Abyssinian (northern) Ground Hornbill

ZOO LOCATION: African Rift Valley


Lifespan: 40-45 years in human care

Wild Diet: Lizards, amphibians, small mammals, birds, spiders, insects, fruit, seeds and carrion (dead animals). As they hunt snakes and locusts, many tribes protect them. Forages in tall grass. Almost all food is taken from the ground.

Predators: Large carnivores and birds of prey.

IUCN Status: Least Threatened


Habitat/Range: Steppes, savannas and woodlands of sub-Saharan Africa, from Senegal to northwestern Kenya and Ethiopia.

Characteristics: Large, black, turkey sized bird with a four foot wingspan. White primaries, visible in flight. Weighs 6-8 lbs. Large black bill with a triangular yellow to orange patch at the base. Casque rises above skull at base of the bill in a short, high curve. Skin around eyes are blue. Extensive inflatable bare areas on the throat and fore neck are red with a blue area at the front of throat. Female's neck skin is all blue. Eyes are dark brown, legs and feet are black.

Behavior: They live in small groups. The hornbills spend most of their time on the ground. They will only fly when disturbed or to get across areas of dense brush. They prefer to walk or run from danger.

Reproduction: Quite noisy during breeding season. Nest in cavities (banks or trees) excavated with strong bills. Two eggs, 37-39 days incubation. First chick larger, second can't compete and dies. Female not "mudded" in nest. Chick stays with parents about 3 yrs. Pairs are monogamous.

Conservation: Since their range is so vast, exact numbers of hornbills are not known. Hornbills are killed by humans. Hunters will use a stuffed hornbill head as a decoy as they are crawling through the savannah.


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