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African Grey Hornbill

Scientific Name: Tockus nasutus

African grey hornbills are small members of the hornbill family. All hornbills have a casque, a hollow structure on the top of the bill that supports the bill and enhances vocal calls, which is unique to this group of birds. These hornbills have dark grey and brown plumage with a white underparts and white edging along the wing and tail feathers. Males have a black beak and casque with white stripes along the underside and a white patch on the upper section. The beak of the female has a black lower-part, cream upper-part and casque and an orange-red tip.

The breeding season for the African grey hornbill begins when the trees come into leaf. A male and female maintain a territory together. The female will build a nest inside a tree hollow and will block herself in using mud and droppings. The male will continue to feed the female through a small hole throughout the incubation. Once the chicks are around 30 days old, the female will break out of the nest before partially blocking it up and assisting the male with the feeding. The chicks will fledge after around 45 days.

The diet of the African grey hornbill is largely made up of invertebrates such as beetles and grasshoppers. Small vertebrate prey, such as lizards and tree frogs are taken too. During the dry season the diet is supplemented with seeds and fruit. These birds have been known to follow larger animals to take advantage of the disturbed insects. They will also wait in groups at forest fires to catch the small animals that flee.

The African grey hornbill is common and widespread and is therefore classed as Least Concern. It is found in a variety of habitats and has been known to move into suburban areas too.

Key Facts:

  • Conservation Status: Least Concern
  • Distribution: Central and Southern Africa, Saudi Arabia
  • Habitat: Coniferous & Broadleaf Forests, Savannah
  • Diet: Insects, Seeds, Small Amphibians, Small Mammals
  • Height: 45 – 50cm
  • Weight: 160g – 250g
  • No. of young: 2 – 5


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