Cackler on the Roof!
If you’re humming to yourself, strolling through the coffee-scented backwoods of Coorg, and hear a maniacal laugh followed by some hysterical cackling, please don’t put your musical ambitions on hold. Far from being a reaction to your ability to hold a tune, it may just be the local busybody wagging his rather large nose in vocal appreciation from his arboreal perch. Admittedly, the effect can be soul-destroying to fragile maestros-in-the-making, but if you look up, you may indulge in some maniacal cackling yourself. What you’ll see, first and foremost, is a ludicrously large nose, curved like a horn, which dominates the rest of the body. The Malabar Grey Hornbill, known scientifically as ‘Buceros’, or cow-horn in Greek, is often found on the treetops, keeping a look-out for succulent figs. Now, you may not care a fig as to why he laughs so much, but we feel it’s just a defense mechanism where he takes the initiative before a casual onlooker ridicules his humongous beak. The ‘Big Beak’ of Coorg is the only bird in which the first two neck vertebrae are fused together to provide a more stable platform for carrying the heavy beak. Now, his nose may remind you of your old aunt who poked hers wherever it wasn’t wanted, but the Hornbill’s serves the purpose of keeping other males at bay, and to prise open delicious fruit. However, it is of no help in excavating a nesting hole, and the female is thus forced to find trees with hollows to lay her eggs. Once inside, she seals herself with a cement made from her droppings, leaving a small opening to perform her ablutions and receive food parcels from her loyal life-partner. In a few weeks, you’ll hear faint juvenile cackling before the seal is broken and the next batch of hornbills emerges to laugh at the world.
We at Orange County have loved sharing this story with you, and shall bring you one every fortnight, as part of our Responsible Tourism Initiatives to raise awareness about the nature and culture of the environments we operate in.