How Egg-citing! Rare forest-dwelling hornbill chick hatched in Wrocław zoo

The latest chick to be born in Wrocław zoo is the endangered Palawan Hornbill. ZOO Wrocław/Facebook

The Palawan Hornbill is becoming increasingly rare in the wild, but in Wrocław, it is flourishing.

With experts’ help, several chicks have been born at the city’s zoo, including a new one this year. 

The Palawan Hornbill is native to the forests of the Philippines; the name comes from the archipelago province where the bird lives. 

Happy bird-day! The new chick eats mostly fruit, which it occasionally supplements with insects and vertebrates.Maciej Kulczyński/PAP

With its black plumage, white tail and a large creamy-white beak with a characteristic “casque” over its head, it is big for a bird, weighing around 0.75 kg. 

It mostly eats fruit, which it occasionally supplements with insects and vertebrates.

The new chick (centre) is the fifth for proud parents Sofia and Avilon (L&R).Maciej Kulczyński/PAP

In the wild, the population of Palawan Hornbills is declining. On the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, it is classified as “vulnerable”, with energy production, mining and use of biological resources are the main threats to it.

In response, ornithologists have tried to preserve the birds by encouraging them to breed in a zoo environment – including in Wrocław, in western Poland. 

Mum Sofia and dad Avilon arrived at the zoo in 2012.Maciej Kulczyński/PAP

A pair of young Palawan Hornbills — a female called Sofia and a male called Avilon — arrived at the zoo there in 2012.

Three years ago, these efforts bore fruit, as the first Palawan Hornbill chick hatched in Wrocław, the first to do so at a zoo. It was joined by three more siblings last year.

Now the family has gained a new member, with the new chick.

“Wroclaw’s hornbills now account for almost 90% of the global population living in a zoo,” said Joanna Kij, the zoo’s spokersperson.

The zoo supported the process by adapting the birds’ diet looking at how Palawan Hornbills mate in the wild. 

In the wild the population of Palawan Hornbills is declining and according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the birds are classified as 'vulnerable'. Llimchiu at the English Wikipedia

During the breeding period, the male walls up the female in a nest built in a hollow inside a tree, leaving just a small hole through which he can feed her. 

She does not leave it until their offspring have reached their parents’ size.

“We also looked into what mortar the male uses to wall up the hollow, which is extremely important for reproduction,” explained Krzysztof Kałużny, the birds’ carer at Wrocław Zoo, adding that a mixture of excrement and digested fruit is used.

Following the success at Wrocław Zoo, specialists are hoping that it can be repeated at zoos elsewhere. 

If they manage, it could help increase Palawan Hornbills’ chances of survival.