Beautiful giant hornbill plays happily with a new toy

Hornbills are large, heavy birds that inhabit tropical rainforests in many countries. Their bills are magnificently coloured and massive, and their plumage is spectacular. But even more interesting than their appearance is their unique nesting habits. The female seals herself in a crevice in a tree, with the aid of her mate, creating a plaster-like material with twigs, figs, and feces. They leave a slot large enough for the male to insert his beak so he can feed the female while she is in the nest. She remains inside to lay her eggs and raise the young for at least six weeks. At that time the female breaks the seal and emerges but she reseals the nest and joins the male in bringing food for the young. After a few weeks more, the young will beak the clay-like seal and emerge themselves. This hornbill is a resident at the Toronto Zoo where he lives in a large enclosure full of trees and plants. Highly intelligent, these birds do well with a lot of mental stimulation. The employees at the zoo give the animals toys and objects that will arouse their curiosity. Even the food is provided in a way that will require thought and problem solving. Fruit is skewered and attached to a log so the bird can slide it up and off the end. One of the most interesting features is the large, hollow structure on top of the hornbill's beak. The function of the casque is a mystery, although the birds do use them as a battering ram in aerial combat with competitive males. The Toronto Zoo is a world leader in conservation and education efforts that help to protect species like these from going extinct.