Hornbill Nest Adoption Program

Saving hornbill homes with communities

Human beings are part of nature and therefore it is vital to have community participation in conservation activities. This is especially true while attempting to implement conservation programs where good quality forests still exist outside Protected Areas.

  • School kids in Pakke

  • School kids engaged in wildlife activities

  • Nyishi women during the annual Nyokum festival

  • Pakke's forests near its south-eastern boundary along the Pakke river

  • Nyishi children on a visit to Pakke TR

  • Nyishi man with traditional hornbill headgear

  • Slide show for villagers

  • Wreathed hornbill male perched at the nest cavity

  • Oriental pied hornbill chick getting ready to come out of the nest at the end of the breeding season.

  • Great hornbill female

  • Ghora-aabhe members at awareness campaign in villages

  • Great hornbill male feeding the female inside the nest cavity

  • Wreathed hornbill male at the nest cavity with food in the beak

  • Male Rufous necked hornbill

  • Oriental Pied Hornbill male perched at the nest cavity

Hornbill Breeding Biology

Hornbills naturally occur in low densities and are slow breeders. They are also monogamous birds, with a long breeding season which involves intensive parental care. These birds nest in large softwood trees with existing cavities. During the breeding season, hornbill pairs find a suitable cavity. The female then seals herself inside this cavity with droppings and mud and lays eggs, leaving only a slit for the male to bring back food for the family. Their biology thus makes them extremely vulnerable to hunting, and habitat loss, which results in loss of breeding individuals from the population and loss of nesting sites respectively.


A male Wreathed Hornbill with fruits to feed the female who is within the nest cavity

Hornbills in Pakke

Since 2003 we have been  studying hornbills and monitoring their nests in the Pakke Tiger Reserve(PTR), in  the East Kameng District,  Arunachal Pradesh. Aspects of hornbill biology were studied in PTR from 1995-2000. 

Pakke is a haven for hornbills in North-east India, with four of the nine species - the Great Hornbill, the Wreathed Hornbill, the Oriental Pied Hornbill and the Rufous-necked Hornbill- found here. This makes the area extremely important for hornbills, especially considering that hunting and habitat loss threatens hornbill species in the rest of Northeast India. Hunting has declined; however threats remain due to deforestation in the foothill forests outside the PA. These forests are crucial habitats for hornbill nesting and roosting. Our long-term monitoring of hornbill nests outside the PTR suggested that there was increased direct competition for nests between hornbill species due to limited availability of nest sites. 

It was in this context that we set out to work with the dominant tribe in Pakke, the Nyishi community. The Nyishi use the upper beak/casque of the Great/Rufous-necked hornbill in their traditional headgear, the fat and also consume the meat. Since 2002, due to increased support from the Nyishi community living around Pakke and the protection efforts by the Arunachal Pradesh Forest Department, hornbill populations have been doing well inside the protected area (PA). 


A Nyishi villager with traditional headgear made of Great Hornbill's beak. Thanks to the community's initiative and the local Forest Department and the Wildlife Trust of India most men have now switched to fiberglass beaks.

Protection with people outside Pakke TR

Until 2011, our monitoring effort had been restricted to about 30-40 nests each year inside Pakke Tiger Reserve due to limitations of staff and funding. There was a need to continue monitoring of hornbill nests and roosts and expand the monitoring effort to a larger area especially to areas outside the protected area (Pakke Tiger Reserve) where hornbill nesting habitat is under threat. The best way to do this was to seek the wider participation and help of the Nyishi community living in the nearby villages who had banned hunting throughout the year and were assisting the park authorities in protection of wildlife. 

In 2011, we initiated the Hornbill Nest Adoption Program (HNAP) in partnership with the Ghora-Aabhe Society, a council of village elders and the Arunachal Forest Department. We now have 16 Nyishi villagers from 14 villages who are engaged in finding, monitoring and protecting hornbill nests and roosts. They are paid a salary and provided field equipment from the funds raised and a certain percentage of the funds are also provided annually for community welfare and development. 

Nest 20protectors 20searching 20for 20nest 20trees 20on 20a 20misty 20morning  20photo 20swati 20sidhu

Nyishi nest protectors searching for hornbill nests in the forests around Pakke.

Being a Hornbill Parent

How can you get involved?

