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Hornbill

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Hornbills are a group of birds whose bill is shaped like a cow's horn, but without a twist, sometimes with a casque on the upper mandible. Frequently, the bill is brightly coloured. There are 57 species worldwide and 10 species which occur in Namibia.

Monteiro's Hornbill Tockus monteiri (NE)

The Monteiro's Hornbill, Tockus monteiri, is an African Hornbill. It is a medium sized bird, with a length between 54 to 58 cm, characterized by a white belly, black back, with white spots on the wings and secondary flight feathers coloured white. The outer feathers of the long tail are also white.

Females are smaller than males and can be recognized by turquoise facial skin. The eyes are black and the beak is red. Unlike other members of the family, which are omnivorous, the Monteiro's hornbill feeds exclusively on insects and other small arthropods. Its habitat is the savannah and dry thorn fields of NW Namibia.

In springtime, Monteiro's hornbills migrate to the southern Windhoek region for nesting. Due to the arid environment, drinking is not a vital necessity for this species. They breed in the end of good rainy season, laying 3 to 5 white-greyish eggs, hatched after about 45 days. The nest is built in rocky faces or trees. The Monteiro's hornbill is a common endemic species of Namibia, with total population estimated on 340,000 individuals.

Damara Hornbill Tockus damarensis (NE)

The Red-billed Hornbill has a black stripe on the back of its head. The nominate subspecies shown on this photo has reddish ocular skin and dark eyes.

This conspicuous bird has mainly whitish underparts and head, and grey upperparts. It has a long tail and a long and curved red bill which lacks a casque. Sexes are similar, but the female has a smaller bill. It is a large bird, at 42 cm long, but is one of the smaller hornbills. It advertises its presence with its noisy accelerating tok-tok-tok-toktoktok call.

Red-billed Hornbill Tockus erythrorhynchus

The Red-billed Hornbill has a black stripe on the back of its head. The nominate subspecies shown on this photo has reddish ocular skin and dark eyes.

This conspicuous bird has mainly whitish underparts and head, and grey upperparts. It has a long tail and a long and curved red bill which lacks a casque. Sexes are similar, but the female has a smaller bill. It is a large bird, at 42 cm long, but is one of the smaller hornbills. It advertises its presence with its noisy accelerating tok-tok-tok-toktoktok call.

Eastern Yellow-billed Hornbill Tockus flavirostris


The Eastern Yellow-billed Hornbill (Tockus flavirostris) is a species of hornbill in the Bucerotidae family. It is found in Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda. It resembles the Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill, but has blackish (not pinkish) skin around the eyes.

Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill Tockus leucomelas

The Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill (Tockus leucomelas) is a Hornbill found in southern Africa. It is a medium sized bird, with length between 48 to 60 cm, characterized by a long yellow beak with a casque (casque reduced in the female). The skin around the eyes and in the malar stripe is pinkish. The related Eastern Yellow-billed Hornbill from north-eastern Africa has blackish skin around the eyes.

They have a white belly, grey neck, and black back with abundant white spots and stripes. They feed mainly on the ground, where they forage for seeds, small insects, spiders and scorpions. Termites and ants are a preferred food source in the dry season.

Females lay 3 to 4 white eggs in their nest cavities and incubate them for about 25 days. Juveniles take about 45 days to mature. This hornbill is a common, widespread resident of the dry thorn fields and broad-leafed woodlands. Frequently they can be sighted along roads.

Crowned Hornbill Tockus alboterminatus

The Crowned Hornbill, Tockus alboterminatus, is an African hornbill. It is a medium-sized bird, with a length between 50 and 54 cm, and it is characterized by its white belly and black back and wings. The tips of the long tail feathers are white. The eyes are yellow; the beak is red and presents a stocky casque on the upper mandible. In females, the casque is smaller.

The Crowned Hornbill can be distinguished from the similar Bradfield's Hornbill by its shorter beak.

The Crowned Hornbill is a common resident of the coastal and riverine forests of southern (only the eastern coast) to northeastern Africa. It forages mainly in trees, where it feeds in insects (often caught in flight), small rodents and reptiles, seeds and fruits. This hornbill species can be seen in flocks, usually in the dry season. Four to five white eggs are incubated for 25 to 30 days; the juveniles remain with both parents for about 8 weeks.

