Sulu hornbill -- 黑嘴斑犀鸟 (Anthracoceros montani)

Sulu hornbill perched
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Sulu hornbill fact file

Sulu hornbill description

GenusAnthracoceros (1)

The Sulu hornbill is probably the rarest hornbill in the world, and appears to be on the verge of extinction (2). This bird is predominantly black, although the upperparts have a glossy green sheen and the tail is a brilliant white (3). The large, powerful bill is black and topped by a blade-like bony crest, known as a 'casque' (4). Males and females are similar in appearance, although females tend to be smaller in size with smaller bills and casques (2). Juveniles have a small, greenish-yellow bill and no casque (2).

Length: 50 cm (2)

Sulu hornbill biology

Very little data on the natural ecology and behaviour of this rare bird has been recorded; the only information on breeding habits comes from local people who report that young emerge between May and June, from a clutch size of two (5). Large trees are required for nesting (4), and these birds have been reported to feed on forest fruit, small lizards and insects (5).


Sulu hornbill range

Endemic to three of the Sulu Islands in the Philippines: Tawitawi, Jolo and Sanga-sanga (5). Once abundant on these islands, it is today only confirmed to persist on Tawitawi, where there may be as few as 20 breeding pairs remaining (5). Unconfirmed reports of these hornbills on the small islands of Tandubatu, Dundangan and Baliungan require further investigation (4).


Sulu hornbill habitat


Sulu hornbill status

Classified as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List and listed on Appendix II of CITES (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Critically Endangered


Sulu hornbill threats

The islands of the Sulu archipelago escaped large-scale deforestation until the end of the 20th Century (2). Today however, the islands of Jolo and Sanga-sanga have been almost completely logged and have consequently suffered the local extinction of the Sulu hornbill (5). Logging in Tawitawi has also caused the deleterious decline of the species in its final stronghold. Hunting has also been a major cause of the destruction of this species; nestlings are collected annually for food and adults are reportedly shot on site, either for food or target practice (5). The tiny population of Sulu hornbills that remain is on the verge of extinction; political unrest in the region continues to hamper conservation efforts (2).


Sulu hornbill conservation

The Sulu hornbill does not currently occur within any protected areas (4), and is in grave danger of disappearing before it has been properly studied. Research into the life history and biology of this rare bird are urgently needed along with survey work and protection measures (2). The Sulu hornbill is listed on Appendix II of the Conventional on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and the Mindano State University have carried out some public awareness campaigns (5). Time is running out however, and the Sulu hornbill may soon receive the dubious accolade of being the be the first hornbill to become extinct in the 21st Century (5).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

Find out more

For more information on the Sulu hornbill see:



Authenticated by BirdLife International Secretariat.



A family of resinous trees that are found in the old world tropics
A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.


  1. IUCN Red List (2011)
  2. del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. & Sargatal, J. [eds.] (2001) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Vol 6: Mousebirds to hornbills. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  3. Erritzoe, J. (1993) The Birds of CITES and How to Identify Them. The Lutterworth Press, Cambridge.
  4. BirdLife International (2000) Threatened Birds of the World. Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, Barcelona and Cambridge.
  5. BirdLife International (2001) Threatened birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book. Cambridge, UK: BirdLife International.

Image credit

Sulu hornbill perched  
Sulu hornbill perched

© Desmond Allen

Desmond Allen


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