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Hornbills of South Africa | Journey For Wildlife

Hornbills are a household of birds present in subtropical Africa, Asia and Melanesia (Papua Guinea, Fiji, Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu).

Of the 24 species of hornbills in Africa, six of them are present in South Africa. And all of those hornbills of South Africa are present in Kruger Nationwide Park.

The six hornbills of South Africa

These arboreal or semi-terrestrial birds range in measurement (the Southern floor hornbill is the largest hornbill species in South Africa) and have an omnivorous food plan. 

Their  giant payments are very distinct and heavy, and are supported by highly effective neck muscular tissues. This huge invoice is utilized in preening, foraging, nest development, and combating. Regardless that their payments look fairly stable, they’re gentle and honey-combed with air pockets. Some hornbills are outfitted with a horn-like casque (bigger in males) that stands proud of the highest of their invoice .

South African hornbill casques
South African hornbill casques (the attractive projection on prime of invoice). Males proven. (females are barely totally different)

Hornbills are monogamous they usually nest in tree trunks and rock cavities. When nesting, the feminine seals herself up contained in the nesting cavity by blocking the doorway with mud, droppings, and regurgitated meals. She leaves a slim slot that they male makes use of to feed the grownup feminine by way of. This creates a virtually predator-proof nest. She’s going to keep sealed contained in the cavity for about 2.5 months. This habits ensures that the chicks are absolutely protected towards predation.

The hornbill is an omnivorous hen and feeds on invertebrates, small mammals, small lizards, birds eggs, birds nestlings, seeds, and fruits. They appear to be very keen on figs.

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Chicken guides of South Africa

Topped Hornbill (Lophoceros alboterminatus)

crowned hornbill, birds of kruger on a branch
Topped hornbill

Size: 19.5 – 21 inches Weight: 8 ounces

Conservation standing: Least concern (IUCN Purple Record 2016)

Present in woodlands, the topped hornbill (Lophoceros alboterminatus) has darkish brown plumage, yellow eyes, white stomach, and is the one hornbill in South Africa that has a yellow strip on the base of its invoice. Yow will discover topped hornbills foraging in teams across the forest cover. They will decide bugs off vegetation and also can catch flying bugs within the air.

Their food plan consists of invertebrates and small animals, and within the winter they’ll complement their food plan with fruits.

Southern Floor hornbill (Bucorvus leadbeateri)

Southern ground hornbill with big insect in beak
Southern floor hornbill

Size: 43 inches, Weight: 8.3 kilos

Life expectancy: 70 years

Conservation standing: Weak (IUCN Purple Record 2016)

The most important of the South African hornbills, the Southern floor hornbill (Bucorvus leadbeateri) is an endangered hen and any encounter with these unimaginable animals is memorable. They will measure over three toes tall, weight as much as 14 kilos, and have a wingspan of about 5 toes. Their giant measurement and their purple facial pores and skin makes them simple to determine within the subject.

You possibly can see these giant birds strolling across the savanna in small household teams, often as much as 12 people. We noticed the person within the picture with one other grownup and a juvenile (juvenile southern floor hornbills have yellow face markings as an alternative of purple). We noticed them for some time as they have been foraging for bugs. As soon as that they had discovered one, they might carry it round (as within the picture), displaying their discover to the opposite relations as in the event that they have been very pleased with it. 

Southern floor hornbills have a protracted lifespan and may stay as much as 70 years of age within the wild. Younger birds don’t attain maturity till they’re about 10 years outdated.

To study extra concerning the conservation efforts to save lots of the Southern Floor hornbill go to Mabula Floor-Hornbill Venture. You possibly can submit your southern floor hornbill sightings immediately on their web site or by emailing them at

two southern ground hornbills foraging
Southern floor hornbills foraging

Southern red-billed hornbill (Tockus rofurostris)

Southern red-billed hornbill on a branch
Southern red-billed hornbill

Size: 15.5 – 29 inches, Weight: 4.9 ounces

Conservation standing: Least concern (IUCN Purple Record 2016)

The Southern red-billed hornbill (Tockus rofurostris) is a medium-sized hornbill that may be distinguished by its yellow eyes, purple beak, an a black patch in it decrease mandible.

Southern red-billed hornbills inhabit the savannah and open woodlands alongside riverine grasslands. They will also be present in semi-desert like within the Kalahari.

