Hornbills are fascinating birds, known for their distinctive bills and other unique characteristics. There are about 55 extant species of Hornbill Bucerotidae in the world. Here are some interesting facts about the family, and about some of the individual species:

Old World Birds

Hornbill species are found in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. In the Neogene period (23.03 million years ago - 2.58 million years ago), Hornbills lived in North Africa and Southern Europe.

Unique Beak and Casque

Hornbills are easily recognized by their large, curved bills. These are often brightly colored. Some are topped with a casque - a hollow structure that can vary in size and shape among different species. This casque may be used in courtship rituals, as a resonating chamber for their calls, for dominance displays or fights, or simply to reinforce the heavy bill.

Great Hornbill by Bernard Spragg (public domain)

Special Necks

Hornbills are the only birds who have their first and second neck bones fused together! It is thought that this adaptation gives them a better chance to hold up their large, heavy bills! The fusion of these neck bones provides enhanced strength and stability, allowing them to use their powerful beaks effectively for various activities such as foraging, nesting, and self-defense. 

Remarkable Nesting Behavior

Hornbills have an unusual nesting habit. The females are sealed into a tree cavity. In some species the female does this on her own, and in others the male helps to complete the seal. At the end of this construction, once the female is about ready to lay the eggs, only a small slit remains open!  The male then feeds her and the chicks through this slit until the young are ready to fledge. This amazing behavior protects the nest from predators. Ground Hornbills are the only species that do not nest this way.

Diverse Diet

Hornbills are omnivores and their diet varies widely, including fruit, insects, small mammals, and birds. Some forest species are vital for seed dispersal in their habitats due to their fruit-eating habits. Food picked up with the tip of the beak is tossed into the throat by jerking the head back.

Southern Ground Hornbill by Neil McIntosh (CC BY 2.0 DEED)

Eyelashes

Among the many fascinating attributes of hornbills, one of the most intriguing is their possession of eyelashes, a rarity in the avian world. These eyelashes, far from being mere aesthetic features, serve an essential functional role. In the dusty, debris-filled environments where many hornbills reside, such as dense forests or savannas, their eyes are constantly exposed to potential irritants. The eyelashes act as a protective barrier, shielding their sensitive eyes from fine dust particles, small insects, and plant matter. This adaptation is particularly crucial given the hornbills' active lifestyle, which involves foraging through foliage, digging into bark, and often engaging in flight through dense vegetation. 

Southern Ground Hornbill eyelashes

Wrinkled Hornbill by Martin de Lusenet (CC BY 2.0 DEED)

Endangered Status

Several Asian Hornbill species, including the iconic Helmeted Hornbill and the Great Hornbill, find themselves on the brink, mainly due to habitat loss and hunting. These birds, integral to tropical forest ecosystems, are losing their homes at an alarming rate as deforestation for agriculture, logging, and urban development ravages their natural habitats. The situation is exacerbated by the illegal wildlife trade, where hornbill casques (the upper part of their beaks) are highly sought after for ornamental purposes, akin to elephant ivory. Additionally, in some regions, hornbills are hunted for their meat and feathers, further dwindling their numbers. 

Birdorable Hornbills

Our Birdorable family of birds includes seven species of the world's 55 Hornbills. Here are the Birdorable Hornables:

Famous Hornbill

Among the most recognizable hornbills in popular culture is Zazu, the fastidious and loyal majordomo to the king in Disney's iconic film "The Lion King." Portrayed as an African Red-billed Hornbill, Zazu is a character who combines wit and wisdom in his role as advisor and confidant to the rulers of Pride Lands. This depiction in a major animated film has brought significant attention to the species, characterized by their distinctive long, down-curved bill and their vibrant mix of colors. The African Red-billed Hornbill, native to the savannas and woodlands of Sub-Saharan Africa, plays a vital role in the ecosystem, primarily as a seed disperser and a predator of insects.

Cute Birdorable Hornbill Gifts

Birdorable Golden-winged Warbler on a branch

Happy 2024! With the start of a new year, birders learn of the American Birding Association's (ABA) choice for Bird of the Year.

The Golden-winged Warbler, a strikingly beautiful and distinctive songbird, has been honored as the ABA Bird of the Year for 2024. This recognition is a testament to the bird's unique appeal as well as its conservation challenges, which make it a species of significant interest to birdwatchers and environmentalists alike.

The Golden-winged Warbler is easily identifiable by its bright yellow wing patches and crown, contrasted against its gray body and black throat. This small warbler is celebrated for its vivid color pattern and enchanting song, a high-pitched series of buzzes that resonate through its habitat: bee bzz, bzz, bzz.