Bradfield's Hornbill Tockus bradfieldi


The Bradfield's Hornbill, Tockus bradfieldi, is an African Hornbill. It is a medium sized bird, with length between 50 to 57 cm, characterized by white belly, black back and wings. The tip feathers of the long tail are white.

Females are smaller than males and can be recognized by turquoise facial skin. The eyes are yellow and the beak is red. The beak is long and presents no casque.

This is an uncommon resident of the mopane woodlands and mixed thorn fields of north eastern Namibia (especially in the Waterberg plateau), north Botswana, southern Angola and east Zimbabwe. They feed on fruits, large insects, nuts and small reptiles.

African Grey Hornbill Tockus nasutus

The African Grey Hornbill, Tockus nasutus, is a hornbill. Hornbills are a family of tropical near-passerine birds found in the Old World.

The African Grey Hornbill is a widespread and common resident breeder in much of sub-Saharan Africa and into Arabia.

This is a bird mainly of open woodland and savannah. The female lays two to four white eggs in a tree hollow, which is blocked off during incubation with a cement made of mud, droppings and fruit pulp. There is only one narrow aperture, just big enough for the male to transfer food to the mother and the chicks.

When the chicks and the female are too big to fit in the nest, the mother breaks out and rebuilds the wall, then both parents feed the chicks.

This species is a large bird, at 45cm in length, but is one of the smaller hornbills. It has mainly grey plumage, with the head, flight feathers and long tail being a darker shade. There is a white line down each side of the head and one on the back which is visible only in flight. The long curved bill is black and has a small casque and a creamy horizontal stripe.
The male has a black bill, whereas the female has red on the mandibles. The plumage of the male and female is similar. Immature birds are more uniformly grey. The flight is undulating. The similarly sized Red-billed Hornbill has uniformly grey plumage.

The African Grey Hornbill is omnivorous, taking insects, fruit and reptiles. It feeds mainly in trees.

This conspicuous bird advertises its presence with its piping pee-o pee-o pee-o call.

Trumpeter Hornbill Ceratogymna bucinator

The Trumpeter Hornbill, Bycanistes bucinator, is a medium-sized hornbill, with length between 58 to 65 cm, characterized by a large grey casque on the bill, smaller in females. The eyes are brown or red, with pink surrounding skin. They are similar to Silvery-cheeked Hornbill. Distinguishing features include an all-black back, white belly and white underwing coverts (in flight, wings present white tips), and red facial skin.

The Trumpeter Hornbill is a gregarious bird, usually living in groups of 2 to 5 individuals, although sometimes as many as 50. This hornbill is a locally common resident of the tropical evergreen forests of Burundi, Mozambique, Botswana, Congo, Kenya, the Caprivi strip of Namibia and eastern South Africa, where it feeds on fruits and large insects. Like other hornbills, the females incubate 4 to 5 white eggs, while sealed in the nest compartment.

When and fed in captivity they are tame loving birds that can be taught a variety of tricks, and enjoy companionship with their owner. They require large spacious cages to move about in because of their active nature. Care needs to be taken in their high fruit diet because of their susceptibility to excessive iron storage, which is similar to the excessive iron storage seen in the disease hemochromatosis in humans. They are very intelligent and have a life expectancy of up to 20 years.

Southern Ground-Hornbill Bucorvus leadbeateri

The Southern Ground Hornbill or cafer (Bucorvus leadbeateri), is one of two species of ground hornbill and is the largest species of hornbill.

It is a large bird, at 90 to 129 cm long and a weight of 2.2 to 6.2 kg, with the male considerably larger than the female. It is characterized by black coloration and vivid red patches of bare skin on the face and throat (yellow in juvenile birds). The white tips of the wings (primary feathers) seen in flight are another diagnostic characteristic. The beak is black and straight and presents a casque, more developed in males. Female Southern Ground Hornbills are smaller and have violet-blue skin on their throats.

Its habitat comprises savannahs, woodlands and grasslands. It can be found from northern Namibia and Angola to northern South Africa to Burundi and Kenya. The Southern Ground Hornbill is a vulnerable species, mainly confined to national reserves and national parks. They live in groups of 5 to 10 individuals including adults and juveniles. Often, neighbouring groups are engaged in aerial pursuits. They forage on the ground, where they feed on reptiles, frogs, snails, insects and mammals up to the size of hares. Juveniles are dependent on adults for 6 to 12 months.

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