Friday mystery object #167 answer


On Friday I gave you this object to identify:

It was a bit of a tricky one at first, because there wasn’t much context to help identify it. Suggestions included a section through the skull of a horse or whale, but skullguy, henstridgesj and Jake managed to spot enough clues to work out that it’s a section through the bill of a Hornbill.

Malayan black hornbill (Anthracoceros malayanus) London Zoo. By Neil Phillips

There was no identification with this specimen and the section available isn’t much to go on, but the colour of head feathers, the colour of the keratin of the bill and the shape of the casque make me think that this is from a Hornbill in the genus Anthracoceros. The Great Hornbill Buceros bicornis is also a possibility, although the casque doesn’t look quite right in section, even taking into account variability in the casque shape within the species.

Hornbills are odd birds – they eat pretty much anything and they have the strangest habits when it comes to breeding. This involves the female being walled up inside a hole in a tree trunk, where they lay eggs, raise the chicks until they fledge and they lose all their feathers while they’re doing it. Meanwhile the male fetches food and drops it into the hole. It’s all very 1940s and I’m not sure I approve…

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