Primarily found in the northeastern United States, the Golden-winged Warbler breeds in open, shrubby habitats often created by natural disturbances or early successional stages of forest regrowth. During winter, it migrates to Central and South America, where it occupies a range of forested and scrubby environments.

Golden-winged Warblers face significant threats, primarily due to habitat loss, especially in its wintering grounds, along with the expansion of Blue-winged Warblers into its habitat. Hybridization with the closely related Blue-wingeds is also considered to be a cause of the decline of the Golden-winged Warbler.

Photo of male Golden-winged Warbler

Male Golden-winged Warbler by Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren (CC BY 2.0 DEED)

Photo of female Golden-winged Warbler

Female Golden-winged Warbler by Gary Leavens (CC BY-SA 2.0 DEED)

The ABA’s selection of the Golden-winged Warbler as the Bird of the Year is a great way to raise awareness about this near threatened species (according tot he IUCN Redlist).

The Golden-winged Warbler has been a part of the Birdorable family since July 17, 2009. It joins a great list of birds honored as Bird of the Year from the ABA:

Birdorable Coloring Page

Join us as we celebrate the Golden-winged Warbler throughout 2024! Download our free coloring page and have fun with this pretty bird!

Birdorable Golden-winged Warbler Coloring Page

Gifts with Birdorable's Golden-winged Warbler

Bluebirds are medium-sized songbirds in the thrush family. These familiar birds are much more than just beautiful backyard visitors – they boast a fascinating array of fun facts! Here are some FAQs about this small family of birds.

Three Different Bluebirds

There are three distinct species of bluebirds in North America: Eastern; Western; and Mountain. While all share the iconic blue coloration on the male's back and wings, females and juveniles have more muted tones of brown and orange.

Where Bluebirds Live

Eastern Bluebirds have the widest range of the three species, covering most of the eastern United States with some reach into both Canada and Mexico into Central America. Western Bluebirds, who are similar in appearance to their Eastern cousins, have a large range in the western part of the United States and Canada/Mexico. While these two species have little overlap in range, the range of Mountain Bluebirds overlaps with Westerns in several places.

What Bluebirds Eat

Bluebirds are insectivores, voracious insect eaters, consuming hundreds of insects daily, including beetles, caterpillars, and grasshoppers. This makes them valuable natural pest controllers for gardens and agricultural lands. Their keen eyesight and acrobatic skills allow them to catch insects on the fly or glean them from leaves and branches. Mountain Bluebirds even hover like hummingbirds on occasion to reach hidden prey!

Cavity Nesters

Bluebirds are cavity nesters, preferring existing holes in trees or birdhouses. They readily accept human-provided nesting boxes, making them easy birds to attract and observe in backyards. Bluebirds often raise two to three broods per season, with both male and female participating in nest building, incubation, and feeding the young.

Western Bluebird by Becky Matsubara (CC BY 2.0 DEED)

Eastern Bluebird by Rick from Georgia (CC BY 2.0 DEED)

Conservation

Bluebird populations faced significant decline in the 20th century due to habitat loss and competition from other cavity nesters. However, conservation efforts like nesting box programs have led to a heartening comeback in recent years.

Symbols of Hope

Bluebirds are often associated with happiness, optimism, and renewal. Their vibrant colors and cheerful songs bring joy to birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts alike. Have you heard of the Bluebird of Happiness? The bluebird as a harbinger of joy is found in several different cultures, including China and Europe.

Old Bluebirds

Eastern Bluebirds have a natural lifespan of 6 to 10 years. The oldest Eastern Bluebird was 10 years and 6 months old, known from bird banding records. This bird was banded in New York in 1989 and found dead in South Carolina in 1999. The longevity record for Western Bluebirds is 8 years and 8 months; for Mountain Bluebirds 9 years.

The Eastern Bluebird was added to Birdorable on August 5, 2007.

The Western Bluebird and Mountain Bluebird were both added to Birdorable on November 8, 2010.

Meet the Bluebirds

Birdorable Bluebird Goodies

Wishing You a Merry and Bird-Filled Christmas from Birdorable

It's that cozy time of year again, and we want to send our warmest wishes to you this Christmas. 🌟

During this festive season, let's remember our feathered friends who bring so much joy into our lives. Birds, with their cheerful songs and bright colors, remind us to enjoy the simple pleasures of life. If you can, put out a feeder or a fresh birdbath for the birds in your yard. It's a small way to give back to our bird friends during these chilly months.

