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Rare hornbill spotted in city after 18 years

                                                                                         The Times of India, New Delhi, 5th May, 2013

After being chased by a flock of 50-odd crows, a distressed bird flows out of the Aravali Biodiversity Park into the Vasant Vihar area within a few minutes. Wildlife photographer Yaseer Arafat who caught this early morning drama on Saturday was stunned to realize that the bird being harassed was none other than an oriental pied hornbill, last sighted in Delhi in 1995.

"Arafat, working for the biodiversity parks programme of Delhi University, was out on a routine monitoring of park when he saw the bird and took pictures of it. We will be monitoring its return, in case it comes back," said Dr M Shah Hussain, scientist in-charge, Aravali Biodiversity Park.
 The last mention of the bird having been seen in Delhi was made in the book 'Fauna of Delhi', published by the Zoological Survey of India in 1997. The sighting was reported by an organization named Kalpavriksha. This entry makes references to two other British records of the bird in Delhi, one in 1948 and the other in 1978.

"The bird is a medium-sized hornbill, larger than the commonly found Indian grey hornbill. It is usually found in moist deciduous forests and near fruit yielding plants. It is an extremely rare sighting for Delhi as the bird is usually found in Haryana, going east through the Himalayan foothills to Arunachal Pradesh and eastern India," said Hussain.

According to sources, the bird was earlier recorded as a vagrant, indicating it had strayed from its usual flight path and habitat. Since Delhi does not offer a suitable habitat for the bird, the one spotted on Saturday was also possibly a vagrant. "The crows were chasing it since it is an unusual bird for the area. This is a common habit with crows. The bird might have lived around Delhi several years ago when there were forests around the capital. The bird might have also been a passive migrant in Delhi — used the city as a stop-over point in its migration," added Hussain.

Studies indicate that the population of hornbill is declining even though it is known to adapt easily to a changing landscape.