Safeguarding the hornbill population by building artificial nests in order to enhance breeding

In Sumatra there are 9 species of Hornbills, five of which can be found in the Muaro Duo reserve

Oriental Pied Hornbill
(Anthracoceros albirostris)

IUCN status : Least concern

Rhinoceros Hornbill   (Buceros rhinoceros)

IUCN status : Vulnerable

Wreathed Hornbill (Rhyticeros undulatus)

IUCN status : Vulnerable

Great Hornbill     (Buceros bicornis)

IUCN status : Vulnerable

Bushy-crested Hornbill (Anorrhinus galeritus)

IUCN status : Near threatened


Many species of hornbills are threatened especially due to the loss of nesting sites.

Indeed, Hornbills nest in natural tree cavities and certain species, such as Buceros bicornis, Buceros rhinoceros and Rhyticeros undulatus need large trees which can provide cavities adapted to their size. However, most Sumatran forests are secondary forests which have suffered from selective cutting whereby the tall, emerging trees have been felled thus destroying the nesting sites of these mystical birds.

For 7 years, we have monitored a couple of Rhinoceros hornbill living in Muaro Duo. In all these years, this couple has never bred.

This is why Rimba has committed to building artificial nests which address the needs of these endangered species.

An example of an artificial nest built by HUTAN

These nests have been built according to a design created and used by the HUTAN non-profit organization in Borneo. We warmly thank Marc Ancrenaz, the director of HUTAN, for sharing his knowledge and technical skills in the building of the nests.

According to a study carried out by Hutan, the nests are occupied on average 3 or 4 years after being put in place. It follows that the nests must be made of strong, long-term resistant materials.

The nests are built from 2 cans overlapping one onto the other between which a thick layer of insulation is added so as to insure a temperature and hygrometry as constant as in a natural tree cavity. Indeed, if the temperature and hygrometry vary too much in the artificial nest, the Hornbills will never take possession of them.

The outer can is then covered with a mixture of sawdust, glue and cement, then painted brown to give it a natural appearance.

The nests are put in place by specialised climbers at the top of tall trees, sometimes as high as 20-30m above ground.


The cost of building a nest is 200 euros, including materials and labour. Our aim is to build 5 nests by the end of 2021, meaning a total budget of 1,000 euros.

Help Rimba to build 5 nests