Looking ahead, we're excited for another year full of bird-loving fun. We can't wait to share more adorable Birdorable birds with you! So, here's a big Merry Christmas 🎄 from the Birdorable team! We hope your holiday is full of happiness, love, and of course, birds! ❤️

Do you recognize all the Birdorable bird species in this image? Check the Meet the Birds section on our website to find them all!

As we count down to Christmas, we’re excited to bring a little extra sparkle to your holiday season with our Birdorable Christmas Coloring Pages!

At Birdorable, we believe that the beauty of nature, especially our feathered friends, can add a special touch to your festive celebrations. That's why we've crafted a unique collection of coloring pages featuring some of our most beloved birds, all dressed up for the holidays in their Birdorable style. From the majestic California Condor to the charming Cockatiel, the historic Passenger Pigeon to the long-distance flyer Bar-tailed Godwit, the adorable Atlantic Puffin, and the ever-jolly Laughing Kookaburra – each bird brings its unique charm to your coloring experience.

Coloring isn't just for kids! It's a wonderful family activity and a perfect way to unwind and express creativity. Our Birdorable coloring pages are designed to appeal to bird lovers of all ages. They’re a great way to introduce the little ones to the fascinating world of birds while also offering a fun challenge for adults who love to color.

Cute Christmas Coloring Pages

Download for Free

Ready to start coloring? These delightful pages are available for free on our website. Simply download, print, and start coloring! Share your creations on social media using the hashtag #Birdorable and let's spread the joy and beauty of birds this holiday season.

So, grab your coloring tools, gather your family, and let the Birdorable birds add an extra dash of color and joy to your Christmas celebrations. Happy coloring and happy holidays! View all our coloring pages here.

Imagine a scene straight out of a wildlife documentary, or an AI-rendered, unreal-looking image: flocks of birds, normally seen only in remote northern forests, suddenly descend upon your backyard, filling the air with their calls and vibrant plumage. 

A dramatic, seasonal shift in bird populations is known as an irruption. Let's explore the meaning of this interesting bird term!

What causes irruption?

Bird irruptions are often triggered by fluctuations in food availability. When their usual food sources, like berries, insects, or lemmings, become scarce in their northern habitats, the birds embark on mass southward migrations in search of sustenance. This can happen due to factors like:

Mast years: When certain tree species produce a large, synchronized crop of seeds, it attracts irruptive species like crossbills and grosbeaks.

Insect outbreaks: A boom in insect populations in the north can lead to a subsequent decline as predators flourish, forcing birds to move south for alternative food sources.
Harsh winters: When winter weather arrives early, birds may be forced south to escape the harsh conditions and find food.

What species are affected?

While irruptions can occur with many different bird species, some are more prone to this behavior. Common irruptive birds include:

Finches: Common Redpolls, Pine Siskins, and Evening Grosbeaks are just a few of the species known for their dramatic southward surges in search of seeds and berries. Each year the Finch Research Network reveals a "Winter Finch Forecast" to discuss possible irruptive behavior of native finches and other species.

Owls: Snowy Owls, Northern Hawk Owls, and Great Gray Owls may irrupt southward when their prey populations decline in the north.

Nuthatches: Red-breasted Nuthatches are known for their irruptive movements, often exploring new territories in search of food.

The ecological impact

Bird irruptions can have significant ecological consequences. The influx of birds can disrupt local food webs, benefiting some species and putting pressure on others. Additionally, the introduction of new diseases or parasites from the irrupting birds can pose challenges for resident bird populations.

Flock of Pine Siskins feeding on seed [photo copyright "fishhawk" CC BY 2.0 Deed]

Despite the potential ecological impacts, bird irruptions offer a unique opportunity to observe birds outside their usual ranges. Many birdwatchers are delighted when seldom-seen species can be spotted regularly during the season.

Birdorable Gifts Featuring Irruptive Birds

2023 Bonanza Bird #10

The Crested Pigeon: A Shimmering and Whistling Wonder from Down Under

Today we're wrapping up our 2023 Birdorable Bonanza with a highfalutin cutie -- the Crested Pigeon!

The Crested Pigeon, native to Australia, is a striking bird with a notable, namesake crest on its head. Besides the crest, the pretty pidge can be recognized by shimmering spots on its wings that shine green and purple in sunlight

Crested Pigeons are also noted for a sound they make: when they take flight their wings make a whistling sound. This sound serves as more than just a flight signal; it plays a crucial role in their communication, especially as a warning call. The intensity of this whistle varies with the speed of their wing beats - the faster they flap, the more urgent the warning. Check out this video explaining how it works:

Found in lightly wooded and grassy areas across most of mainland Australia, the Crested Pigeon feeds on the ground, primarily consuming seeds and grains. This diet makes it an important player in seed dispersal, aiding in the health of its habitat's vegetation.

