shared socially through the integrated Facebook plug in. The data generated would be summarised, analysed and shared on the website periodically. This will not only increase awareness among the citizens but will also make them an active part of the conservation process. The data collected from across the country will be a great help in analysing policy steps that must be taken in order to conserve these beautiful birds.


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