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Grey Hornbill

Bird of the month is the Grey Hornbill (Tockus nasutus). 

Grey hornbill

Colouring: Bare parts: iris brown to red-brown; bill black, cream wedge-shaped patch on upper jaw, diagonal white ridges on lower jaw, tip of upper jaw reddish, base creamy yellow, tip of lower jaw reddish, rest black with diagonal white ridges; gular skin dark grey, light green; legs and feet black, soles white. Generally dull greyish above and on throat and breast; rest of underparts whitish; tail brownish, tipped white.

Voice: High-pitched whistled call, starting off with a few lower notes, woop-woop-woop, weep-weep-weep-weep, weep-weep, weep-weep, etc.; whistles sometimes interspersed with clicking sounds; often calls in chorus.

Habitat: Bushveld, savannah, woodland.

Distribution: Common resident, in South Africa absent from most of the highveld, Natal, Cape, southern Namibia and treeless Kalahari Sandveld.

Habits: In pairs when breeding; otherwise gregarious in small groups or large dry-season concentrations of 100 or more birds. Forages in trees, rarely on ground; hawks insects in flight. Flight undulating, bouyant and dextrous; tail raised on alighting. Frequents grassfires. When calling, flaps wings and points bill upwards.

Food: Insects, solifugids, rodents, frogs, chameleons, seeds, fruit, peanuts.

Breeding season: Usually October to November. Nests: Natural hole in tree trunks.

Incubation and fledging: Clutch: 3-5 white eggs. Incubation: 24-26 days by females only. Nestling: 43-49 days.

Grey Hornbill

References: Gordon Lindsay Maclean: Roberts’ Birds of Southern Africa, Sixth Edition. 1993.

Kenneth Newman: Newman’s Birds by Colour. 2000.

Photographs are courtesy of Gavin Orbel, Eric Stockenstroom and Mercia Komen of the Rhenosterspruit Nature Conservancy/Oori; this series is a joint venture with Hartebeestfontein Conservancy (text)