Hornbill is a common name for any member of a family of birds found in Africa and Asia that have large but lightweight bills. In certain small hornbills the bills may be brightly colored. In some hornbills the bill is surmounted by a large projection called casque. Hornbills are known for their peculiar nesting habits. The female nests in a hollow tree, the opening of which the female plasters over with clay mixed with saliva, leaving only a small opening. While the eggs are being hatched, the male hornbill feeds the female through the opening. The ground hornbill females are not sealed into the nest hole.
The Abyssinian Ground Hornbill (Bucorvus abyssinicus) is a turkey-sized, dinosaur-like, black, terrestrial hornbill, with long, black bill and stout black legs. The bill of an adult male has a short, high, open-ended casque and a reddish patch at base of upper mandible. The underwings are white. The eyes have long eyelashes and are surrounded by blue skin. On the throat the skin is inflatable red and blue. Adult female is smaller, with bare skin entirely dark blue.
Small groups feed in wooded and savannah areas on all kinds of animals and may join vultures in feeding on carrion. They stalk through the grass, seldom taking to the air. They roost in trees, from where they deliver a deep, far-carrying, booming call just before dawn. It is said to cry gulu mpa nkuba ('Heaven, send rain') and God is believed to attend to it. Ground hornbills like to show off by inflating their neck bladders, waving their wings, and expanding their tails in order to proudly make their presence known.
Female Abyssinian Ground Hornbill
Photo by Larysa Johnston
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