The adult male has a mainly black plumage with a golden or orange-buff coloured head, white throat and a white tail. Its irides are reddish brown, surrounded by naked pale blue skin around the eye. The female is a smaller predominantly black bird with a white throat and tail. Both sexes have a very large, horn-coloured, bill and casque. Both sexes of young birds resemble the male. Adults have up to eight folds on the pale casque, depending on age, while young birds have none. Rufous on neck varies along gradient (E-W) from deep rufous to golden-rufous. Juvenile similar to mal, but bit smaller, no casque. In flight the sound of its wings is loud and distinctive, a rushing noise that has been compared to the sound of steam escaping from a steam locomotive. As well as the noise produced by its wings, the Papuan Hornbill has a range of far-reaching, guttural grunting and laughing calls.