Hornbills are useful indicators of forest condition and human disturbance because they require large tracts of unfragmented forest with large fruiting trees for feeding and nesting. They are relatively large-bodied, which makes them targets for hunting. Density estimates of such species are critical for population monitoring and serve as a baseline against which future changes can be measured. In this study we used variable-width line transect surveys to estimate the densities of nine hornbill species in the Bala portion of the Hala-Bala Wildlife Sanctuary on the Thai–Malaysia border, one of the few remaining areas of lowland forest in Thailand. The hornbill species were: Rhinoceros (Buceros rhinoceros), Great (B. bicornis), Helmeted (B. vigil), Black (Anthracoceros malayanus), Bushy-crested (Anorrhinus galeritus), White-crowned (Aceros comatus), Wrinkled (A. corrugatus), Wreathed (A. undulatus) and Plain-pouched (A. subruficollis). Between January 2001 and April 2002, 11 transects along trails, old logging roads and one paved road were surveyed once per month. A total of 1,261 observations of the nine species were made during the observation period. Estimates for Rhinoceros and Helmeted Hornbill were 2.69 and 1.21 individuals/km2, respectively, and were similar or slightly higher than densities reported elsewhere. Estimates for Great (0.12), Bushy-crested (0.64), Wrinkled (0.08), White-crowned (0.08) and Wreathed Hornbills (0.69) were generally lower than estimates from other areas in the region. It was not possible to obtain density estimates using distance sampling for Black and Plain-pouched Hornbills due to the small number of observations, but our data did suggest that their densities were also low (<0.10 individuals/km2). Potential reasons for differences between this and other areas include a scarcity of lowland habitat, habitat isolation, lower abundance of specific fruit resources and interspecific competition, but these factors require further investigation. Standardization of survey techniques among studies would significantly improve assessments of habitat requirements as well as of the effects of human disturbance on Asian hornbills, most of which are globally threatened. Our study specifically underscores the need for additional research on the Plain-pouched Hornbill, the most threatened of the species studied, as density estimates from elsewhere in its range are lacking, while more generally it highlights the need to investigate the underlying causes of the often substantial variation in hornbill densities among species and sites.