1. You can become a hornbill parent by adopting a hornbill nest

2. By volunteering to help find and watch hornbill nests with villagers during the breeding season. 

3. By telling others about this program.

Adoption Rate:  

The adoption rate per hornbill family per year is Rs. 6000 per year or US $125 per year. Your monetary contribution would be tax-exempt. To make an online donation please go to the following link http://ncf-india.org/pages/donate

Email aparajita@ncf-india.org for more information.

What you will receive

You will receive two reports every breeding season with details on the nesting status of the hornbills and the nest trees that are monitored and protected, along with stories from our nest protectors who are responsible for monitoring the nests.

Note: The breeding season lasts from March (nest entry by hornbill female) to August (female and chick emergence). One annual report will be sent at the end of the year (October-November) after all information has been processed. A shorter mid-season update will be sent in May. Donations received after the breeding season will be used for the next year.

You can also follow our Facebook page: 'Hornbill Conservation Program, NE India' to see project updates, photos and videos from the field.

Nest 20adoption 20logo1

The story so far

Since we began in 2011, through the nest adoption program, we have monitored and protected 36 hornbill nests and helped 82 hornbill chicks fledge successfully. We started in 2011 with three nest protectors from 3 villages. Currently, we have 16 nest protectors from 14 villages protecting hornbill nests in the forests around PTR.

Nest 20protector 20pahi 20tachang 20monitors 20a 20great 20hornbill 20nest 20  20adarsh 20raju

Nest Protector Pahi Tachang, monitors a Great Hornbill Nest, an elongated cavity in the tree in the foreground.

Volunteering and Visiting


If you wish to get involved and assist in field work, please write to Devathi Parashuram (devathi@ncf-india.org). Along with the e-mail, please send us your CV and a small write-up (not more than 300 words) as to why you wish to volunteer with us.


Should you wish to visit Pakke to see the hornbills you adopt, Pakke Tours and Travels can organize to bring you to the site at your own expense. You can stay at the Pakke Jungle Eco-camp, a community-run tourism enterprise by members of the Ghora-Aabhe. However, there will be a limit on visitor numbers.

For details please contact:

Suresh Pait, Pakke Tours and Travels (Managing Director): 03782291333 or 09402037005; sureshpait@gmail.com

We can help you with your visit as well, if necessary.

An indirect benefit is your opportunity to contribute to the conservation of Arunachal Pradesh’s valuable natural resources. You will also able to watch hornbills and other wildlife in their natural habitat.

Location: Pakke Wildlife Sanctuary & Tiger Reserve and surrounding reserve forests in East Kameng district, Western Arunachal. 


Accommodation at Pakke Jungle eco-camp



  • Arunachal Pradesh Forest Department
  • Ghora-Aabhe Society (Seijosa, Arunachal Pradesh)


  • Attica Zoological Park, Greece
  • Geetanjali Dhar, IT Nature Club
  • Greater Vancouver Zoo, Canada
  • MM Muthiah Research Foundation
  • Rotterdam Zoo, Netherlands


  • Report
    Hornbill Nest Adoption Program - 2016 breeding season
    HNAP 2016 Report

    PDF, 3.74 MB

  • Report
    Hornbill Nest Adoption Program - 2015 Breeding Season
    HNAP 2015 Report

    PDF, 1.99 MB

  • Journal Article
    Protecting a hornbill haven: a community-based conservation initiative in Arunachal Pradesh, north-east India
    Malayan Nature Journal, 67 (2): 203-218

    PDF, 1.12 MB

  • Book Chapter
    Hope for hornbills
    In: Allison Hegan (Ed.), Endangered Tales.
  • Report
    Hornbill Nest Adoption Program  - 2014 breeding season
    2014 HNAP Report

    PDF, 752 KB

  • Report
    Hornbill Nest Adoption Program - 2013 Breeding season
    HNAP Report for 2013

    PDF, 1.78 MB

     2013 Report for Hornbill Nest Adoption Program

  • Popular Article
    Shared parenting
    Hindu Survey of the Environment, July 2012, pp. 88-97.

    PDF, 8.61 MB

    A programme to adopt hornbill nests in Arunachal Pradesh is giving these great birds a chance to survive in Pakke,

  • Report
    Protecting a hornbill haven: a community-run conservation initiative around Pakke Tiger Reserve
    HNAP Report for 2012

    PDF, 2.11 MB

    2012 Report for Hornbill Nest Adoption Program

  • Report
    Conserving a hornbill haven
    HNAP Report for 2011

    PDF, 1.83 MB

    2011 Report for the Hornbill Nest Adoption Program

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