Hornbills (Bucerotidae) are a family of bird found in tropical and subtropical Africa, Asia and Melanesia. They are characterized by a long, down-curved bill which is frequently brightly colored and sometimes has a casque on the upper mandible. Both the common English and the scientific name of the family refer to the shape of the bill, "buceros" being "cow horn" in Greek. Hornbills have a two-lobed kidney. They are the only birds in which the first and second neck vertebrae (the atlas and axis respectively) are fused together; this probably provides a more stable platform for carrying the bill. The family is omnivorous, feeding on fruit and small animals. They are monogamous breeders nesting in natural cavities in trees and sometimes cliffs. A number of mainly insular species of hornbill with small ranges are threatened with extinction, namely in Southeast Asia.
In the Neotropical realm, toucans occupy the hornbills' ecological niche, an example of convergent evolution. Despite their close appearances, the two groups are not related, with toucans being allied with the woodpeckers, honeyguides and several families of barbet, while hornbills (and their close relatives the ground hornbills) are allied with the hoopoes and wood-hoopoes.
The Bucerotidae include about 55 living species, though a number of cryptic species may yet be split, as has been suggested for the red-billed hornbill. Their distribution includes Sub-Saharan Africa and the Indian Subcontinent to the Philippines and the Solomon Islands, but no genus is found in both Africa and Asia. Most are arboreal birds, but the large ground hornbills (Bucorvus), as their name implies, are terrestrial birds of open savanna. Of the 24 species found in Africa, 13 are birds of the more open woodlands and savanna, and some occur even in highly arid environments; the remaining species are found in dense forests. This contrasts with Asia, where a single species occurs in open savanna and the remainder are forest species. The Indian subcontinent has 10 species of hornbills, of which 9 are found in India and adjoining countries, while the Sri Lanka grey hornbill is restricted to the island. The most common widespread species in the Indian subcontinent is the Indian grey hornbill. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Indonesia has 13 hornbill species: 9 of them exist in Sumatra, and the rest exist in Sumba, Sulawesi, Papua and Kalimantan. Kalimantan has the same hornbill species as Sumatra, except that the great hornbill is not found there. In the Neogene (at least in the late Miocene), hornbills inhabited North Africa and South Europe. Their remains have been found in Morocco and Bulgaria. The oldest known hornbill is from the Early Miocene of Uganda, around 19 million years ago, which is similar to modern Tockus.