And ... that's a wrap!

Thanks for following along on our latest installment of the Birdorable Bonanza! In the last 10 days we added 10 new bird species to Birdorable. We now have 785 species in our flock. 🎉 Wow, that's a lot! You can browse all our 785 cute Birdorable birds on our Meet the Birds page and learn about each one.

Crested Pigeon (Flickr, CC BY 2.0 Deed, copyright © patrickkavanagh)

Cute Crested Pigeon gifts

2023 Bonanza Bird #9

Meet the Goliath Heron: The World's Largest Heron Species

Today we're adding a big bird to Birdorable. This bird is so big, it has a big word that means big in its name: it's the Goliath Heron! This massive wader is the world's largest species of heron!

The Goliath Heron is a massive bird, standing up to 5 feet tall with a wingspan that can exceed 7 feet in length! Besides its massive size, this bird has a striking, beautiful plumage.  The body has slate-gray feathers; the chest and belly are chestnut-colored, and streaky black stripes along the long neck are distinctive.

Most Goliath Herons are found in wetland habitats in sub-Saharan Africa, though its range extends to parts of Southwest and South Asia. The Goliath Heron is an expert fisher, and indeed its diet mainly consists of fish, but it also consumes amphibians, small mammals, and other small animals.

Goliath Heron (Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0 Deed, copyright © Bernard DUPONT)

Cute Goliath Heron gifts

Guess tomorrow's bird ...

Get ready for a delightful new addition to our Birdorable family, known for its distinctive and stylish 'hairdo'! Native to Australia, this charming bird is as fashionable as it is fascinating, sporting a unique crest that's always on-trend. Not only is its appearance chic, but its wings make a distinctive whistling sound when it takes to the skies. Can you guess which avian trendsetter is joining our flock? Keep an eye out for tomorrow's reveal of this crested beauty! 

2023 Bonanza Bird #8

Discover the Black-throated Magpie-Jay: Mexico's Long-Tailed Wonder

Meet the latest addition to Birdorable: the Black-throated Magpie-Jay joins our cute cartoon corvid family today as our 2023 Bonanza rolls on!

Native to the northwestern regions of Mexico, particularly the states of Sinaloa and Nayarit, this striking bird is a visual treat with its vivid blue and white plumage and extraordinarily long tail – one of the longest of any type of corvid. Though they have a relatively small native range, the population is strong and the species is not considered to be threatened. Forest fragmentation may prove to be a problem for the species as human development expands.

The Black-throated Magpie-Jay is an omnivore; it enjoys a mix of insects, seeds, and fruits.

Black-throated Magpie-Jays are known for their vocal stylings. They can be loud and raucous when gathering in groups; sometimes their calls sound like parrots!

Cute Black-throated Magpie-Jay gifts

Guess tomorrow's bird ...

Tomorrow, we're unveiling a brand-new addition to the Birdorable family, and it's a real giant in the avian world! This majestic bird, known for its impressive size and striking appearance, is often crowned as the largest heron on the planet. With long legs, a powerful beak, and a statuesque presence, it's a sight to behold in its natural habitat. Can you guess which bird we're talking about? Stay tuned and visit our blog tomorrow for the big reveal of this Goliath addition!

2023 Bonanza Bird #7

The Red-Bellied Macaw: A Glimpse into the Colorful World of a Tropical Parrot

Today a species of Macaw joins Birdorable. The Red-bellied Macaw is our 15th species of Macaw.

The Red-bellied Macaw is a vibrant bird native to South America's tropical rainforests. Known for its bright green plumage, distinctive namesake red belly, and mustard-yellow bare face, this medium-sized parrot blends beautifully into the forest canopy.

This macaw primarily inhabits areas rich in palm trees, as its diet largely consists of the fruits and seeds of two different palm species (the moriche palm and the Caribbean royal palm). The bird's strong beak is especially adapted for cracking the hard, oily nuts of these plants, making it a specialized feeder within its ecosystem. Red-bellied Macaws also rely on palms for nesting -- they nest inside cavities of dead moriche palm trees.

Cute Red-bellied Macaw gifts

Guess tomorrow's bird ...

This charismatic bird calls the woodlands and scrublands of Mexico and Central America home. It has an extraordinarily long tail, which is nearly the length of its body, making it one of the longest tailed birds in the world. Tomorrow, we'll reveal the identity of this beautiful jay. Can you guess which bird species we're featuring tomorrow?