Asian hornbill populations are declining across their ranges because of hunting and deforestation. Five of the 32 Asian hornbill species occur in north-east India. However, vital information on their abundance from the region remains scanty. Understanding spatiotemporal variation in densities provides crucial information for formulating effective conservation strategies based on species-specific abundance patterns and population trends. We examined spatiotemporal variation in densities of four hornbill species in the Namdapha Tiger Reserve, a site identified as an important site for hornbill conservation in Asia. We collected data through variable-width line transect sampling (effort=842.1 km) in the non-breeding season from 2009-12 to estimate hornbill densities. We had 458 detections of four hornbill species. We have estimated White-throated Brown Hornbill densities (7.9 birds/km2) for the first time throughout its entire range. The mean Rufous-necked Hornbill densities (6.9 birds/km2) were higher than those reported elsewhere. Great (3.9 birds/km2) and Wreathed Hornbill (16.1 birds/km2) densities were comparable with other sites. The peak densities of all hornbill species in November-December are among the highest reported from Asia. Wreathed Hornbill densities showed temporal variation peaking in November-December (68 birds/km2) and drastically declining by March-April (1.3 birds/km2), indicating seasonal altitudinal movement to low elevation areas outside the reserve during the breeding season. Our results underscored the spatial variation in hornbill distribution, with low densities of Great and the White-throated Brown hornbills in higher elevations. Our study demonstrates the global importance of Namdapha for hornbills, given its large area and high densities of four hornbill species.
Tropical Conservation Science 6:734-748