Whereas yow will discover southern red-billed hornbills in bushes, they forage for prey on the bottom. Their food plan is principally invertebrates, though often will prey on small rodents, birds nestlings, lizards, and a few fruits. They’ll seek for small beetles and fly larvae by digging in soil or in animal dung.

Discovered usually in pairs or in small teams, they favor Mopane forests, thornveld, savannah and different dry habitats. In the course of the dry season when not breeding, they change into considerably nomadic in most areas and flocks might kind, feeding collectively and gathering at water holes within the savanna the place dung piles and meals are plentiful, however usually returning to roost of their territory.

southern red-billed hornbill standing on the ground
Southern red-billed hornbill

Southern yellow-billed hornbill (Tockus leucomelas)

A couple of Southern yellow-billed hornbills on the ground
Southern yellow-billed hornbills

Size: 19 – 23.5 inches, Weight: 4.6 – 8.5 ounces

Conservation standing: Least concern (IUCN Purple Record 2016)

With a spread just like that of the African gray hornbill, the Southern yellow-billed hornbill (Tockus leucomelas) is a really curious hen and entertaining to look at. 

Southern yellow-billed hornbills inhabit the savannah and open woodlands, alongside riverine grasslands. They will also be present in semi-desert just like the Kalahari.

They feed on the bottom, and search within the leaf litter for small invertebrates. When accessible, they’ll eat small rodents, birds eggs, and nestlings. They’re territorial, and are present in pairs or in small household flocks. The genus title “Tockus” refers back to the distinctive “tock tock tock” name these hornbills make.

southern-yellow billed hornbill foraging on an acacia tree
The Southern yellow-billed hornbill is without doubt one of the hornbills of South Africa

Throughout one among our visits to the Kgalagadi Transfontier Nationwide Park, we have been staying in a cabin at Urikaruus Wilderness Camp when a faucet on the window glass woke us up. There have been two southern yellow-billed hornbills ‘knocking’ at our window! We suspected they noticed their very own reflection within the glass and weren’t amused by it! It is because, to them, they’re combating an intruder after they see their reflection.

Each time we see these hornbills, we try to observe them for some time as they like to research all the pieces they usually entertain us for hours. 

African gray hornbill (Lophoceros nasutus)

African grey hornbill sitting on a branch
African gray hornbill

Size: 15.5 – 18.5 inches, Weight: 5.5 ounces

Life expectancy: 20 years

Conservation standing: Least concern (IUCN Purple Record 2016)

This medium-sized hornbill might be distinguished from the opposite hornbills of South Africa by their giant black down-curved invoice and conspicuous casque. 

African gray hornbills (Lophoceros nasutus) are territorial and might be present in resident pairs throughout their mating season or in giant flocks throughout non breeding season. They favor wooded habitats and enormous thickets. 

The trumpeter hornbill is omnivorous. Its food plan consists of huge bugs, crabs, eggs, nestlings, reptiles, small birds, and varied fruits. They’re particularly keen on the fruits of the Natal Mahogany tree and figs. They will spend hours foraging in a single tree.

With a spread similar to that of Southern yellow hornbills, the African gray hornbill (Lophoceros nasutus) is distinguishable from different hornbills by the white markings on the decrease mandible.

African grey hornbill perched on a jacaranda tree branch
African gray hornbill

Trumpeter hornbill (Lophoceros alboterminatus)

Size: 23 – 25.5 inches, Weight: 0.9 to 2.2 kilos

Conservation standing: Least concern (IUCN Purple Record 2018)

Present in forests, the trumpeter hornbill (Lophoceros alboterminatus) has principally black plumage with a white stomach. It’s the hornbill species in Kruger that we discover most difficult to identify.

Their food plan consists of fruit (their favorites are figs, berries, and drupes) and revel in foraging in dense foliage the place they hunt for invertebrates and nestlings.

Trumpeter hornbills are sometimes present in pairs (the breeding pair), or in small household teams of three to five people. Nonetheless, this hornbill species commonly gathers with different trumpeters to kind teams of some dozen. They roost in giant dense bushes in flocks of as much as 200 people. At daybreak pairs of trumpeters will head out to forage in several instructions.

The place to see the hornbills of South Africa

To see hornbills in Africa, your greatest wager is to go out to northern South Africa. Kruger Nationwide Park is the candy spot, the place yow will discover all of the hornbills in South Africa. We notably just like the north of the park, the place the camps are quieter. We particularly like Punda Maria relaxation camp, Letaba relaxation camp, and Tsendze rustic camp.



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